Sunday, September 2, 2007

Belief and Disbelief

A new insight. Well, it’s new to me. Like all my “insights,” it has probably been perfectly obvious for years to many other people, but it came to me yesterday with a certain clarity as I was reading a translation of The Heart Sutra by Red Pine, replete with mind-benders like this:

"Form is emptiness, emptiness is form; emptiness is not separate from form, form is not separate from emptiness; whatever is form is emptiness, whatever is emptiness is form."

Lovely. But go figure. Anyway, here's my own insight:

Belief and disbelief are not mutually exclusive opposites, they are rather two sides of the same coin. As readers of The Buddha Diaries will likely be aware, I myself have been much attached to disbelief. And what came to me with that certain clarity yesterday was that to be attached to disbelief is really no different than being attached to belief. Disbelief is in itself a form of belief—a belief that the belief of others is somehow wrong-headed or ignorant. The two seem to me, on reflection, to be in balance with each other. The one who desires to follow the Middle Way would steer a path between belief and disbelief, without allowing himself to be attached to either one.

Skepticism is a little different from disbelief. I hold to my skepticism (am I “attached” to it?) because it comes down on neither the side of belief nor, properly, on the side of disbelief. The mind that opens itself to disbelief can surely remain open to belief. If it questions belief, by the same token, it will as honestly question disbelief.

Am I counting the angels as they dance, here, on the head of a pin? Perhaps. But this, it seems to me, is the sense of the Middle Path in the matter of belief and disbelief. And this is my mighty insight for the day. I trust that I will be able to learn from it.



Gregor said...

Good point. But, its a real razor's edge isn't it. . . we need to see the distinctions between reality and delusion, between skillfulness and unskillfulness. But, at the same time drop the attachments to them as well, good subject for some hard practice!

Anukriti said...

"Disbelief is in itself a form of belief—a belief that the belief of others is somehow wrong-headed or ignorant." It is so very true.

robin andrea said...

Imagine growing up without belief, as I did. These distinctions don't make as much sense, the duality of belief and disbelief, to me. I don't know if there is a word that describes a state that precedes this duality.

carly said...

Excellent P. Your insight is much better than the conundrum of emptiness. Equilibrium is the essence of reality, not emptiness. I must go find a definition of form from The Changes. Ah yes, there is one in Grace, 22, "By contemplating the existing forms we come to understand time and its changing demands. Through contemplation of the forms existing in human society it becomes possible to shape the world."

"Disbelief is in itself a form of belief."
Amen. each always threatening to become the other. This tendency accounts for the unreasonable holding to one or the other by millions of people who do not understand your insight.

"—a belief that the belief of others is somehow wrong-headed or ignorant."
When what actually is wrong, is their blind adherence to and unbalanced fervor for one or the other.

"I hold to my skepticism (am I “attached” to it?"
Hold to it P, for the sage makes discriminations, and thereby sets the world, and his world, in order. (and keeps one from being a "pie in the sky" dufus!). You must be allowed to act or not act on that acute sense of discrimination in combination with the wisdom gained in the other spheres.

carly said...

There is no duality in Peter's insight, as they are two parts of the same thing.

carly said...

"I don't know if there is a word that describes a state that precedes this duality."

The best term for it is The Unknowable (tao), only known as a hidden force behind opposiing tendencies, which gives birth to everything as part of one thing, our perceivable world.

To be in accord with it, is to ride with Peter's insight.

carly said...

I don't think it's a razor's edge at all. It's very easy to understand and do. Also, delusion is part of reality, not separate from it. Delusion is useful, something one should have much experience with, not be against. Using wisdom gained through the manipulations of all things is better than dropping anything.

Letting fall into place, is better than dropping.

The practice should be easy, not hard, finding what is lucid and being in accord with it is as natural as falling off a log.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, all, for deepening my "insight"! See you next week. Blessings, Peter

carly said...

I've been investigating this razor's edge concept. This is the stuff of dramatic writing, Maugham's. and as a concept, seems to me to be on the extreme side of describing reality. Accepting the travels of Larry Darrell at face value, seems juvenile to me. Views based on pop novels?

One needs to find the root source of being in accord with opposites in reality, rather than adopting and parroting intellectualized fictions.
Extreme views are so in vogue. Forget about it. What's skillful or unskillful about having integrity?
As Camus said, "With integrity, there is no need for rules." All this stuff being parroted seems to stem from what T.S. Eliot said, "humankind cannot bear much reality."

They call him James Ure said...

I am reminded of the sometimes militant science/Atheist crowd. While I am very much a man of science and do agree with much that Atheists have to say, I would also say that they adhere to their ideas like a religion.

A belief in no beliefs is still a belief of sorts. :)

They call him James Ure said...

Sorry to repeat some of what was already said. I forgot to read the thread before commenting. D'oh!!