Imagine two people walking late at night in a foreign city. They’re lost. They’re hungry. Person number one is thinking to themselves, “What an adventure! This is a night I’ll remember.” Person number two is thinking, “What the hell are we doing here? I hate this! I just want to be back at the hotel. This sucks!” Now if person one were to say to person two, “If you just look at this differently, you can be having fun now instead of being miserable.”
The question is… what do you think the reaction from person number two would be?
- Ah, yes, good idea. I feel much better now. Thank you for pointing that out.
- You son-of-a-bitch, shut the %&#@ up. I hate this.
Yes, of course the more likely reaction is #2.
Sometimes you just can’t tell people things. They have to figure it out for themselves. Nothing terribly earth shattering there. But I think this explains why Buddhism can be riddled with piles of contradictions and pure nonsense. I mean really, emptiness is form, form is emptiness, self, no-self… just be… nothing to attain… what is your original face… what the heck?
I’ve come to believe that all this seeming nonsense is designed to stimulate thought down deep where it can percolate and ferment and hopefully bubble up to the surface as an, “ah ha!” moment. There is great power in looking at things from a different perspective. But arriving at this new perspective often needs to be a personal journey. Someone can’t just hand you an alternative perspective. Think person #1 and person #2 above. Personally, I’ve had experiences in which my teacher would tell me something, and I’d just look at him with a quizzical, “Huh?” look on my face. But days, weeks, and sometimes months would go by, and it would hit me what he meant. I’d discover it for myself. A teacher just points the way to the moon. Buddhist texts do the same. “Emptiness is form, form is emptiness, self, no-self… just be… nothing to attain… what is your original face…” These now don’t make sense in a conventional way, but I feel comfortable with these ideas in a way that’s hard to explain.