Statement V

by zenquaker

Last time I talked about the Unity Principle (P3), that all is really one, and the distinctions we make between individual objects exist only in our mind. This is a pretty big principle and there is a lot that follows from it. This post is about the things that directly follow from it. This post is about two are kind of obvious, but bear mentioning. The next statement post will be about two are not so obvious, but are incredibly important (at least in my belief system).

Corollary 3-1: Live What You Believe (The Life Corollary)

This is the most obvious corollary to the Unity Principle (P3). If all is one, then distinctions we make between our religious life, our work life, and the rest of our lives are just mental constructs that have no basis in reality. This implies that we should not act as if we believe one way and one time and another way at another time. We must take our beliefs into our work, our relationships, and our entertainments.

This seems obvious to me, but I think a lot of people miss it. Some of them just don’t bother to think about their spirituality outside church or some other narrow scope. Others think that if they go to church and do good deeds, then they don’t need to think about it at other times. But all is one, so there is no narrow scope and there are no other times.

This is also an important part of both of the religious traditions that are the foundation of my practice. In Buddhism, it is enshrined in the Eightfold Path as Pure Livelihood, which broadly stated says not to violate morality to make your living. In Quakerism it is not a highlighted point as much as a recurrent theme. Faith and Practice (of BYM) says that “the individual Friend should lead a life rooted in an awareness of God’s presence in all times and places,” ask asks us “Do you seek employment consistent with your beliefs and in service to society?”

Corollary 3-2: We Don’t Exist (The Selfless Corollary)

The Unity Principle (P3) states that the divisions we see in the world exist only in our mind. The first division we make is between us and the rest of the world. If all divisions are false, then the first division must be false. I said that the Unity Principle was an important step toward relieving our suffering, and the Selfless Corollary is often at the heart of it. Much of our suffering comes because we believe that we have been attacked, or that we have been denied what should be ours, or we don’t have what we need. But when you realize that you don’t exist, you realize there is nothing to attack, there is nothing that should be yours, and there is nothing you need.

I actually realized the Selfless Corollary before I realized the Unity Principle. I used to meditate with this group near Dupont Circle. One night I was walking to the church where we meditated, and I was feeling really sad. I don’t remember why. I met up with the guy who organized the meditations, and we went in to set up the room for the others. While we were setting up the room, I realized I was happy. I was dumbfounded at how happy I was, given how sad I was mere minutes ago and how prosaic my actions had been in between.

One of the questions Zen teachers often tell you to ask yourself is “Who am I?” So I tried to figure out who I was. Was I the happy guy, or was I the sad guy? I decided that I must be the intersection of the happy guy and the sad guy. Whatever they shared in common must be me. So that night in meditation I tried to figure out what that commonality was.

The first thing I realized was that it wasn’t the way I walked. The sad guy walks kind of hunched over, while the happy guy is looking around to see what’s happening. Then I had the disturbing realization that it wasn’t my memories. You say the same thing to the happy guy and the sad guy, and it will evoke two different memories. Indeed, it will evoke two entirely different thought processes. Those guys don’t even think alike. The more I thought about the more I couldn’t find anything similar between the happy guy and the sad guy, down to the way I held my hands. When I realized that it felt like my mind unzipped, and “I” was no longer there. It was one of the strangest experiences in my life, and that’s saying quite a bit.