“Who gave you the right to your own opinion??” (Photo by Alaskan Dude)
As we end our series on clinging, we turn to ideologies, and ideological foolishness.
First, a definition:
Ideology: Most simply an ideology is a set of beliefs. In order to distinguish an ideology from other kinds of belief we can add a few extra features. First, ideologies tend to be very ambitious in scope, in many cases claiming to offer sweeping insights into the nature of life, spirituality, reality, etc. Secondly, ideologies usually have a strongly prescriptive element, which means that they lay down strict rules of thought and behaviour designed to improve upon what they see as a deficient state of the world. Finally, ideologies tend to be dogmatic, which means that they do not allow for questioning or alternative viewpoints. If a person holds a belief which they simply will not allow to be questioned, or if they seem genuinely unable to imagine how that belief could be wrong, then it is likely that this belief is part of an ideology.
Now, you might rightly think that this entire series has been about letting go of ideology.
As we continue to point out, it’s not that ideologies are hard to spot in others — it’s that they are hard to notice in ourselves.
Darbella and I just got back from a Saturday Zen Meditation workshop. We stayed over, and sat some more this morning. Much of the morning Member’s Service (apart from the sitting, of course) is in Pali, Sanskrit, or Korean. We don’t speak any of those languages. The chanting is Buddhist, and we are not (yet…) Buddhists. The chanting and prostrations seem foreign to Westerners like us (of course…)
And yet, I can remember, back in my Christian days, chanting in Latin at Taise services (occasionally…) not understanding a word, and not seeing this as unusual. Somehow, my former WASP ideology could expand to include a foreign tongue. Hmm.
Swimming in the sea of humanity…
All of us are awash in a personal belief system, and because we ‘swim’ in it, we cannot see it. (Like fish are unaware of water… until you take them out.)
A goal of this blog is to continually poke and prod you to look at your assumptions, your beliefs, and especially your ‘graven in stone’ ideologies.
At one level, I think of ideologies as being created and owned by groups—kind of a “group-think” thing. With a bit of study, you can see where groups fall on a “flexibility-rigidity” scale. We tend to equate terms like “liberal” and “Libertarian” to the flexible side, and fundamentalist or doctrinaire, or closed to the rigid side.
The farther you are toward the rigidity end of the scale, the harder it is for you to see (or dare to question…) the “rules” that govern the ideology.
Becoming self and life aware requires that we find the ways and means to question everything.
The questioning is two sided, but one pointed.
We need to look both at the groups we belong to, (what they believe,) as well as what we believe and choose to be a part of.
And then (the single pointed part) we need to recognize that the only part we have any control over is ourselves.
I can choose to see what I ascribe to, and where I choose to belong, and I can question how well my beliefs and memberships accurately reflect who I am, and who I am becoming.
Another conversation between Darbella and I, on the way home, visited the idea of our “sitting” practice, and whether (in this case…) Dar was ready to “sign on” as a Buddhist. She said something to the effect that she has seen incredible changes in her life from her morning “sit,” and is not sure whether she needs go any further down the ideological path. I concurred, although I’m a bit closer to choosing to “signing up.”
The further exploration of this question will be as is typical for us. Not whether the ideology is right, or correct, or best, but “What am I looking for?”
A highly personal question of intent often allows us to see places where we are getting caught in ideological mumbo-jumbo.
A few hints:
Clinging is always about justifying a present way of thinking and being.
If you re-read this series, you’ll see that clinging is seldom a good thing.
It’s why the Buddha said that clinging was the cause of dukkha — suffering, or the unsatisfactoriness of life.
The way out is through ruthless self examination and self responsibility, coupled with adaptive and flexible change.
This is expressed in how we live out our lives. In other words, if you are stuck and miserable, look in the mirror for the source of your discomfort, examine your clinging, dissect your beliefs, and drop, repeatedly, your faulty thinking and behaving. The work of a lifetime, and the only meaningful way to be.
About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press