Thursday, June 1, 2006

The Buddhist I Ching: Sameness with People

This week's random I Ching hexagram is number 13, Sameness with People.

From Thomas Cleary's translation of the commentary by Chi-hsu Ou-i:

Sameness with people in the wilderness is successful. It is beneficial to cross a great river. It is beneficial for a leader to be correct.
In sociopolitical terms, this means that to overcome obstruction it is necessary to cooperate with people, sharing the same aim.

In terms of contemplating mind, this is when one has become detached from religious attachment following a path, and now for the first time enters into sameness with all life, joining with the power of compassion of the buddhas above, sharing the same sorrowful longing as people below; therefore it is called "sameness with people."

"The wilderness" means beyond the realms of desire, form, and formlessness. It also means the unobstructed realm of silent light. Once one has gone beyond birth and death, one should return to cross the great river of birth and death, to bring other people across.

As a Buddhist who does not believe in reincarnation, or in celestial buddhas, I can nonetheless appreciate the enormity of the realization that all people suffer needlessly due to their "sorrowful longing." For me, compassion is a natural response to that realization. Being able to see that even the "worst" people who walk on this planet do things in response to their suffering can be very unsettling.

Someone like me -- far from expert in the ways of finding liberation from my own suffering, much less stopping the suffering that I inflict on others; and yet possessing an inkling of how it might be done -- can only marvel that there have indeed been people who have become so enlightened. And they attempt to tell others how it was done!

Ou-i is talking here about bodhisattvas. Enlightened beings who delay their own attainment of Nirvana till all other beings are ready. They become teachers, like Gautama Buddha. Or celestial beings, like Kuan Yin.

If I ever experienced enlightenment, I'd likely keep it to myself. Gautama himself had to be persuaded by a supernatural being to teach the Dharma, according to one story. He was so worried that most folks would run roughshod over the finer points. The subsequent history of Buddhist sects (or the schools of any major religious tradition, for that matter) pretty much backs up that insight.



P.S. Thanks to these folks for making the I Ching graphics!

Linking to: Liberal Common Sense, Sed Vitae
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