I came across an interesting article today. It caused me to reflect a bit upon the nature of the writer. He postulates something from his spiritual tradition of Kabbalah in response to political hot topics.
The post is called “The Trump Truth: If You Can Handle It.” The author Billy Phillips somewhat tips his hand in favor of one side of the political spectrum. It’s evident when he engages the reader:
“Often, we are compelled to judge someone else—in this case Trump. Guess what? The people who have committed the same sort of negative behavior (in large or small measure) or spoken the same sort of negative words at some point, they are the ones who become the angriest and most judgmental when they see it in Trump. Period. If we start making excuses, it’s the negative force that Kabbalah calls the Opponent that is blinding us, no matter how correct or genuinely righteous our points of view and opinions are.” – Billy Phillips
Billy appears to be taking sides here. While I may be misinterpreting his intent, it’s obvious that his post normalizes certain behavior. Behavior we may feel is “unethical” is being shoved under the rug, so we can “work on ourselves first.”
In all honesty, there’s truth there. The highest view of anyone or anything, would be to see its emptiness (lack of self existence.) Yet, at the same time, if we do see (or hear) sentiment that breaks our ethical boundaries, we have to identify that. If we see someone slap another, we have to say, “I saw that.” It is truly empty of existing one way or another… i.e. we don’t know the circumstance of the slap. It could be to wake someone up. It could be one person offended the other. Or it could be full on abuse.
Truth is often occluded from our vantage point.
Understanding that truth is elusive and we should strive to look beyond into the emptiness of all things, is of upmost importance. Yet, we should also note the action that manifested. Someone got slapped. We need to relate to it.
Relating to Violence
When I was a Buddhist, my lama gave a talk on non-violence (ahimsa.) He talked about the karmic implications in fighting fire with fire. He spoke of the wrong view of impermanence and the role of consequence.
A visitor in the audience raised his hand. The visitor was angry and outraged. He stammered, “what would you do if someone came into your home and tried to kill your family? Would you just let them kill them?”
This is a common attack against non-violence.
The lama took a moment then responded with a question, “do you love your mother?”
A bit shocked the man stated he did, but he failed to see the significance of it. The lama then continued, “what if the person in your home attacking people was your mother? Perhaps she is off her medication, or she is acting from delusions. Would your first action be to kill her? Or would you try and find a non-lethal means of containing the situation?”
“But we’re not talking about my mother,” the visitor responded, “we’re talking about a violent criminal.”
“See,” replied the lama, “I try and see all beings as my mother.”
The discussion I quoted above feels right to me. The lama addressed the issue that Billy I believe is missing. Something wrong occurs, you attempt to see the emptiness of it… you can take time later and look into why it manifested in your life (i.e. what actions/emotions do you hold that could be similar?) But you also get involved with the situation as it appeared.
You get involved within the operation of your ethical level. You don’t murder the “bad guy,” you don’t “spit in the food of your enemy.” You do however relate to their ignorance.
Billy does bring up the importance of getting involved. This comes up more in the comment section, where he addresses some concerns. The unfortunate aspect of his article however (in my opinion), is that Billy is letting Trump off. He’s not addressing the wrong.
Instead he’s warning the reader to not judge Trump and only look within, to the obvious delight of the comment section (which is littered with Trump supporters who are so excited to see a spiritual defense of Trump from Billy.)
That, right there, is the problem. Trump is just the icon of a problem. The problem is people turning away, into their own avarice.
When a person only relates to spiritual ideals conceptually, they can speak the language, the lingo (“red string,” “evil eye,” “the opponent,” etc.), but if they have no direct experience, then their teachings are like empty shells (having no substance.) They talk the talk, they throw out the word play, but they can’t really show a direct experience of God. They end up taking sides in some duality of life.
It’s what happens to close-minded religious zealots.
Nothing Exists, Everything is
In the Tao Te Ching this is talked about by saying, “The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.” This is depicting reality vs the false image.
Remember, nothing is real but everything is.
When we talk about an eternal concept like “God,” or “love,” it takes root in our mind as an image of the real thing. While true, the mind is vast, our identification with the body self – shrinks the mind into something quite small. Like a small teacup the little mind can not hold the entirety of something greater.
Because the small cup can’t hold it all, the vastness flows out of it, and the cup holds onto something insignificant. That insignificance is a mixture of the greater object (God, love, etc) and their own body identity.
What is the Ego
Billy may define Ego differently then I do. To help with understanding, I want to address what I call the ego: Ego (as taught by many others) is the identification with the human body. This type of thinking (that you are the body) is an error. You are not the body. If you lost a finger, or an arm, do you lose a portion of “you?” No.
What is “you?” You are consciousness, spirit, soul… different traditions call it different words – but it all refers to something greater than the physical confines of a limited existence.
In other words, if you think you are only the body, then you are thinking in small terms… not in terms of bigger dynamics like: humanity, or in terms of spirituality (like being a spirit, not a body.)
