Meta Enlightenment

III. Leading A Horse To The Water

By Alex Bunard, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

There is an old saying: "You can lead a horse to the water, but you can't make it drink." The problem with all those systems that promise the salvation is in their tendency to go too far. In other words, it is as if those systems are saying: "not only will this teaching lead you to the water, it will also quench your thirst for you. You don't even have to drink the water, not a sip."

This is the problem that we can label as overdoing. It is a well known problem, and it is specific to us humans. Not only do we have an inclination for doing things, for fixing things, we also have a very pronounced tendency to overdo things. There is an ancient anecdote that illustrates this (from Chuang Tzu):

The problem of overdoing is a subtle one. We may become aware of this problem (as in reading the above anecdote), and may feel the desire to avoid overdoing things. Knowing how important it is not to go too far can then become our mantra. But we may now tend to stop too short. We may paint only half the snake out of fear that we'll easily slip into attaching a couple of pairs of legs to our drawing. This would also amount to overdoing -- this time we'd be overdoing our intention not to overdo things. Either way, we lose the contest.

Now we may become more aware that the question of balance is not an easy one. Some of us even realize that most of the time, most of us are not very balanced. Simply put, we live our lives in some kind of excess. What is causing this imbalance?

Obviously, whoever is lacking the balance in his or her life can easily be identified as a non-integrated person. But what does "to be integrated" mean? What do we have to integrate? This question is simple, and it has a simple answer: we have to integrate ourselves with the rest of the world. Our hypothesis is that a person who is integrated with the rest of the world is not capable of any excessive behavior.

Let's continue with some more questioning: what is causing us to fall into the excessive behavior? For example, what's causing an artist to spoil his work by attaching legs to a picture of a snake? If we think about it, it will occur to us that it is always some vain tendency for self-glorification that's the underlying motivation for such silly behavior. If the artist was content with just doing his work, producing the picture of what's been asked of him, he would not experience any need for excessive behavior. But somehow he felt that merely doing that is not enough; in order to really affirm himself, he felt that he should do something extraordinary. That was the cause of his fall.

We can say that in order for him to be content with just performing his work, such person must cease to be agitated. But, the very nature of performing any work, and especially some highly sophisticated work, is to be very agitated. This seems to present to us quite a controversy. We must therefore focus on how to resolve this controversy.

The key question to ask here is -- when a person does any kind of work, what agitates him? In other words, what is the agent of agitation? The agitation can be caused by the outer source, by the inner source, or can come from both the inner and the outer sources. The outer source of agitation is simply the sensory input coming through our senses (i.e. seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting). The inner source of agitation is our imagination, our thinking process, as well as our sensation of our bodily functions. The combined agitation (coming from both outer and inner sources) comes into play when either outer or inner perception of a sensation triggers some memories or some thoughts and images.

A person who does a good job (i.e. an artist who knows how to balance his work) appears to be moved mostly by the outer agitation. A person who falls into the overdoing type of behavior, appears to be moved mostly by the inner agitation. We will conclude, therefore, that there are two types of agitations in everyday life, one of which is conducive to the balanced behavior, the other being conducive to the excessive behavior. Later on, we will discuss why is the agitation that is coming from the outside world less harmful when it comes to inducing reasonable behavior.

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