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Blue Mantis
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Registered: 05/28/04
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one thing that most of us REALLY need to read
    #3782267 - 02/15/05 07:13 AM (13 years, 4 months ago)

Tao Living

You Are Right

by Derek Lin

One day, the sage was having tea with the disciple when they heard a commotion outside. Two men were arguing about something. Their volume got louder and louder. Neither side was willing to back down.

After much shouting, one of them stalked off in anger. The remaining man stood seething. After a while, he came inside to look for the sage.

"Master, you must resolve this issue for us," he said. "I tried to reason with him, but he wouldn't listen. He is extremely stubborn."

The sage indicated his willingness to help, and the man went on to describe the argument. He explained in meticulous detail why his position was obviously the most reasonable and most correct.

"So what do you say, Master? Am I right, or is he right?" The man asked.

"Of course you are right!" The sage said. The man beamed, and left in a good mood.

Moments later, the man who had stalked off before came back, also looking for the sage.

"Master, you probably heard me arguing a while ago," he said. "The other fellow's position is based entirely on false logic, while my statements are backed up by solid evidence. Can you resolve this issue for us?"

The sage nodded, and the man presented his side of the story. He carefully pointed out all the flaws in his opponent's thinking and listed all the proofs supporting his position.

"What do you think, Master? Who's right and who's wrong?" The man asked.

"Of course you are right!" The sage said. The man beamed, and left in a good mood.

The disciple, who had remained silent all this time, can't help but express his puzzlement: "Master, how can this be? If he is right, then the other man is wrong, but you already told the other man he was right, so this one must be wrong! One position is true, while the opposite is false. They cannot both be true! Am I right?"

"Of course you are right!" The sage said.

Wanting to be right is one of our major obsessions in life. We seem to have a desperate need to prove ourselves correct at any cost. If someone disagrees, we expend tremendous physical, mental, and emotional energies to force them to see things our way. We argue with them.

Does it work? Usually not. Arguments rarely bring agreement. Most of the time, they drive us apart. You can have the most rigorous reasoning and the most solid supporting evidence imaginable and still fail to convince the other party, because arguments aren't really about the truth. They are about the very human need to be right - regardless of facts.

This is why sages refrain from arguments. Arguing require much effort but deliver poor results. The more you force a different view on people, the more they resist. Thus, arguments and debates are usually the very opposite of wu wei.

Chapter 81 of Tao Te Ching expresses this clearly:

Those who are good do not argue
Those who argue are not good

It isn't that sages suppress or deny the urge to argue. They transcend it. They can see the futility in imposing their opinions on an unwilling audience. Since it's a waste of energy, they direct their attention away from it to being perceptive to perspectives other than their own.

Because they are detached and observant, sages have the ability to move freely among multiple points of view. Most people can see the truth only from their side. To the sages, such a limited perspective is like tunnel vision or having blinders on. The sages' expanded perception allows them to see how two sides can both be right. In fact, they recognize that there are as many valid perspectives as there are people in the world, and every perspective is valid to someone somewhere.

The conventional concept of absolute right and wrong is illusory. It may be comforting to those who need a simplified, black-and-white view of a complex reality with many shades of gray, but it can also lead to inflexibility, closed-mindedness, dogma, and even fanaticism.

It isn't that the sages have no opinions of their own. Quite the opposite. Not only do sages have opinions, these opinions tend to be exceptionally well-informed precisely because they are able to see things from many angles. Thus, far from not knowing right from wrong, the sages are rigorous and disciplined in maintaining their personal notions of right and wrong.

The crucial key is that the sages are just as rigorous and disciplined in refraining from imposing their notions upon those who are unreceptive. After all... why should the sage argue with you... when you are right?


Everything I post is fiction.

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Living TheMoment

Registered: 12/23/04
Posts: 2,571
Loc: Under The Bodhi Tree
Re: one thing that most of us REALLY need to read [Re: Moonshoe]
    #3782282 - 02/15/05 07:25 AM (13 years, 4 months ago)

If we have a point of view, arguments can be avoided by admitting the possibility that indeed we could be wrong. Its like letting go of the victory and taking all losses upon oneself, one of the many attributes of a bodhisattva. Being open minded requires this.

One of my masters had two students who were always arguing, one day he was walking to the temple when he spotted them sitting on a nearby wall, arguing loudly. He slowly walked over so as not to be noticed, and forcefully bumped their heads together. At that moment the two recognised the futility of argument, that they were both inherently neither right nor wrong. The two students to this day are very close friends.

Notions of right and wrong are indeed undenyably conflicting, and futile when considering the unreceptive.


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Enlil's Official Story
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Registered: 10/31/04
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Re: one thing that most of us REALLY need to read [Re: Sinbad]
    #3782604 - 02/15/05 10:22 AM (13 years, 4 months ago)

"Notions of right and wrong are indeed undenyably conflicting."

Of course you are right.

Anxiety is what you make it.

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General Interest >> Philosophy, Sociology & Psychology

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