Buddhism and the concept of distinction
By Jorg Thonnissen (2010) Psychologist – Hypnotic Impact | Hypnotherapy Perth
Perceived distinction springs from the same source
The practitioner of ND Buddhism recognises that all these phenomena are nonetheless functions of the same mystic law, even though they look distinct and conflicting. Put differently, even though very hot is different from very cold, in both instances these experiences are nevertheless part of the same paradigm. Both experiences are expressions of what is termed ‘temperature’, yet they no doubt feel very different on either end of the spectrum and thus can be easily misperceived as having nothing to do with each other.
As NDB points out, all phenomena always expresses itself that way, whether this is good and evil as expression of the paradigm of love, or any other dichotomous interrelation that one could possibly think of. They are ultimately all ONE even though they look like they have nothing to do with each other.
In NDB being human means accepting that the dichotomous nature of all phenomena is what makes our life possible in the first place. This means that because we experience pleasure, there will be pain, because we experience like, there must be an experience of dislike and so on.
Our current experiences in the phenomenal (saha) world are after all only possible because our senses perceive a distinction between things. Hence, living in the physical world of matter, there is no real use for abstract philosophical terms that deal entirely with the spiritual aspects of existence and are difficult to adopt.
Buddhism – life is to enjoy distinction without forgetting the true nature of existence
For a philosophy to be effective, it has to be practical and deal with our experiences in the here and now, in the way we live and perceive our lives. It has to provide us with an understanding of the purpose of our existence, help us understand where we are coming from and where we are going to in future. Most importantly, it needs to be true.
Thus, NDB transpires that we should appreciate rather than condemn that life expresses itself the way it does, because this is its ultimate purpose and in this we should find our joy, even though this may be hard to believe for us right now as we are struggling with the various issues we are facing – never forgetting that we can change everything.
As such, Nichiren Daishonin wrote the following to one of his disciples:
“Though worldly troubles may arise, never let them disturb you. No one can avoid problems, not even sages or worthies. Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law? Strengthen your power of faith more than ever” Happiness In This World 13th century Japan
Therefore, like Nichiren, the Buddhist practitioner accepts that for as long as we live in the world of matter, in a physical body, there will always be a distinction between things we perceive with our 5 sense organs (1. smell – pleasant/unpleasant, 2. hearing-loud/quiet, 3. sight- black/white, 4. touch – hot/cold, 5. taste – sweet/sour). As mentioned earlier, these are the distinctions made via the 5 consciousnesses and the information is defined by the 6th consciousness as good/bad.
This dichotomous nature of the way we perceive things in the phenomenal world of time and matter is a must so we can create our current experience. However, having to decide somewhere between 2 options (ex. hot/cold) invariably invites conflict which will have to be resolved somewhere in the 6th consciousness.
Buddhism – how to deal with conflict arising from distinction? – A third party approach
How best to resolve conflict? Buddhism argues that there is always a middle way. Using the example of the hot/cold paradigm such approach would correspond to ‘warm’.
In terms of conflict resolution this would be a win/win outcome as opposed to win/lose. It means being ‘objective’ and deciding for the middle ground. So, how according to NDB should we live in a phenomenal world made of distinction? How can we cope with internal conflict arising from worldly distinction?
The Buddhist practitioner takes the approach of viewing the internal conflict from a distance, rather than being directly involved in it. This requires what could be termed a ‘third party’ approach.
This third party approach requires one to be the observer of one’s mind. In other words, by being the observer with a firm understanding of life’s true purpose and function the practitioner is grounded in his or her Buddhist practice.
Letting the argument play before him/her the practitioner of NDB uses wisdom that derives from accessing the Buddha mind and thus has the means to get better outcomes. Nevertheless, this is not to say that the internal conflict has ceased. On the surface level the internal conflict still exists, but at the Observer/ Buddha level there really is no conflict at all, other than that between doubt and belief perhaps.
Obtaining objectivity and wisdom through practicing faith
Thus, through the act of faith (i.e. the consistent chanting of NamMyoHoRengeKyo), the
Buddhist practitioner is firmly grounded in an objective view of life and therefore comes to understand the interactions or phenomena that take place.
In that sense, the practitioner of NDB has connected with his/her eternal identity and thus is no longer ‘slave’ to the secular (saha) world, although s/he continues living in it. Hence the expression ‘true believers are no longer of this world’. True wisdom of how to handle the situation arises from such mindset.
For those who know mediation and conflict resolution techniques, this approach sounds somewhat familiar. Here, instead of mediating between different parties of people, the Buddhist practitioner mediates internally within him or herself.
The Australian Parliament – a model for internal conflict resolution
To clarify further, let’s use the example of the workings of the Australian Parliament (or any other parliament of a democratic nature for that matter) to highlight how this would work.
There we have the green party on the left wing and the more nationally oriented one nation party on the right. In the centre left there is labour and the centre right the liberal party. There is also a speaker of the house whose responsibility it is to be objective based on the rules and regulations of parliament, and thus keeps order when parties debate the various issues and policies they address.
It is the opposition’s job to hold the government accountable for its actions hence there is a lot of argument in the house as a matter of principle. A good democratic process is based on debate, and a good government is one that finds a suitable ‘middle way’ i.e. one that makes policies that serves the majority of its people.
When one comes to think about this carefully, this is very similar to what happens internally, the battle between good and bad is just like that. The difference is that only very few people are aware that this is a normal process, and even fewer are in touch with the ‘speaker’ of their house, the one who knows all the rules.
But make no mistake even those who may be in touch with their speaker are not necessarily acting on his/her advice. Thus, one can see that it is a constant struggle to stay in the highest life condition without being swept away by ones daily occurring obstacles.
Nevertheless, once a practitioner knows, accepts and maintains faith in the Buddhist practice (through chanting at regular intervals), s/he will naturally develop a greater ability to stay focused on what needs to be resolved, as well as take action based on the highest possible life condition.
Nonetheless, life’s relentless obstacles provide ample challenges to the faithful to maintain their belief. NDB practice is designed to remind us of our true nature and give us focus. NDB holds the conviction that eventually all people will have grasped their true potential and develop an understanding of the principles that underlies human existence.
This is the aim of evolution and all factors in the universe work towards this. Science as a truth finding faculty works to support the underlying principles of Buddhism. In essence, science investigates the cause and effect relationship between phenomena and provides confirmatory evidence.
To summarise once more, conflict is viewed as a change agent that provides the ‘motive’ for expansion into a greater self. The practitioner understands that a motivational factor is required to expand his/her capacity. As such, all effects of the past (karma =action) whether they are perceived positive or negative can be seen as opportunities for growth.
The practitioner accepts life’s dichotomous expression (good and bad, seen and unseen, matter and antimatter, life and death, up and down, hot and cold, Buddhahood and fundamental delusion, etc.) as an expression of the SAME law.
The purpose of dichotomous relations is to provide ‘stimulation’ to the senses, hence we can have the perception of ‘being’ ‘something’ (i.e. an individually recognisable entity that perceives itself as a ‘self’).
By Jorg Thonnissen (2010) Psychologist – Hypnotic Impact | Hypnotherapy Perth