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Chinese Farmer Parable - Maybe


PaulS
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Paul,

 

I have heard the parable told by Buddhists oriented people using a different story but making the same point. Life here certainly appears to me as an integrated dance. And who is to say what is good and what is bad without seeing the whole picture?

 

Joseph

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I think that either the Chinese parable and the advaita animation lack criticism. Criticism is perfect when is capable of self criticism also.

Let’s examine the parable of the Chinese farmer. The neighbours are not establishing a truth: they simply express their present human perception. The farmer tries to go beyond their perception, but he must admit that even his renunciation to express a present perception depends on his human condition. We humans cannot escape our human brain, either when we simply express a sorrow or when we try to go a bit wider than our present sensations. The behaviour of the farmer contains the destructive temptation of repressing our spontaneous, psychological and human reactions. Let’s think to the Holocaust and to the grief of any people who have been more or less directly involved in its suffering: who would have the courage of reacting with a cynic "May be"? This is the terrible defect of every philosophy, religion or spirituality that pursues detachment, indifference, repression of manifestations of grief or rage.

Now let’s examine the advaita animation about oneness. It is right in criticizing that part that claims to say "I am separate"; nobody can claim this, because nobody can claim to have a perfect and full idea about how everthing is structured and works. But, for the same reason, nobody can claim that everything is "One". Every idea of oneness contains the terrible risk of trying to impose to everybody only one idea, one way of thinking, one way of behaving, one way of living; this is nothing else than the temptation of every dictatorship.

For this reason I am a bit afraid about the risks of Progressive Christianity, when it talks about oneness or unity: it depends greatly in what sense they are meant. If they are meant as a way for consciousness about dependance of everybody from another, good; but if they are intended as a truth, a dogma, it’s not good.

Now self criticism. I have nothing exact to propose as an alternative. My attempt about a positive proposal is to perceive ourselves always in progress, in change, in doubt; but this means to be always prepared to criticize doubts also.

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You raise some good points, Angel.

 

I personally, didn't interpret the farmer parable to be symbolic of a sort of 'don't care' attitude towards his circumstances like you suggest concerning the holocaust perhaps (i.e. sit back and do nothing). I imagined the farmer probably looked after his son with the broken arm (or was it a leg?) and perhaps corralled the wild horses that he had come into possession of. I think he took action, but simply recognised that those actions may or may not be a good or a bad thing (simplistically speaking).

 

Yes, there could be a destructive temptation to repress feelings, but again for me, I didn't read that into it. Rather at a surface level I read that these events could be either fortuitous or not, maybe. :) But that doesn't negate carrying on with your life and taking action you think appropriate.

 

"This is the terrible defect of every philosophy, religion or spirituality that pursues detachment, indifference, repression of manifestations of grief or rage." But doesn't Tibetan Buddhism for instance teach detachment whilst simultaneously having a spiritual leader/representative, the Dalai Lama, that very much has political views and opinions and encourages action rather than indifference? Personally, I think the detachment points to letting go of the pain and angst that comes with things not being as you would like them, but is far from saying don't do anything about them. I'm no Buddhist though so perhaps I am off the mark.

 

I agree with your concerns for PC if it's understandings were intended as dogma (incidentally I think they are far from that), although I would go so far as to say ANY human organisation/collection of like minds seems to run that risk of being corrupted or being sold as THE only truth. We certainly see that with many religions, including fundamental Christianity, but also within Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. I think the purpose of PC is actually to move away from that paradigm of 'right belief' and encourage open-mindedness.

 

Thanks for your thoughts.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Saying "May be" does not prevent action, but offers no clarity about the reasons for an action, that is about choosing an action rather than another.

 

The Dalai Lama talks about compassion and peace, but, in my opinion, this gives no clarity: even a kamikaze could be appreciated as a person that is fighting in favor of his own idea of peace and with compassion for some high ideals. From the beginning of the world till now every war has been done in the name of some search for some kind of peace. A lot of questions in this world remain unsolved just because nobody knows a clear criterion for choosing what part to use compassion for. A clear criterion is impossible because, in my opinion, objectivity does not exist.

 

My conclusion, today, is that we humans are condemned to make choices consciuosly restricted to limited perspectives. Nobody can claim to be capable of making choices based on universal perspectives, just because universal perspectives exist only in the mind of those who try to impose to others their own thought. This means imbalance. In my opinion, any action is possible only by deciding for some imbalance. A perfectly balanced person will never do anything. I think that we can try to correct our everyday imbalances by trying always to evolve, self criticize, be in progress.

 

The farmers’ parable contains the risk of presenting the farmer as more balanced than his neighbours. If he looked after his son with the broken arm, I think he should try to give some reason, at least to himself, about that action, that is a choice.

 

Some philosophers say that this represents the end of philosophy, because we are becoming conscious that any search for reasons doesn’t take us to anything. I think that we cannot end philosophy, just because we need to criticize, our brain needs to make comparisons.

 

Perhaps a defect of any parable is that it, implicitly, presents itself as a proposal to get some conclusion, while human life is a way, a dynamic becoming, and doesn’t allow any static conclusion. Every character in any parable can be criticized about something, but, in my opinion, this is not a bad thing; I think that any parable is more fruitful if it is used as an opportunity for infinite progress and criticism, rather than a temptation to static conclusions.

Edited by angel
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For me the two videos are about interconnectedness ... it is not just our interdependence of one another ... it is about out our interdependence on everything.

 

To think of oneself as somehow separate from the rest of creation is for me, one of the greatest dogmas that we don't even have to preach.

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  • 1 month later...

It was nice to hear Alan Watts's voice. I feel both videos were demonstrating the futile pain of struggling against 'what is'. The wisdom expressed was to do what you have to do, don't fight it, witness it from a higher point of view with better perception to avoid the pain of trying to force things.

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My conclusion, today, is that we humans are condemned to make choices consciuosly restricted to limited perspectives. Nobody can claim to be capable of making choices based on universal perspectives, just because universal perspectives exist only in the mind of those who try to impose to others their own thought. This means imbalance. In my opinion, any action is possible only by deciding for some imbalance. A perfectly balanced person will never do anything. I think that we can try to correct our everyday imbalances by trying always to evolve, self criticize, be in progress.

 

The farmers’ parable contains the risk of presenting the farmer as more balanced than his neighbours. If he looked after his son with the broken arm, I think he should try to give some reason, at least to himself, about that action, that is a choice.

 

 

I think the farmer's 'maybe' perhaps demonstrated acceptance that we humans are condemned to make choices consciously restricted to limited perspectives. So instead of making a choice based on limited perspective, perhaps the farmer knew there could be other 'choices' or ways of looking at the current situation.

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I don't think the farmer knew the end results at any time but accepted uncertainty as a given because he knew our view was as Paul said limited. The moral of the story seems to me not to prejudge any event as good or bad without knowing the 'big picture'. Living in the present as i believe the farmer was doing doesn't dwell in the future and judge without knowledge, Therefor, for the most part, the only logical response seems to me as concerns the future is "perhaps".

 

Joseph

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