The Straightjacket of Delusion is a funny thing. You only notice it when itâs pointed out to you, AND you are open to looking.
Whatâs Your Problem, Man?
This topic is described in my book, Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall You can read more about it here
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One of the main plot points in the movie series âThe Matrixâ is that what peoÂple are seeÂing is an illuÂsion. â and this is a key tenet in BudÂdhism.
In the Matrix, the illuÂsion is done on a grand scale â humans are food, are conÂfined to cylinÂders, and are drugged into thinkÂing they are actuÂalÂly livÂing in an apparÂentÂly âreal,â yet totalÂly fabÂriÂcatÂed uniÂverse.
MorÂpheus, the guru to proÂtagÂoÂnist Neo, is sort of a guide cum menÂtor cum marÂtial arts trainÂer. A human Yoda, as it were.
He offers Neo a choice:
MorÂpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turnÂing back. You take the blue pill â the stoÂry ends, you wake up in your bed, and believe whatÂevÂer you want to believe. You take the red pill â you stay in WonÂderÂland, and I show you how deep the rabÂbit-hole goes.
And believe me, that rabbit hole is deeper than is easily imaginable
MorÂpheus:Let me tell you why youâre here. Youâre here because you know someÂthing. What you know you canât explain, but you feel it. Youâve felt it your entire life, that thereâs someÂthing wrong with the world. You donât know what it is, but itâs there, like a splinÂter in your mind, driÂving you mad. It is this feelÂing that has brought you to me. Do you know what Iâm talkÂing about?
Much of what Iâve writÂten, and the way I attempt (and often fail) to live my life has to do with escapÂing the straight-jackÂet of deluÂsion. The deluÂsion comes in many flavours, and has everyÂthing to do with thinkÂing. AnaÂlyzÂing. JudgÂing.
And, emphatically, it has to do with escaping how we act. You know, things like looking outside of yourself for success, happiness, fulfillment, and approval. Or even more problematic: looking outside of yourself for rescue.
The truth of the matÂter is that all of us have been fed a line about what the world is about â about how the world works. This imagÂiÂnary dream-world was described in the StoÂry of Indraâs Net, milÂlenÂnia ago. (I write about this stoÂry in my book, Half Asleep in the BudÂdha Hall.)
MorÂpheus: Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difÂferÂence between the dream world and the real world?
âBlue pill realityâ = the story society teaches you â has been, and continues to be, handed to you on a platter.
Itâs the fanÂtaÂsy that the world is (for everyÂone but you) wired to proÂvide for your every desire, that othÂers are supÂposed to do what you want them to, and that life is supÂposed to be (or make you) hapÂpy.
If onlyâ¦ my cami was green, then Iâd be hapÂpy
The kind of hapÂpiÂness being sold is of the mateÂriÂalÂisÂtic sort. Itâs depenÂdent hapÂpiÂness â if I have the right job, take the right course, have the right parents/spouse/kids, if I make the right amount of monÂey, and live in the right town, in the right size house, then Iâll be hapÂpy.
Except that, even as some or all of those fanÂtasies come true, all that hapÂpens is that hapÂpiÂness recedes, as new âdemands on the uniÂverseâ occur to you.
Along with the âhappiness is everythingâ mantra comes its partner â grasping.
Because the stuff you want seems fleetÂing, you cling to what you have. Because some othÂer stuff seems âyucky,â you endÂlessÂly push it away, yet find yourÂself endÂlessÂly pushÂing.
And the biggest grasping of all is the belief that the way you think the world is, has anything to do with how the world is.
At the same time, thereâs that litÂtle voice, whisÂperÂing that someÂthing about your picÂture of the world isnât quite right. Yet, when a solution(such as medÂiÂtaÂtion,) is offered, thatâs when the excusÂes come out.
PeoÂple are quite conÂtent to stay stuck in the Matrix, desÂperÂateÂly doing what they can to ignore the pain of knowÂing somethingâs amiss.
Thatâs the splinter in the mind part of the above quote.
Itâs the nigÂgling, pokÂing, irriÂtatÂing âknowÂingâ that someÂthing about this picÂture is hayÂwire â that someÂthing about what weâve built out there, the way we live, the way we relate, the way we make a livÂing, that all of it is someÂhow âhalf a bubÂble off plumb.â
In the midÂdle of the 19th cenÂtuÂry, the exisÂtenÂtialÂist philosoÂpher Kierkegaard first described this splinÂter as Angst. More than anxÂiÂety, Angst is a deep seatÂed and proÂfound despair and inseÂcuÂriÂty. In a sense, the baubles and allures of modÂern life are sold to us as a disÂtracÂtion from this Angst-driÂven splinÂter of susÂpiÂcion.
The path we suggest is finding your freedom. It is not freedom from. It is, symbolically, popping the red pill.
