Student: I’ve been looking at the principle “Everything is the Buddha.” Some of the implications are profoundly disturbing to me! If everything is the Buddha, does that mean that all the violence, perversion, and evil in the world is Buddha-nature? How can that be? I don’t want to accept that.
Teacher: Acceptance is a doorway, a portal to what lies beyond, to all that exists on the other side of a wall of resistance. It is the first step in letting go. Consider, please: What is the “I” that does not accept? By not accepting “Everything is the Buddha” will violence and evil go away?
Principle: All of life is acceptable to Life.
Almost daily we are bombarded by news of what is wrong in the world—corrupt leaders, rigged elections, atrocities of war, stupid decisions, decimated rain forests, unspeakable acts of cruelty to animals, unfair laws, crushing poverty, rife injustice…. This can leave us feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, depressed, disappointed. How do we practice with this?
There can be intense resistance when the suggestion is made to accept what is so. What? Ignore poverty? Be okay with abuse? Be passive in the face of injustice? Agree with an unfair policy? Accept my awful job? Not dump my annoying partner? No way!
If we pay attention to the resistance, we see the conditioned belief that acceptance equals agreement, as if to accept is to condone the unacceptable, close the door to possibilities of change. In other words, conditioning wants to focus on the content that is to be accepted and what it means about “me” if “I” accept.
In practice, however, we are encouraged to look at the process of acceptance rather than the content of acceptance.
Suffering, egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate, is a process of separation. The function of a process of separation is to divide. All divisions are created in conditioned mind—me from you, us from them, right from wrong, good from bad, liberal from conservative. Conditioned mind divides up the world and, based on which side “I” identify with, it defines who “I” am and vigorously resists anything that threatens that definition.
As the Buddha taught, “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”
We experience ourselves as separate from Life not because we are separate but because we have the ability to identify with a process of separation. Our experience of Life, when we are present to what is, is not dualistic; our experience is non-separate.
There are thousands of visible stars. It is the mind’s eye that sees Orion the Hunter, Cassiopeia the vain queen, and a Saucepan, or is it a Big Bear? Right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly are not real. They are also what conditioned mind makes up. So, when we find something unacceptable we want to remember that in practice we are not asked to condone or agree with unconsciousness, injustice, or evil. We are asked, as a first step, to examine the conditioning that creates the division of acceptable and unacceptable.
We want to remember that we are not practicing changing or fixing the world. We are practicing awareness—being present to how life is, not how the “I” thinks it should be.
In accepting what is so, we free ourselves to enter a world where “goodness” is not defined relative to “badness, evil or injustice.” In letting go the process of ego, the process of separation, the illusory definitions of the world as it should be, we are free to be conscious compassionate awareness.
Instead of being trapped in a world of right and wrong, we are free to participate in the glorious dance of Life exploring itself.
Practice the difference between acceptance and agreement. Can you accept and be present to exactly what is arising in the moment without agreeing with it, judging it, criticizing it or condoning it? Try this practice with a particularly difficult relationship—a boss, co-worker, family member or loved one. See if you can direct the attention away from wanting to fix or change that person, and choose unconditional love and acceptance instead.
For a week stop tuning into the “world” as manufactured by the media. Don’t watch tv, listen to the radio, or read the news. Allow yourself to be present to Life as is. What is your experience of the world as Life reports it? Record and Listen.