One of the most fundamental confusions people have in life is distinguishing right from wrong.
It appears that for a very long time people have sought something that will cause them to act righteously. It also appears that people have always sought this ‘something’ outside of themselves. This means that people have always measured their behaviour against various blueprints that others have invented and then argued with each other over the correct blueprint to follow.
Some say law.
Some say government.
Some say religion.
Some say tradition.
Some say specific individuals.
Some say money.
And so on . . .
When discussing the question of right action we must be clear about what we are referring to.
I don’t know if you have ever looked up that word righteousness: it has varying definitions, ‘action without guilt’, ‘action without sin’ and so on, but all these descriptions basically point to one thing – action without conflict. Action without conflict means an action that is total, complete and whole, rather than an action that contains one experience through the doing of it but then delivers some contrary backlash (resentment and so on) after it has been done.
Right action also implies the ability to respond to a situation correctly. In order to respond in such a way one must have a direct relationship to the event and not distort one’s view of that event according to one’s prejudice.
I think these points fairly present what one fundamentally considers right action to be.
Now, we stated above that our current attempts to bring about right action are made on the basis of blueprints – law, government, religion, tradition, and so on. Those blueprints are a collection of preconceived ideas about specific experiences – events, scenarios, situations, etc. These are our particular forms of prejudice.
These prejudices are activated in response to certain experiences and create thoughts and emotions in the mind. These thoughts and emotions cloud our observation of actual events and in this sense our prejudice acts as an intermediary between ourselves and reality. The imposition of this medium results in the distortion of our perception and we act from that distorted perception. This is the way prejudice interferes with perception.
Any action we take as the result of a prejudiced perception must be an inadequate response to the event and, therefore, result in conflict.
As long as one is prejudiced, one’s action must be inadequate and conflictual in nature.
When one sees very clearly that prejudice distorts perception and that as a result of prejudice one’s action cannot be correct, therefore right, then prejudice becomes an important action to enquire into.
What is prejudice?
Prejudice means to hold preconceived ideas about something. Prejudice implies that you already know the event you are confronted with without the need to look at it afresh or investigate it further. That is why prejudice causes people to act from what they believe they know and not from what they see (the event actually unfolding). This action, based on knowledge, prevents a clear perception of the actual event and it is this type of action that is responsible for incomplete conflictual responses.
Prejudice is an abstraction of reality that takes the place of reality.
So, what essentially is prejudice?
Is it an attachment to something? To a person, to an idea, to a nation, and so on?
If so, the ending of prejudice in response to an event implies a mind that is capable of freeing itself from any conditioned attachment in that moment because, as long as one is attached, one’s perception must be prejudiced and the action that results must be inadequate. Distortion happens as a result of attachment and an unprejudiced mind is a mind free from attachment.
Anchors bring about twisted minds.
So, is it possible to end attachment?
We are conditioned to think that the ending of attachment involves a long drawn-out process resulting from analysis and that once attachment is ended we never become affected by it again. This is not so.
Let’s go into it.
How does attachment appear?
Attachment appears as thoughts and emotions about something. In respect of prejudice, attachment appears as thoughts and emotions about an event we are confronted with. Those thoughts and emotions hijack that event (partially or completely) and we begin acting from those thoughts and emotions rather than from the reality of the event itself. That is why this type of action is always an incorrect response to an event.
So, seeing that these thoughts and emotions are the factors that distort our action, is it possible to end them?
When one analyses these thoughts and emotions they spiral into yet more thoughts and emotions. Analysis, therefore, acts to maintain thought and emotion, not end them. So analysis is not capable of bringing about this ending.
But, what takes place when one just observes these thoughts and emotions?
When one just observes the interference of prejudice on perception, one will experience a peculiar phenomenon taking place: the thoughts and emotions themselves begin to dissipate.
This dissipation happens because, through observation, it becomes clear that these thoughts and emotions are not originating from the event but from oneself. They are one’s own responses of memory being imposed upon the event, not facts being derived from it.
Adequate behaviour follows the derivation of facts, not the invention of something one considers to be factual.
Observation has the ability to identify the abstract nature of thought and emotion in the very moment they are acting in the mind. This ability does not require cunning; the very expression of thought and emotion self-evidently reveals their abstract nature. That means that prejudice is always showing itself as a self-centred activity – it is just a matter of seeing it.
In addition to just seeing it, one must understand the implications of this self-centred activity in certain circumstances. Without this understanding, that perception will hold no great importance and thought and emotion will prevail. So there is a distinction that must be understood.
Self-centred activity can enable one to write a story or learn a foreign language without conflict; however, when an event demands that two or more people get together to solve a problem, then self-centred activity becomes conflictual. This is because the thoughts and emotions that each individual has about the problem are different. Those thoughts and emotions will cause each person to take different actions and, therefore, those actions must be partially or completely contrary to each other and, thus, result in conflict.
A problem that requires collaboration between people cannot be solved self-centredly.
Self-centred activity has no place in human relationship.
A blueprint is self-centred.
The solution to a collaborative problem can only be found when each individual dissipates their own self-centred responses. Only then is each person seeing the same thing and their resulting action is in harmony, rather than in conflict, with each other.
Circumstances determine the inadequacy of self-centred activity.
Self-centred activity is not a totally right or totally wrong phenomenon. There is no single answer to the question of whether it is the right or the wrong action. The conflictual nature of self-centredness is based on the circumstances surrounding it. Life demands only that one understands the demarcation between where self-centredness can operate without conflict and where it must inevitably breed conflict.
Once the demarcation has been understood, perception is the action responsible for dissipating self-centred activity in circumstances where it can only act to create conflict.
Thought and emotion are always revealing the truth of themselves; they are self-evident actions.
Perception has the ability to end any abstraction that is understood to be dangerous.
When perception is applied to the actions of thought and emotion in conflict-inspiring circumstances, those thoughts and emotions are dissipated. This is made possible because the source of thought and emotion is knowledge. Perception has the ability to starve the area of knowledge responsible for those thoughts and emotions of energy and therefore prevent their expression into the mind. This is the only way to achieve freedom from prejudice and the basis of this dissipation of thought and emotion is an understanding of the danger of conflict: The harmful consequences of behaving dangerously.
Once this happens, what takes place?
Prejudice has been nullified and one is then in a state of clear and direct contact with the event itself. A real relationship with the event now exists.
In this state, what is the quality of one’s action?
Previously, one’s action was prejudiced: it was action precipitated by particular ideologies about people, places and things. In that moment when prejudice ends, one’s action is not tied to anything. That is freedom.
Freedom is a state of action that is not tied to anything. In that state of freedom one acts and that action is always right.
This marks the end of acting solely from knowledge, and that is a psychological revolution.