Instead, the human ego thinks in terms of “my family,” “my country,” “my race.” It’s always small scale thinking. “Others,” they identify outside of their scope, are often enemies waiting to take away “their things.”
Obviously God doesn’t care who runs America. God doesn’t care if America exists. Because America doesn’t exist. These are infinitesimal concerns.
America Doesn’t Exist?
Just a moment ago, I wrote that “America Doesn’t Exist.” Nothing exists really, yet everything is. This is not mere wordplay. It’s the understanding of the thing and the conceptualized thing.
Like the Tao Te Ching says, what is named (or conceived in the small mind of ego) is not the real thing. To know the Real Thing, is to experience it. We meet God in meditation. That is God. By experience God is. Life is. Love is.
However, when a person says, “let me tell you about God…” they have degraded God to something they hold in their own body based identity. Your ego is your body identity, it strives to keep the body alive. It can’t understand something greater than the body.
When you say, “this is my view of love…” that view doesn’t really exist. It only exists in your small mind. Unless you have overcome the identification with the body, all you will ever conceive in mind is a small replication of it. Because it’s appearing in a mind identified with the body, it will reflect part of that small identity.
Therefore, nothing conceived in the human mind, exists. However, everything “is”… it “is” and we can identify with that “isness” with meditation or spiritual practice.
So America (as a concept) doesn’t exist. God (as a concept) doesn’t exist. Love (as a concept) doesn’t exist.
The Old Ways
Have you ever read the rape passages in the Old Testament? There are verses in the Old Testament where supposedly God directed “his people,” of to go out and kill their enemies – with the added instruction to keep virgin women for their “wives.” All others (including children) they were instructed to kill.
How could religious or spiritual people be so deluded to think God would want them to kill children and rape women?
Because they saw or understood God only from their own limited existence. Had they experienced God, they would never say such filth. Like filthy rags, they looked at an image of God through the small-self grunge and said, “this is what God is, it’s just like me… it has all my same thoughts…”
This is the evidence of what I teach: That egoic minds will create self-resembling images of greater things.
Look in your scriptures and read the hard teachings. The only explanation of how people fell for such crimes to be interpreted as “Holy” acts, is due to their lack of experiencing something real… and their adherence to only mental thoughts and images of something unreal.
The good news, is that this type of thinking can be overcome. It’s daily work. The practice of meditation excels at decoupling one from attachments, and delusion.
Billy Phillips says in his article that if we see something wrong in others, it means we ourselves have that problem… Yes, that’s perhaps true. One can only witness/experience what they have the karma to witness or experience.
Billy also states that if another person see’s only the good then that means they have overcome the problem. Possibly true… possibly not true.
Consider the quote from Billy here:
“Now, suppose we are seeing the good in a person, and someone else beside us is perceiving the negativity from that same person or situation. Why do we see something positive while the other person only sees negative? It means the negativity of this situation is no longer in our own character and karmic destiny. It means we already corrected it. THIS is why two people can perceive two different messages and tones and modes of behavior from Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or the pundit on CNN or Fox News.” — Billy Philips
Billy is half right. All we experience is based on the karma (actions) of our past. If we didn’t have the karma to be a CEO, then we couldn’t become a CEO – at least until we had cultivated the karma to become one. I can get behind that, as there’s some reality there with me.
However, there are perhaps millions of people who can not introspect. In their views, they are not doing “bad things” ever. Such people do not hear the hate in Trump (or anyone), because they don’t see it. They are self-deluded. This is their blindness.
They resonate at the same level of someone intolerant, so they don’t see the wrongness (because they don’t recognize the problem in themselves.) A hateful person often doesn’t see hateful people who are like themselves.
Here’s an example…
My mother is a racist and quite hateful and resentful. My mother does not see anything negative in a comment from someone who says, “[some race] is the problem in society right now. They are all criminals, we all know it.” She’ll embrace the person, seeing only the good. This is because she is relating to them through her own feelings. She see’s herself as “in the right,” so they other who says something in harmony with her, is also right.
In fact, relating to Donald Trump, she couldn’t see any negatives. Even when I played video of him saying things like, “the way you deal with terrorism, is you take out their families…” she dismissed it. She at first said he never said it. I played the video. Then she thought about it and said, “well… he’s right…” a week later, she forgot the whole thing. Never, ever, seeing Trump in his own words as saying something bad.
Billy Phillips is treading a dangerous philosophy here: In his philosophy my mother must have outgrown her own hatreds, to not see hatreds. Its just not true, she’s incapable of seeing hate or anger in her actions (or the actions of those like her.) She’s blind and incapable of introspection.
This is a common problem in spiritual paths. The ego is insidious and can hide in plain site. It can appear in a vision (of someone’s deity) saying, “I will tell you a prophecy….” and it never comes to pass. Or it’s so vague that anything can fit it, reinforcing the delusion.
