Today's Saying: We cannot resolve the societal divisiveness among us at the level of consciousness we are now living. To move toward mutual respect and enjoyment of peace, we ourselves must evolve to a consciousness that sees in that manner and makes us able to co-create the reality seen.
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To be is to inter-be.
*Thich Nhat Hanh. The Other Shore.
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I sent friends a photo of a dandelion field near my dwelling - see above. After leaving Northern Maine for a week, I had returned to see these lovely so-called weeds spread about everywhere, more than I had ever seen.
One friend replied, "Oh my! Makes one rethink the definition of a weed!" I replied, "Seems someone decided a weed and non-weed and since, it is assumed so, as with so much of what we have been told is so."
Yet, we can see the weed in the non-weed and the non-weed in the weed - if we look deeply. Continuing to look deeply, we see what is before us without needing to classify it as a weed or non-weed.
"Weed" and "non-weed" are ideas. To say a dandelion is a weed is a relative statement. Yet, if one clings to the classification weed, which implies the opposite non-weed, she will never truly see the dandelion free of bias. For intimacy with the dandelion as a dandelion, the concept of weed must dissolve in pure seeing.
We are intimate in an I-I relationship with that touched deeply by a consciousness not dividing "weed" from "non-weed," or self from either. In contemplative spirituality, this has been termed "unitive consciousness." In this seeing, we are in communion with what is seen, not our pre-thoughts about it. I call this I-I, for unitive seeing does not negate differentiation - a dandelion is a dandelion, not a tulip. Unitive seeing honors both likeness and unlikeness.
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This unitive wisdom can apply in all our relationships. Racism, for example, is widespread in the country where I live. Yet, the objectification of humanness - more so, spirit - into skin color is an apparition: a form of mass delusional thinking. Racism, however, cannot exist when a white person, for example, sees her race in the race of a person of color. Then, she sees herself, and the other is a mirror of a oneness not defined by external aspects. So, when prepared, one simply sees the other as though looking through the skin color: before she looked at the other first as the skin color.
Unitive seeing applies to religion. Though I was raised an exclusive, conservative, evangelical Baptist, when I see Christianity now, I see Buddhism. When I see Buddhism, I see Christianity. Seeing Christ, I see Buddha; seeing Buddha, I see Christ. With unitive seeing, religions can move beyond tolerance to honor the common wisdom in each path. When one moves into unitive understanding, one has no interest in thoughts of one way being superior while only being tolerant of others. Few humans can withstand this impartiality, while the matured contemplative only wills to cherish the beauty in the likenesses and unlikenesses among faith paths.
I saw long before leaving the institutional church how many Christian leaders were admitting the wisdom in other faith paths, yet often with the same old ideology that Christianity is somehow superior to all others. What is best for one person may not be so for another one.
In religion, like all else, in direct seeing, intimacy arises in which the seer and seen are united in communion, and there remains no felt need for a thought or feeling of superiority. One may determine a path is a more evolved path than another, even as one may see edifying and unedifying qualities in her path and other faiths. Yet, the claim to be the only way or the most excellent way does not arise from the heart.
Likewise, this unitive way applies to criminal offenders locked away, out of sight and out of mind. Having worked in corrections for six years, I could never see an inmate as only an inmate. I respected that she or he was incarcerated and likely guilty of criminality that led to jail or prison; yet, I saw through the appearance "inmate" or "criminal." I knew there is something redemptive in deeply seeing another person, which is a nonjudgemental seeing. Many inmates - and many humans - have never known this kind of respect. By deeply seeing, we are more likely to arrive at redemptive means for those who enact crime. Yet, we must see beyond "criminal" and "non-criminal." We have proven treating our incarceration system as penal is not working for the convicted or society, even as beating a child fails to teach a child to love and respect others.
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Now, back to the start... What is a weed? A non-weed? With my friend, I say, we need to rethink this. This rethinking is a start. Still, we cannot think ourselves to impartial seeing, as we cannot think our way to peace without becoming that peace.
Any true spiritual path intends to lead us to this unitive consciousness, not so that we can have experiences that inflate our ego, however. Unitive wisdom expands our capacity to see and, hence, act in compassion, entailing a turning from divisive thinking. When we see the other as a subject with us rather than an object other than us, we no longer wish to treat her as an object-apart (i.e., objectify) but as we wish to be treated: a subject-with. We want her to enjoy the best for herself, even as we want the same for ourselves. And, if we cannot find a way to help another person toward the best for her, and it may not be our role to do so, at least we can hold that wish for her and everyone and everything. Unitive insight allows this compassion to manifest in both a universal manner - for all beings - and specifically, for particular persons, creatures - i.e., animals, plants, the environment... - , and peoples - including for ourselves.
How does Thich Nhat Hanh's statement, "To be is to inter-be," relate to unitive consciousness and compassion.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.