“The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.”
To study the world is to study ourselves. When we begin to sincerely study ourselves, what we usually discover is that this involves a challenging process of working with our embedded viewpoints. Indeed, the closer we look in the mirror, the more we must acknowledge that we’ve mostly been “running on automatic”, moving through our life in a kind of sleepwalking trance. That is, once we begin to investigate what we truly are all about, what we invariably find is a bundle of accumulated viewpoints, attitudes, opinions, assumptions, interpretations on perceptions, memories, sensations, and conceptual designations which we have unquestioningly assumed amounts to our actual identity.
Throughout most of our lives, hasn’t it been much easier to “just go along” with what we’ve been told by our parents, teachers, and clergy, and later by our bosses, politicians, and main stream media propaganda, than to dare question the reality of it? Certainly, we may have found ourselves wondering occasionally if this or that piece of the general picture is really true, but the vast majority of us have not seriously questioned the fundamentals of the “story”.
As a rule, we have been thoroughly conditioned to accept the consensus program and description of reality, and short of some life crisis, we are rarely motivated to question the overall “party line”. In fact, it’s a bit scary to do so, because we are typically herd animals by design, and so questioning the commonly accepted propaganda regarding the nature of existence and our place in it can threaten our basic sense of security. Most of us would rather not “go there”. Furthermore, we have been trained to suspect those who do, socially ostracizing the more vociferous among the doubters, relegating them to the “fringe” category fit for ridicule, or else turning them into entertainers, safely separated from us by the stage we place them on to perform for us as comedians or celebrity “artistes”.
Moreover, it is not uncommon to hear complaints from those who may have inadvertently gotten a glimpse of another dimension to this reality (whether spiritual, political, or personal), wishing that they had never seen “behind the curtain”, because now no matter how hard they try, they simply can’t go back to the safe and secure view which they had enjoyed prior to the freak interruption in their regularly scheduled dreaming. Hence, we often hear the well-worn phrase, “Ignorance is bliss.”
At a certain point in the self-exploration, if we are sincere and persistent, we may arrive at the recognition that no viewpoint arising in the human mind is ultimate or lasting, and that there is no final truth that we can grasp as an object of consciousness. Rather, we may come to discover that what we had taken to be “objective reality” is actually an utterly subjective experience, and what we had previously thought of as “the world” is actually more like an indefinite psycho-physical realm without center or border.
As we delve even deeper, we may come to learn that there is nothing which exists outside of our consciousness – it is all a projection of mind. Everything appearing, including our own sense of self, is made of the same stuff as dreams. What appears to be external to us is really only known internally, as a play or modification of consciousness. However, when we turn attention around to look within, nobody can be found.
Additionally, although we certainly can and do know about all sorts of stuff, we do not really know what any single thing is –what it is. Consequently, whether we like it or not, and despite any comforting lies we might tell ourselves, we do live in a state of total insecurity — the Unknown. Despite our prodigious intellect, it turns out that our fundamental human condition is one of not knowing.
How we respond to living in the Unknown, and all that implies, will determine everything about how our life proceeds. Will we cower in despair, or will we shine? Will we love or will we fear? Will we cling to the evaporating safety of what we thought we knew, or throw ourselves completely into the vastness of our unbound, infinite nature, without trying to grasp or avoid, without trying to claim ground or establish some provisional self-image in need of protection and defense?
With some careful investigation, one thing we can observe is that, the more we get trapped in fixated views, the more we squeeze off the life force, crimping the flow, and so prevent true spontaneity. In other words, life stagnates when we attempt to assert and preserve some personal story that we reflexively employ to confirm our existence.
In terms of consciously assessing differing angles of vision, the wisest course may simply be to recognize that our own (as impressive and unassailable as it might seem to us) is just a temporary viewpoint. It is not who we are. We can observe instead that this viewpoint has arisen in our particular circumstance through an interdependent series of causes, and though we may dearly cherish it, it’s never going to amount to the absolute truth. It’s just a viewpoint, one among many we have formed, and certainly not the last. Indeed, if we are expecting to discover some final truth, we are likely to be disappointed, despite what the glib preachers with their borrowed and uninspected dogmas might claim.
For a very long time, I was convinced by the rumors passed off as truth that there must be some impervious and objectively-verifiable supreme and ultimate enlightenment that everyone must eventually arrive at, beyond which there is nothing further to realize. The fact that so many different sages and designated wise people all had differing descriptions of that state bothered me somewhat, but I attributed that to cultural disparities and terminology issues, with each one describing the same Absolute Reality from different angles of vision.
However, now I realize that all such propositions are merely human concepts, mental fabrications which we might momentarily grant some reality to, based on our own particular programming. What anyone happens to believe is solely based on subjective elements, which are derived through a process of conditioning factors coalescing in such a way as to produce a singular and seemingly authentic vision, but relevant to that pair of eyes only.
Consequently, I came to understand that we need not be drawn into any defensive emotional reactivity based on our conceptual investments, but can stand apart and see them for what they are – passing waves of non-binding thought energy that merely serve to modify consciousness. In that realization, the stress of trying to discover “THE TRUTH” evaporates. The whole search becomes moot. Paradoxically, rather than serving as a cause for dismay and anxiety, such a recognition is quite liberating. We can let go of the internal struggle, exhale, and relax.
In that regard, the great sage Nisargadatta Maharaj offered this clear assessment: “Once you realise that all comes from within, that the world in which you live has not been projected onto you but by you, your fear comes to an end. Without this realisation you identify yourself with the externals, like the body, mind, society, nation, humanity, even God or the Absolute. But these are all escapes from fear. It is only when you fully accept your responsibility for the little world in which you live and watch the process of its creation, preservation and destruction, that you may be free from your imaginary bondage.”
Based on this recognition, it can then be apperceived that any position we could possibly assert and attempt to defend is merely a “personal” position in mind — a conditioned and provisional viewpoint that arises in consciousness based on a play of causes and conditions. With that realization, we can train ourselves in our daily lives to recognize all of our viewpoints for what they are: transient mental formations.
Such capacity to deconstruct one’s views, once stabilized, can make a tremendous difference in how we live. When we don’t try to protect or justify our viewpoints, but instead recognize them as subjective fantasies of interpretation on perception – ultimately empty — a palpable freedom and natural spontaneity is revealed as our natural state. At last, there is the real possibility for tolerance, peace, and happiness to manifest in our lives and relationships, free of the demand that any of it make some sort of ultimate sense. None of it does, and yet, when left to itself, all of it is perfectly transparent as the open spaciousness of our own awake awareness. As it so happens, that itself is enough.
“All the various types of teachings and spiritual paths are related to the different capacities of understanding that different individuals have. There does not exist, from an absolute point of view, any teaching that is more perfect or effective than another. A teaching’s value lies solely in the inner awakening which an individual can arrive at through it. If a person benefits from a given teaching, for that person that teaching is the supreme path, because it is suited to his or her nature and capacities. There is no sense in trying to judge it as more or less elevated in relation to other paths to realization.”
~ Chögyal Namkhai Norbu