While I believe that people can communicate with spiritual entities, I feel that most do so under the auspice of their own ego (body identity) and the resulting communication is tainted.
My mother, for example, is simply self-deluded into thinking she has no anger, no hate, no bigotry.
What Billy gets right is that there is good in everyone and it’s a good practice to find the good in all. To find an equanimity between the enemy, the neutral person and the one we love. This is an essential Buddhist meditation practice (mother recognition.)
This philosophy though, when used to occlude a person who is doing bad things and hurting people, ends up causing more problems.
A Bigger Problem
While he’s saying he can’t judge, and I respect that, I also feel he’s part of a problem: The problem of normalizing error and wrongness.
It’s like a Buddhist saying that they decided to support a war monger (war being something Buddhists would normally be against.) “But how do you do that and believe in karma,” you may object. They might tell you, “well because of…” and list a string of small human (ego) based worries and concerns (i.e. “if we don’t kill them, they’ll kill us”.)
Or, they may as Billy does, tell you that they decided to not see the wrongs in this person but to look at their good.
Well that’s great… but are you offering support for what’s wrong?
A private view, is perhaps best here. When you stand in the public view and tell others to try and look beyond the problem and see the good… you could be turning people into their own self-deluded blindness.
A person seeking truth might ponder, “this person’s [some person doing something ethically wrong] view of the world is not in harmony with mine. It means that perhaps I am a warmonger internally, for that’s how they appear to me. But it also means I must condemn both my internal problem, as well as what has appeared in my world in this person’s actions.”
But Billy doesn’t bring up the last part. He says we can get involved but he back peddles: At times saying unity of our nation is needed now (one nation under Trump) and later, saying that maybe it’s good we’re divided, for it was unity that caused Hitler to gain so much ground so quickly.
What Billy doesn’t call out, is Trump’s ethical wrongs. He doesn’t bring up things like, “Trump has mocked the handicapped, he’s dismissed others, he’s talked about wanting the press to be bullied or beaten… therefore I must have some of that same source material within me… I see it, and I’ll work on my own, condemn my issues and what I see in him.”
Billy, like many others in different faiths, is normalizing a problem, to spin a political candidate and make it more palatable for the masses. By not calling out the wrongs, and focusing on saying that he’s seeing only the good… is also a way of embracing the wrong.
Just because you don’t see the wrong, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
This type of analysis that I read in Billy’s article is the type of normalization that’s going on right now in spiritual circles. It’s a way to pull in tight in support of someone who is the antithetical version of the faith or ethics.
While true, it isn’t right to “fight fire with fire.” It will not be good to scream, shout and hate Trump (or his followers), we must find some balance. Is something wrong? Yes? Ok, let’s talk about it: Yes it’s wrong. Let’s meditate and see if we have the same wrong. Let’s try and find compassion for the “bad guy,” but lets also acknowledge that this guy is doing “bad things.”
To not do this, is to encourage and support those who are in self delusion.
We are in a war: A spiritual war. If you follow my posts, you understand you’re a warrior. But this war is not physical. The war is not in the flesh. This war is about the conflict within.
Billy is right in part – the other person “outside of us,” is a reflection to some degree of something inside of us. I see an angry and intolerant Trump, therefore I have some anger or intolerance. Yet, it should also be noted that Trump appears to manifest these feelings.
To only address the internal, and not the external will lead to a multitude of problems…. consider crime. Does seeing a criminal mean that you have that crime within you? Perhaps. But then to not bring up the crime as wrong, and focusing only on those who are frustrated with it, normalizes the crime and condemns those who are upset about the crime.
Our words are powerful and they can launch a strategy of normalizing something evil or wrong. We don’t want to be party to harming and hurting others.
It is important to identify what’s wrong, and then to also say, “yes I have this in me as well.” Then work on ourselves, but we also stay vigilant on helping others and identifying ethical issues in society.
What I found interesting in Billy’s post is that the comments had many pro-Trump supporters loving it. “It’s so cool you’re writing about Trump….”, “I heard you are personal friends with him…”, “I love it, this is what we need to hear.” I’m paraphrasing, but those are various feelings given in the comments of that article. People resounded with it, on the grounds it supported Donald Trump.
Billy, you simply gave them a reason to enter into a new delusion – that Donald Trump is all good, and those who are against him are just raving lunatics with the same issues in themselves.
It is important to understand the equanimity of our enemies and our loved ones. In a deep sense, all are one. But when we see a wrong, we need to point it out.
If you push hard on these philosophical views, you’ll find some depth that can help heal wounds. But usually this must be experienced, and not taught.
One can’t simply expect a mother who’s child was murdered, to love the murder based on philosophy alone. But in time, such a person may find a way of reconciling. We just can’t expect it to happen.
We must be careful of our word choice and what we appear to defend.
While the murderer may, on a deep sense, be one with the victim – we also must not pound this fact, to the point of making it appear we defend the act of murder.