I tend to frame this from a Zen perÂspecÂtive. I do this because I am conÂtinÂuÂalÂly amazed at the insights of The BudÂdha, so many cenÂturies ago, as he saw through the illuÂsion and deluÂsion of livÂing life from a perÂspecÂtive of dualÂism. He idenÂtiÂfied the essence of life â clear, unenÂcumÂbered, libÂerÂatÂed underÂstandÂing.
He freed himself from the paralysis of analysis, stopped over-thinking, and began to live.
He saw through the deluÂsions that surÂroundÂed him, dropped the endÂless search for hapÂpiÂness, and found NirÂvana (peace.)
It was not Siddharthaâs aim to be hapÂpy. His path does not ultiÂmateÂly lead to hapÂpiÂness. Instead it is a direct route to freeÂdom from sufÂferÂing, freeÂdom from deluÂsion and conÂfuÂsion. Thus NirÂvana is neiÂther hapÂpiÂness nor unhappinessâit goes beyond such dualÂisÂtic conÂcepts. NirÂvana is peace.
What Makes You Not a BudÂdhist, pg. 87?
Hereâs a hint: if this splinÂter analÂoÂgy makes sense to you, if you âgetâ that someÂthing is wrong with the traÂdiÂtionÂal picÂture of who you are and how the world works, then â wait for it â you must step out, comÂpleteÂly, from the faulty picÂture, and embrace anothÂer way.
Half measures do not work.
DabÂbling at medÂiÂtaÂtion, tryÂing a comÂmuÂniÂcaÂtion modÂel, experÂiÂmentÂing with Qi Gong, testÂing out a therÂaÂpy â all are ways to stay deeply caught in the Matrix, while lying to yourÂself that you are actuÂalÂly accomÂplishÂing someÂthing.
Half meaÂsures do not work, and are actuÂalÂly a part of stayÂing deeply stuck.
But nothÂing. The splinÂter feelÂing is there, for all of us, because the comÂmon, âblue pillâ verÂsion of the world simÂply does not hold. The cosÂmos is not a celesÂtial canÂdy store, just filled with goodÂies for you to âmanÂiÂfest.â Itâs not up to othÂers to do what you want them to. Itâs not about who you know, where you work, or even what you creÂate â if you think any of that stuff will last, dream on, dream on.
The only way out is 100% commitment to removing the straight-jacket of delusion by taking 100% responsibility for yourself, and 0% responsibility for correcting, directing, or demanding anything of another.
MorÂpheus: Neo, soonÂer or latÂer youâre going to realÂize just as I did that thereâs a difÂferÂence between knowÂing the path and walkÂing the path.
So, whatâs realÂly the point of it all? ComÂing into full self-awareÂness, which in a sense means seeÂing through the games. Itâs acceptÂing that you are the creÂator of every iota of your realÂiÂty, and you do so by and through your judgeÂments, attracÂtions, and averÂsions. Once you see that the world you have is the one you are makÂing, you can ease up, drop the judgeÂments and interÂpreÂtaÂtions, and open yourÂself to the path of simÂply and fulÂly being.
What I mean is, you begin to immerse yourself in the experience of living your life, with full attention, absolute dedication, and no investment in outcome.
Can this be done? Of course. Moment by moment. It looks like active attenÂtiveÂness, withÂout desire for life, sitÂuÂaÂtions, peoÂple, or âwhatâs hapÂpenÂingâ to be any difÂferÂent than it is.
This is not surÂrenÂder or not carÂing. Because of this focus, you may tireÂlessÂly invest your time and enerÂgy into anyÂthing. But you will do so from a full comÂmitÂment perÂspecÂtive, not from âSomeÂbody should do someÂthing about this!â
Hereâs how it appears:
When observed from an ordiÂnary point of view, enlightÂened beings may seem insane because they donât negoÂtiÂate, they canÂnot be lured or swayed by mateÂrÂiÂal gain, they donât get bored, they donât look for thrills, they have no face to lose, they do not conÂform to rules of etiÂquette, they nevÂer employ hypocrisy or perÂsonÂal gain, they nevÂer do things to impress peoÂple, and they donât disÂplay their talÂents and powÂers just for the sake of it.
But if it benÂeÂfits othÂers, these saints will do anyÂthing necÂesÂsaryâ¦
What Makes You Not a BudÂdhist, p 104
This is life lived without games, illusion, or restriction.
Itâs livÂing life full bore, expeÂriÂencÂing it all, not holdÂing back, blockÂing yourÂself, deprivÂing yourÂself of expeÂriÂence for proprietyâs sake. Itâs a comÂmitÂment to move heavÂen and earth so that othÂers might awakÂen too, but withÂout getÂting your ego involved in whether othÂers choose to join you or not. (This would be one I deal with all the time, someÂtimes eleÂgantÂly, someÂtimes not so much.)
If this kind of livÂing, this kind of freeÂdom appeals to you, stay tuned! Iâll be talkÂing about the pracÂtiÂcalÂiÂties of this in the weeks to come.