My Dog’s Better Than Your Dog

“Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behavior does.
Your mind training doesn’t matter when you don’t have compassion.
Your meditation doesn’t matter when you don’t see your own faults.”

~Phakchok Rinpoche

Whether it be in the arena of competing political ideologies, religious beliefs, esoteric spiritual systems, cultural preferences, economic theories, philosophical conceptions, or mundane matters such as sports teams or beauty contestants, we humans chronically have “a dog in the fight”, struggling to establish and maintain some purported superiority in its class.

Indeed, competition for resources, territory, and social dominance is at the very core of the historic human effort to survive and prevail over other humans. All one need do is browse the daily news to recognize the never-ending manifestations of this prime dynamic, and the inevitable suffering attendant to the human game.

Moreover, with the advent of the internet, people from around the world now can and do gather at specific topical forums to proclaim and promote their opinions and affiliations online. There, we can observe in extended detail the litany of conflicting positions being asserted and defended, or attacked and vilified, in an endless war of words, reflecting the conditioned investments of the various participants in their cherished belief structures, personal views, and intellectual/emotional convictions.

Since this blog is dedicated to illuminating the Conscious Process for human understanding and awakening, I’ll focus the consideration here on a brief investigation into competition at the level of so-called spiritual liberation systems.

Internet forums are where people go to play with views — accumulating them, espousing them, denouncing them, refining them, elevating or deriding them. Regardless of any superficial religious affiliation, most of our play involves some sort of confirmation of our current sense about ourselves, reflected in our view du jour.

internet-argument 2People try on views like clothes, then run to see how they look in the cyber mirror. Although they may claim that their purpose is directed at some kind of spiritual edification, in reality, it is just a favorite past-time for humans to play head games with views. Consciousness is fascinated by its modifications, just as ego mind is thrilled to confirm its solidity via exercises of philosophic one-upmanship and conceptual hand jive.

The fact that, historically, a lot of such play has led to religious and political wars, is simply indicative of the level of social maturation of humans on planet Earth. In other words, we as a species are still pretty much at the sandbox level of spiritual development, regardless of whether we consider ourselves Buddhists, Nondualists, Christians, Democrats, or Vegetarians.

One might visit a Buddhist internet forum, for example, and find multiple sectarian conflicts brewing over what constitutes the most efficacious Buddhist path amidst the many variations that have sprung up over the centuries. Passionate arguments for this or that sect typically dominate such message boards.

Beyond the clannish one-upmanship of advocates for one particular “vehicle” (yana) or another within the Buddhist arsenal itself (“I’m more Buddhist than you”), there is commonly another wad of energy expended on establishing the superiority of Buddhism over other systems (such as Hinduism, for example), as a means of arriving at the most complete and authentic state of “enlightenment”.

Alternately, one can visit a Christian online forum and find comparable examples of the same provocative activities, with fervent voices vying over which competing denomination qualifies as the most sublime, pure, and correct holder of the keys to the kingdom, while unanimously condemning, say, the scientific materialists or “new age” heretics. Virtual burnings at the stake have replaced the real life ones, but not much else has changed in that regard.

The above examples, of course, are merely a few out of a mind-numbing plethora of such websites that one could discover by browsing the religion/spirituality categories proliferating on the web. This is not to mention the real-life conflicts where religious fundamentalists, such as the Islamic Jihadists, are currently beheading their rival clans at a furious clip in the Middle East.

Cumulatively, such examples simply reflect the fact that Earth itself is still very much a war planet, beset by a wilderness of conflicting views and egocentric agendas — all based on a fundamental ignorance regarding the true nature of our appearance in this multiverse.

In fact, any identification with name, position, or form is purely a mental fantasy. Nevertheless, we are habituated to fabricating identities based on gender, race, age grouping, career choices, national and religious affiliations, and so forth ad infinitum. In the objective sphere, that might be unavoidable to some extent, and can even be expedient enough for certain utilitarian purposes. More often than not, however, such discrimination will reveal its ugly side, and humans will hurt other humans (not to mention other non-human species), even to the point of genocide.

