On the issue of Authority and the Dharmas of Self-realisation.
A central problem in my own search for answers has been the issue of authority. At various stages along the journey, the question arises – how do I know?
The World is a smorgasbord of philosophies, sciences, traditions, teachers and religions. Superficially, each of the ideologies presented will often appear in direct contradiction to many of the others. Moreover, there is ample reason to suspect they are not all saying the same thing. Given this state of affairs – how is one to reach any clarity?
It also seems characteristic of humanity, that in the search for universal truth, or for meaning, we have a strong tendency toward tribalism. In most people, there is arguably at least a subtle tendency toward rigid adherance to a specific system of beliefs or underlying assumptions. Much of this tendency seems to go unnoticed, unacknowledged and unchallenged. At best, our systems of thought may provide a supportive and more clearly defined learning environment. At worst, violent conflict is inevitable – we end up with militant fundamentalism. Prominant contemporary examples of this phenomena include, Islamic funadamentalism (an omnipotent God somehow requires the defence of a puny human man; non-believers must die), scientific-materialism (the unconscious smuggling of an unempirical, ill-conceived metaphysical philosophy into the domain of science), militant atheism (prosecution of a straw man), and nondual fundamentalism (“There is no person, everything is an illusion.” ad nauseum.)
Should I just run with my first intuition? How is one to choose? Or, might this very question be part of the real problem – our implicit imposition of a false or inappropriate dichotomy with regards to the nature of profound truth?
Far less obvious, perhaps, is the issue of personal authority. After many decades of exploration, many seekers will no doubt find themselves becoming more self-reliant for real wisdom. This is sensibly accepted as a more mature posture toward spirituality. Yet even here, there are many assumptions that are readily overlooked. Are not our concepts of self merely another authority? If I have a transcendant spiritual experience – hearing the voice of ‘God’, or knowing of myself beyond the boundaries of the human form – is this really more authoratative than mundane waking reality? What do I really mean by self-reliant – what is the nature of this self upon which I shall rely?
The confounding question of authority presents an invitation to move beyond the limitations of the finite mind. In exploring the limitations of the relative, and more specifically of the psyche, the profundity of our predicament becomes increasingly evident. Ironically, it is in recognising the depth of our futility that in some sense we transcend our own impotence. In recognising transcendance, our actions need no longer be jaded by fear.
Each of the systems of thought is a dharma - a teaching as to the character and quality of truth, as represented and described relative to and within the limited human-conceptual paradigm. Thus all such dharmas are merely pointers to the truth - all dharmas are empty:
Relaxation is key. Diversity is no less applicable to the dharmas of self-realisation, nor the manifesations of self-realisation, than to the truth of self-realisation itself.