The Overview


"If the microphone I use when I speak exists somewhere else, it will not serve
its purpose. When we have our body and mind in order, everything will exist
in the right place, in the right way."

(From: Zen Mind, beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki)

Suppose you want to open a door, but the way in which the door handle functions does not allow you to open the door. We would refer to this door handle as a door handle that is not ‘good.’ We would refer to this door handle as being ‘bad.’

So whether something is good or bad relates to whether it exists in accordance with its greater reality or not. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ relate to whether there is an appropriate position within the context in which a function takes place; its alignment with its natural function.

If, for example, parents raise their child with a lot of love and careful guidance, generally the child will function better than when the child is raised in a loveless way in which it receives no guidance. That is because raising a child with love and careful guidance is a more appropriate position to take within the natural functioning, the greater context, than raising a child in a loveless and careless way.

So the word ‘bad’ basically refers to something that does not serve its purpose properly because it is not aligned with its greater reality, like a wheel out of kilter. In this sense, what is ‘wrong’ with human beings is that their minds are not in accord with reality.

The mind is an organ of thought which allows us to abstract parts of the greater reality into concepts. This enables us to imagine different versions of reality through abstract thinking.

But we are so mesmerized by the power of abstract thinking, that we believe we can find the ultimate truth about ourselves in the mind. But we cannot find the ultimate truth about ourselves in the mind, because abstract thinking can only present us with an imagined version of the ultimate truth about ourselves.

Yet we are convinced that this imagined version of ourselves is the ultimate truth, and so our sense of self is imprisoned within this image, which is our self–concept, our identity. And our perception of reality is formed by the hopes and fears that revolve around that identity.

So the source of our delusions is attachment to the self–concept. This phenomenon is not just a theoretical notion; you can see it everywhere around you in society.

For example, people identify strongly with their class in society. Blue collar workers have a whole arsenal of unwritten social conventions which they (have to) adhere to, and those conventions are dictated by an image, an idea, they have of themselves and the world. That is attachment to the self–concept. The same can be said for white collar workers, only their concept of who they are and how they should behave is, of course, markedly different. In this way people imprison themselves by completely siding with an idea in the mind, setting up what they identify with against what they do not identify with.

All ‘evil’ in the world can be traced back to attachment to an identity, from wars between nations to discrimination in society to inner conflicts. So the right way forward for the human race is the spiritual way. Through spiritual enlightenment we can liberate ourselves from complete identification with the mind and discover our true, universal Self.