When we take our provisional identities to be who and what we really are, clinging to them as defining characteristics, we become fixated in an illusion, and so fall prey to the poisonous fruits of such limiting identifications – ignorance, greed, envy, fear, pride, and hatred — all based on a false sense of separation and misunderstanding of our true nature.

As the great Chinese Zen Master Linji Yixuan noted over 1200 years ago: “If you take the robe that a person is wearing to be the person’s true identity, then though endless aeons may pass, you will become proficient in robes only and will remain forever circling round in the threefold world, transmigrating in the realm of birth and death.”

dreamsMoreover, the real irony of the whole matter is not generally appreciated until our vision is clarified when we drop off the human form at death. For just about everyone, it comes as quite a shock. There, we see indisputably that even the highest human conceptions of enlightenment that we so enthusiastically clung to and perhaps even fought over while incarnated in the 3-D illusion are at best naïvely simplistic, and that all of our fabricated divisions were pure foolishness. How could we have been so blind, we might wonder, when it is now so clear and obvious that all that really mattered was love.

Nevertheless, the way in which the human brain processes information will simply not allow for full comprehension of that which is beyond the range of its immediate consciousness, which itself is a form of amnesia. Consequently, human beings cannot experience an accurate vision of the greater reality until they have fully detached from the animal bio-vehicle, although there are certainly enough hints floating around in consciousness itself that separation equals suffering, and that there is more to this human adventure than being right by making others wrong.

smakerelJust as the toddler’s toys of childhood lose their luster to an adult, so too do the fixed positions about spirituality that may have once seemed so meaningful and important while we acted out our roles on the earthly stage pale to insignificance when revealed in the clearer, brighter light that we encounter beyond this dense vibrational frequency.

Just so, should we then regard all human religions and spiritual systems as fraudulent and fit to be discarded, or is there still something worthwhile about them? As mentioned earlier in this essay, such affiliations may contribute to society as “expedient means”, serving social functions such as the creation of cooperative communities, for example.

Moreover, to the degree that they help their adherents in differentiating right from wrong behaviors, encouraging lives of integrity and compassion, and replacing the toxins of greed, envy, and hatred with loving kindness and selfless generosity, then to that extent they can certainly be of substantial value. Additionally, by pointing to that which transcends materiality, they provide a more expansive perspective from which to appreciate existence in this universe.

Because humans are a varied lot, different elements of religious/spiritual emphasis may apply to different individuals and cultures, depending on their level of developmental adaptation. It’s not that one system is necessarily better than all the others – that’s an ego trip, and cause for endless strife and division. Those who have seen how things really work in the bigger picture recognize that there is a different door for each person, and moreover, that door is none other than oneself. Nor does any door open into some final state or condition, but if anything, each door opens into limitless realms of infinite expansion.

multiple-doorwaysCompetition among the sects and systems, however, only undermines their value, creating the opposite results from what they were originally designed to provide – a source of inspiration in a confusing and challenging realm, and a comfort to those who suffer the alienating harshness of this temporal world.

To use another analogy provided by Buddha, they can serve as a raft employed to cross the waters to the other side, but once on the other side, the raft can be discarded. Rafts come in all sizes and shapes, but none of them ultimately amount to anything more than that – a temporary means of conveyance beyond this low level war planet, with a built-in obsolescence.

There is one reliable rule of thumb that does prove useful in regarding the multitude of religious strategies, schemes, and belief systems that humans devise: if it leads to fear, conflict, and division, it can be avoided from the outset. Alternately, if it leads to kindness, humility, and a sense of shared humanity, or oneness, it can serve as a skillful means.

