Some people see Buddhist practice as a way to self-mastery. The Buddha as Superman.
Others see it as a path of letting go and submission to the will of the universe. There is no self. You can’t control impermanent phenomena. Sickness, old age and death. Stop fighting. You can’t win.
This results in very different kinds of Buddhist, and very different kinds of Buddhism.
From Japan, for example, we have Zen Buddhism. This is a ‘self power’ kind of Buddhism. Through your own efforts, and a lot of hard work, you achieve awakening. Also from Japan, however, we have Pure Land Buddhism. This school believes that we have already been saved by the compassionate action of the Buddha Amitabha. We will be reborn in his Buddha realm where everything is set up to help us practice and realise. Our job in this life is simply to be grateful to Amitabha. No self power required!
Because of our western bias towards doing stuff, achieving stuff, breaking through obstacles, trying hard and achieving goals, we tend to focus more on the domination aspect of Buddhist teaching. Unless we come from a hippie background and have already thrown all that out as nonsense, in which case we are attracted to ‘letting go’.
Agent of action or witness? Who are we supposed to be?
Actually, this question is central to life. And the answer isn’t straightforward! Knowing when to push and when to submit takes time. But that’s what we must learn. I think the best way to learn is through experimenting and observation. It’s also important to understand where we naturally fit on the spectrum of doing versus being. Do you tend to try to solve things? Does letting things unfold make you uncomfortable? Or do you tend to just sit there while the excrement hits the fan?
True mastery requires submission. To truly let go you must be able to act full and decisively without resistance. It means doing what needs to be done without needing to stamp your own personal likes, dislikes and neurosis on everything. And it means being OK to be out of the drivers seat. Because in very significant ways, we are passengers in life.
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