Yesterday I wrote about the Buddha I met. Many people asked me how this Buddha came to be a Buddha, but the truth is she never stopped being one. Because we’re all born Buddhas. But then we develop language so we can talk to others, but we also inadvertently talk to ourselves and that creates the Ego. I would have been just like you and I would have stayed lost had I not had my accident and started asking some strange questions as a result.
When you were really young you couldn’t understand language, so you couldn’t be either praised or insulted. There was no right or wrong in your world. You simply allowed your nature to focus on whatever it focused on, and that lead to remarkable achievements. Learning how to walk requires fine motor control of muscles, using tendons and ligaments and calculating gravity and momentum etc. etc. It’s very complex.
You also learned to speak one or maybe two, or even three or four languages, and you weren’t consciously trying to learn them and no one was really thinking they could teach it to you in the classical sense. And yet you mastered the complex rules of grammar and memorized a fantastic collection of words that could be used in a variety of ways. These are major achievements. And then you got an ego….
So what’s it like to live without someone constantly judging your actions? What’s it like not to second-guess yourself? What’s it like to live rather than commentate a life not lived?
Because our conversation was so in-depth and because I was asking questions with a real focus, I am now able to create a sort of interview. It’s formed from the answers she gave me on the day I learned that the source of her great happiness was in fact her great understanding. So here, for your elucidation, is a quasi-interview with the Buddha I met:
BUDDHA: Scott, you work a lot with mind stuff. Am I crazy? Am I a sociopath?
SCOTT: A sociopath?! You’re a very kind, compassionate, generous person. Why would you think you’re a sociopath?
BUDDHA: Because I don’t feel guilty. Everyone else feels guilty about things, but if I decide to do something I figure, why be guilty about it? I picked it! Maybe people don’t like it afterwards, or maybe I realize something about it sucks later, but at the time it’s really what I wanted to do!
SCOTT: So you’re worried that your lack of guilt makes you crazy? Most people come to see me to get rid of guilt.
BUDDHA: It’s not just that. I just don’t get why people think about things so much? It’s not like the thinking fixes anything. I might be sorry someone got hurt, but it’s not like I was trying to hurt them. I was just living and that’s what happened. I didn’t do it to them, so why would I think about it afterwards?
SCOTT: I share your feeling that continuing to think about that sort of thing is pointless. Guilt or shame or worry or fear never changed anything. They just steal our energy.
BUDDHA: I know, eh! That’s the other thing. Thinking about all of that is so draining. It feels terrible. That’s mostly why I don’t do it. Why sit there and feel terrible about what happened when I can be having fun now!
SCOTT: You’re very good at leaving the past in the past. That’s what people want when they say they want to Live in the Moment.
BUDDHA: Well it’s not really the past anyway. It’s not like I can fix anything there. I’m just using up Now to re-live Then. But if Then sucked, why would I want to drag it into Now?
SCOTT: I don’t personally see a reason to dwell in the past either, so I can’t really answer that question other than to say that most people have trouble living like you do, so they feel a strange obligation to re-live dramatic past events.
BUDDHA: But why?! It’s not going to do anything to make your life better. It feels terrible. I hate thinking thoughts like that. It’s like why I can’t hate people. I know [our mutual friend] Simon hates me, and I get that. I cheated on my boyfriend. It’s a shitty thing to do and it hurt him and I get that Simon’s a nice guy and that he hates me for disrespecting my boyfriend. But it’s not like I did it to hurt my boyfriend. But at the same time, if I really wanted to be with my boyfriend that bad, then I don’t think I would have cheated. So it just got us to where we were anyways, right?
SCOTT: Why doesn’t it bother you that Simon judges you?
BUDDHA: Because those are his thoughts not mine. How he wants to feel is up to him. I don’t hate him back because it sucks to hate people. I don’t like how it feels. I don’t know. It’s crazy I know. But I just don’t want to dwell on that stuff. I always like to look at what I like about someone and I know Simon’s a really good guy. He loves his girlfriend and she’s super nice so that’s good. And I really like how he treats his co-workers and customers. And he’s super funny. And even when he’s not, everyone has a rough day. He’s entitled to have them too.
SCOTT: I applaud your generosity. I don’t think it’s possible for you to comprehend how rare that ability is.
BUDDHA: I just don’t think thoughts I don’t like because they feel bad. It’s not like it’s complicated. If they hurt just don’t think them.
SCOTT: [laughing] I agree. I would suggest that is why they hurt—because they’re essentially telling us not to think them.
BUDDHA: So why do people think them anyway and then blame the person they’re thinking about?
SCOTT: I don’t think they have the connection between their Thoughts and their Reality as clearly understood as you do.
BUDDHA: So do you think I’m crazy?
SCOTT: [laughing] No. No I think you’re far too kind and generous and fun to be crazy. But I understand why you might think you are. When everyone else is crazy, crazy can look sane and sane can look crazy.
BUDDHA: All I know is if something hurts, I stop thinking about it.
SCOTT: Everyone else turns that into a much more complicated process than it really is.
BUDDHA: What’s to complicate? I have to think about something. If I don’t like thinking about this, then why not just change to that?
SCOTT: That would be the part that people find hard. That’s what most of my work with students focuses on—teaching them to let go.
BUDDHA: But it’s so simple!
SCOTT: It is. But the simplicity is the most challenging aspect for them to comprehend.
BUDDHA: All I know is; if I focus on stuff I like then I feel good. After that, whatever….
SCOTT: [smiling] Nicely put.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.