In any case, with only vague access to the “bigger picture” while incarnate, humans are the least qualified to judge each other’s paths. Claiming otherwise is not only arrogant, but also serves to defeat the intent of any genuine wisdom system in the first place – that is, to lift humans beyond their animal nature and guide them to the recognition of their shared divinity.

“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

See also:

About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: Verses and ramblings on life as it is: Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: Verses on the Play of Consciousness: Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: Poems of the Mountain Hermit: Love Poems from The Book of Yes: Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: Thank You!
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12 Responses to My Dog’s Better Than Your Dog

  1. I think we have more potential access to the bigger picture (as incarnate humans) than we think we do. Our own self imposed crap, and tendencies to waste lots of energy on meaningless conflicts like the sectarian battles you mention above, makes it harder to see much of anything real.

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Hi Nathan!

      Yes, there are certainly relatively brighter levels of clarity available to us right here and now, once free of the poisons to some extent. We humans are all granted such moments in our lives as gifts, but as you note, our own self-imposed blinders tend to keep us in the dark for the most part.

      Another aspect of the matter is that our amnesia (as to our true nature) allows us to take the virtual reality game of this life seriously, and so learn the basic lessons that we have come to this realm for, such as how to behave appropriately.

      Generally, we assume our roles on this more primitive stage in order to learn how to behave in various situations, in preparation for our mature life in the universe. This involves developing a rudimentary form of integrity, achieved by inspecting and seeing through all human motives based on greed, envy, hatred, and judgmentalism, for starters.

      When we have attained sufficient mastery of these basics, we become capable of love, real love, without conditions or self-interest, and this capacity reveals our fitness to move on to more advanced curriculums. In Buddhism, such an attainment might correspond to the rank of “Anagami”, or “non-returner”.

      Having demonstrated our adaptation to and stabilization in the capacity to freely give and receive love (even in the midst of any and all circumstances), we are ready to “graduate”, but not until then.


  2. rahkyt says:

    Let it all go, once you reach the other side. Get out of the boat. LOL Doesn’t get more clear than that. That separation that those who reach the other side undergo is so complete. A visceral reaction to the sight of them standing there, while others remain behind, seems to awaken some sort of atavistic response mechanism within the collective. They are, then, standing a space apart and yet still connected experientially. It might look lonely and austere to others, but the immense quotient of love resonance felt there connects those on the other side with those left behind in ways so far beyond mere physical and mental accompaniment through the Savage Garden. If only they could feel it, know they are still present, connected, just in a greater, more encompassing fashion. Always on point, Brother Bob. Blessings to you and yours.

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Thank you, my Brother, and likewise!

      Those on the other side deeply empathize with the ones still struggling in challenging circumstances (like earth), but are not affected by what the incarnated are experiencing. From their perspective, they see children in the playground, totally involved in games of good guys and bad guys, super heroes and villains, winning and losing, even crying big tears, and then the bell rings, and everyone goes home for milk and cookies, forgetting the roles they had played, and dreaming up new ones for the next day. 🙂


  3. Bob OHearn says:

    “Every day priests minutely examine the Dharma
    And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
    Before doing that, though, they should learn
    How to read the love letters
    sent by the wind
    And rain, the snow and


  4. Bob OHearn says:

    “Verbal and physical sparring, tracking down heretics, putting whole communities to the sword, the very public (and insanely cruel) burning of supposed heretics — all these activities grew slowly, intermittently and regionally over the course of the medieval centuries, Europe’s avowedly Christian centuries. But in the 16th century, the inter-Christian violence grew exponentially. Open-air burnings became more common and more elaborate liturgically: comfortable, curtained boxes would be provided for local lords and higher clergy; colorfully vested bishops and priests (or severely vested reformed ministers), often assisted by acolytes or other lesser ecclesial servants, would process about as if engaged in a service in a church sanctuary; a preacher would mount a specially constructed pulpit to sermonize the condemned and terrify the spectators, for whom temporary stadium seats had been constructed; the condemned prisoners would be paraded in their dunce’s hats; the ghoulish conclusion, anticipated by all, would be public torture by fire, ending in horrifying death. Why burning, rather than, say, hanging or decapitation? Because the great Christian promise, the hope of all believers, was physical resurrection at the end of time — and you couldn’t be resurrected if you had no body, could you? The promise of the waking of the dead and their rising from their graves must not be permitted to heretics”.

