Spiritual Elitism

Milfoil

Ah, it was Buddha - I knew I'd seen the quote somewhere . . . Thanks Pamuya.

Agreed, that there is a big difference between being open minded and anything goes but between the two; between genuinely listening to all sides and apathy there must be a place where action occurs. This seems to be the place where it can be difficult to know what action and to what degree.

There also seems to be a distinction between what is being disagreeing over. A matter of belief or principle (religion, politics etc) where opposing sides can both believe honestly that, given their understanding of the matter, they are right. Or, for example, when there is an agreed rule, a basic concept which the voluntary members of a group abide by because it represents a core, foundational and ethical principle which is conveniently overlooked by the leader of that group. The former tends to have two diametrically opposed factions who both believe a different truth, the latter hold a single truth which is not being upheld - what do we do then since the concept of truth is understood to be the same by all? We have many choices and can still ask questions, make changes and challenge the situation without being angry and without lapsing into apathy or fear of rocking the boat. There is no listening to be done here until someone first asks a question and if a response is avoided, should the situation simply be left?

The concept of spiritual elitism, as discussed in the initial article of this thread, touches upon the same kind of problem, where it's not so much the specific belief that is a problem but the 'place' that many of us arrive at at some point where we believe we have evolved or are wiser than we really are. Being confronted by the problems that inevitably arise from that position often causes pain and friction but perhaps such pain and friction are necessary, like sandpaper making the form perfect.

Although I agree that anger rarely serves when working directly with others, it does have a use. I don't believe that we have any of the feelings, senses and emotions that we do have for no good reason. Like anything else, anger which controls us is problematic. However, anger which we can look at, see through, question and use as a tool to motivate or alert us to a problem is useful. Then the anger can be released and the problem addressed both within us and elsewhere depending on the problem.
 

Cat*

The way I see it, anger is incredibly useful. HATE is what's problematic because it implies an already-made judgment of something and an unwillingness to even consider another perspective. Anger, though, is a perfectly normal emotional reaction that can be used in very helpful ways. Feeling anger is not the same as lashing out. Expressing anger is not the same as lashing out. Of course, anger ALONE isn't enough, it has to be backed up with reason and based on basic respect for the humanity of the people we're angry at. Once we lose that, there's trouble ahead. But one CAN be angry and respectful at the same time.

I also believe that pain is necessary to grow. Avoiding pain at all costs is pretty much an equivalent of always taking the easy way out, which is pretty much an equivalent of not challenging the status quo, no matter how awful it is. So fear of making someone else uncomfortable or even make them feel pain is not enough of a reason for me to not saying anything when I have a strong feeling that something is wrong. For me, the question is WHY am I causing them pain? Do I just want to hurt them because I feel I'm right and they're wrong and need to be punished in some way? Then maybe I should indeed keep my mouth shut. But if my intention is pointing out an injustice and if I take care to do so in a way that doesn't hit below the belt, a way that doesn't intentionally hurt the other person, then maybe I should indeed to speak up. Of course this implies that other people have the right to treat me in the same way, that I'm willing to be criticized and even have people be angry at me.

And honestly, I have learned SO MUCH from people who were angry, including many incidents where angry people criticized my own behavior, and rightly so. I understand anger, perhaps because I always found it comparatively easy to access (I was still taught that I shouldn't be so angry, especially not as a woman, but apparently that didn't stick).

There's another reason why, personally, I tend to err on the side of action. There's always this voice inside of me that reminds me that too many people (including my very own grandparents) NOT speaking up and NOT taking action, too many people believing that they were right even in the face of horrible acts, were a large reason why Nazi Germany worked the way it worked and did what it did. And that's a pretty strong motivator to not repeat the mistakes of my ancestors.

YMMV, as always. (And all of this probably also tells you a lot about why I don't feel drawn to Buddhism... ;))
 

PAMUYA

The concept of spiritual elitism, as discussed in the initial article of this thread, touches upon the same kind of problem, where it's not so much the specific belief that is a problem but the 'place' that many of us arrive at at some point where we believe we have evolved or are wiser than we really are. Being confronted by the problems that inevitably arise from that position often causes pain and friction but perhaps such pain and friction are necessary, like sandpaper making the form perfect.

Although I agree that anger rarely serves when working directly with others, it does have a use. I don't believe that we have any of the feelings, senses and emotions that we do have for no good reason. Like anything else, anger which controls us is problematic. However, anger which we can look at, see through, question and use as a tool to motivate or alert us to a problem is useful. Then the anger can be released and the problem addressed both within us and elsewhere depending on the problem.

Yes, very wise. Thank you Milfoil.
 

Milfoil

I've also learned a great deal, quickly, from others who were angry (with me) and the distinction between anger and hate is a good one Cat*.

Just read this today by the Dalai Lama:

Peace and religious harmony come about through taking action, not necessarily through making prayers and good wishes. In order to carry action out, enthusiasm is very important, and enthusiasm comes from being clear about our goal and the possibility of our fulfilling it. Here, we need educate young people about our ultimate goal, peace in the world, and how to fulfil it by cultivating inner peace within themselves.

Since we were talking about taking action, the difference between apathy and considering everyone's beliefs, this action taking, how it manifests and what direction it takes will, inevitably, come from the foundations of our beliefs and, as the Dalai Lama says, by cultivating that inner peace first. Perhaps when anger interferes with the inner peace, it gives us a 'heads up' that something requires our attention or action?