  5. Bob OHearn says:

    Q: If Joe were a realized being, how would you expect him to answer the question? [Who are you?/What have you realized?]

    A. H. Almaas: It would depend which path they are following. If they are following the Sufi path, they’d say: ‘I’ve realized that I am a pure soul in union with the Divine. There’s no separation between me and the Divine.’ If they are on the Vedanta path, they’d say: ‘I’ve realized that I’m pure consciousness and everything is consciousness.’ If you are a Buddhist: ‘I’ve realized that there’s no self and the emptiness of everything is what reality is.’

    Q: So would you say that those three descriptions and other ones that we might give are essentially synonymous, just put in different terminology according to their tradition?

    A. H. Almaas: No, I’m saying something different, which is that in some very mysterious way we are the same, but the way we experience it is different, not just the way we describe it. The experience of emptiness is different from the experience of pure consciousness…The different traditions are not just travelling different roads to the same thing, it’s more like when they get to the top of the mountain, they see different vistas. There are similarities (love and compassion and all that), but what they experience to be the essence of reality is different. And that is the reason why in history there are debates between the Vedanta and the Hindu and the Buddhists…about who’s right.

    Q: I have heard it said that according to one’s make-up, the reality will be experienced differently by different people.

    A. H. Almaas: That’s part of what I’m saying, but I’m also saying that that is the nature of things, there’s nothing wrong with that, there’s no limitation in the person: reality just manifests differently in different situations and different people. Also, it’s not possible to know all the faces of reality, no one human being can encompass all of it, because it’s infinite; and there are ways to experience the nature of reality that nobody has experienced yet. It’s not that at some point we will know the final nature of reality in a complete way so we can stay there. The true nature of reality is always appearing in one way or another. The question is, can it appear without a face? And the answer is: no, without a face it would not be recognizable.

  6. Bob OHearn says:

    People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”

    ~ Dalai Lama

  7. Bob OHearn says:

    “Self and other lack inherent existence. This, and all future lifetimes are empty in nature. The body is compound phenomena. Mind abides like space. The body is impermanent and will die. Mind will not. It will continue. If one understands the nature of mind in that way, it doesn’t matter which belief system you engage in. It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference.
    It is most important to keep your eyes on the goal. – the ultimate fruition. Ultimately you must realize the nature of your mind.”

    ~ Garchen Rinpoche

  8. Bob OHearn says:

    The Buddha spoke gently, “Once a person is caught by belief in a doctrine, one loses all one’s freedom”. When one becomes dogmatic, that person believes his or her doctrine is the only truth and that all other doctrines are heresy.

    Disputes and conflicts all arise from narrow views. They can extend endlessly, wasting precious time and sometimes even leading to war. Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path. Bound to narrow views, one becomes so entangled that it is no longer possible to let the door of truth open.

    ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

  9. Bob OHearn says:

    “Remember, among Buddhists we do not argue about superiority and inferiority of philosophies, or choose between shallowness and profundity in the Dharma; we need only know whether the practice is genuine or artificial. Some have entered into the stream of the Buddha’s truth at the invitation of grass, flowers, mountains, and rivers. Some have received and maintained the stamp of Buddha by grasping soil, stones, sand, and pebbles. Furthermore, the vast and great word is even more abundant than the myriad phenomena. And the turning of the great Dharma wheel is contained in every molecule. This being so, the words “Mind here and now is buddha” are only the moon in water, and the idea “Just to sit is to become buddha” is also a reflection in a mirror. We should not be caught by the skillfulness of the words.”

    ~Dogen Zenji

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