Acceptance and Belief Structures

*transcript generated by AI

Good morning, it’s a lovely day here in Columbian, Ohio, bright blues and greens and the sun shining, little whites of the clouds.

Well it’s supposed to be a hundred and four degrees.

That’s supposed to be warm.

Supposed to be warm today?

Supposed to be like 90.

Nice, well it’s a good thing we practice in the morning.


So there’s a, later today I’m doing a gathering time for your turn, keep doing it I guess I’m calm, later today I’m doing a gathering time for your turn about emanation.

And what’s interesting about that is that as I read through our sutra book this morning and do our service, there’s a lot of emanation stuff in there, which is actually quite fun.

And I don’t want to get too far into the weeds about emanation theory and philosophy during a Dharma talk, because that’s not quite what Dharma talks are about.

But what’s fun about it is that this is a vehicle, this is a philosophical reorientation, is a critical component of hollow bones and practice.

And so part of that is assessing our belief structures.

You can even argue that that’s basically what philosophical reindoctrination is.

What do I believe?

By what doctrines do I live my life?

And they’re called doctrines intentionally because most people are anti-doctrine and then promptly adopt a doctrine about being anti-doctrinal.

And so we can’t get away from having belief structures that shape the way we view our reality.

But what we can do is we can get really conscientious about what those belief structures are and how we’re going to employ them.

And at a certain point we get to choose, is this a belief structure that I will allow to color my reality or not?

So that’s really an interesting idea.

And so emanation plays a good role in that for me, because one of the hardest things about Zen, one of the hardest things about meditative living in general, one of the hardest things about transitioning into self-authorship, which is, in my view, any reasonably intelligent human being who has their basic needs met should be striving for self-authorship.

If you’re not striving for self-authorship, what are you doing?

And self-authorship is the idea that you know who you are so fully that you live your life on purpose all the time and that your external environment does not change who you are.

You change your external environment in accord with who you are.

And this is kind of like a true will kind of a thing.

This is very thelemic for people who are paying attention to the relationship that I have with the occult.

But I figured this out without knowing anything about Crowley, so that’s just a place of synergies.

Regardless, my point here is that emanation as a doctrine of belief is really supportive of this extremely challenging task of acceptance.

So why do I say that?

Well, I’ll get there more in a minute.

But the bigger thing is that acceptance is critical for self-authorship, because as long as you are resistant or rejecting any part of your reality, then you can’t write your story.

And so acceptance lays the foundation for meditative living because the first step is what is.

And if you have a doctrine that makes part of what is unacceptable, then you are going to end up in trouble about how you live your life.

So the basis is acceptance, because without acceptance, you can’t have truthfulness.

And truthfulness is essential to integrity, and integrity is essential to self-authorship.

So it’s like if we’re not okay with hate, for example, one of the things that most people do is they have some part of themselves or their world that they hate.

And so we end up going like, well, I hate that.

And so we end up going like, well, I hate that.

But ironically, the thing that we hate is typically some action of hate.

And so we end up creating this cognitive dissonance where we have to acknowledge within ourselves that we embody the energy that we are disowning.

That is unacceptable to me, that way of being violent towards another way, that way of being whatever.

Like, oh, so then we hate the people who hate.

But we hate them righteously.

But then we don’t tell ourselves that it’s hate.

We tell ourselves that it’s righteous.


And so we’ve created this cycle where we can’t actually be honest with ourselves.

And we can’t really know who we are.

And we can’t really understand how our belief structure is shaping the way we engage with the world around us.

So it’s like, no, I hate that.

Oh, well, then I have to accept that I’m okay with hate.

I’m just not okay with their form of hate.

I’m okay with my form of hate.

Oh, now it gets interesting.

It’s a good way of looking at it.

And so now we can get into some work.

We can get into picking things apart.

We can get into making conscious decisions about how we want that to color our life and what belief structures we want to adopt.

And so how does emanation, how do the various points in our sutra book, give us the tools to deal with that level of acceptance?

Song of Zazen.

Sentient beings are from the very beginning.

Buddhas, it is like ice and water.

Apart from water, no ice can exist.

Okay, there’s one part.

Awaken one’s vow.

I can just do this from memory.

I don’t know why I’m looking at the book and slowing it down, but that’s okay.

Never-ending, never-failing manifestation of the mysterious unfolding of truth in any event, in any moment, and in any place.

None can be other than the marvelous revelation of the interplay of this glorious light.

Here are two key phrases that are clearly stating that whatever is, is all part of the same thing.

Heart Sutra, right?

Obviously, form is emptiness.

Emptiness is form all over, right?

Okay, so emanation is basically a process where the fundamental energetics of the universe come into manifestation as all of the diversity of existence.

Okay, now there’s many models for emanation, there’s many creation stories and metaphors about how it works and what it means and all that stuff, but the basic underlying principle, which is a human constant across cultures and places, is that there was a primordial chaos that got some sort of infusion to turn into motion, which became an individuated experience, which then had an incestuous experience with itself.

Divine primordial passivity meeting divine primordial activity.

Boom, one becomes two, two become three.

They have their child, self-awareness, right?

And voila, we have existence.

And all that is emerges from that very process.

And whether you call that God, whether you call that quantum and quanta, whether you call that mystery, whether you call that the all, whether you call that, I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.

That thing they taught me.


It’s all just saying, even if you’re, even if you just want to go straight materialism, matter is energy.

As far as we can tell, there’s one source of energy that interacts in various ways, typically through four great forces, plus an anti-force, right?

And the, this is the, this is the foundation, this is the building blocks of the entire material universe.

You can’t escape the truth that everything that is comes from one source, no matter what language you want to put it.

That means that everything on the entire grand spectrum of the most beautiful, delightful, light loving, amazing, blissful experience you’ve had, and the most horrible, decrepit cesspool of the dirtiest part of humanity is all the same thing.

Now, if you take that as a, as a philosophical doctrine, and you say, well, that actually is just, as far as we can tell, the only way humans have ever been able to understand the entire cosmos, then what can you possibly reject?


Then the invitation becomes to really look at what can you actually reject if you accept the truth that all of existence is one source, is one thing.

It becomes irrational to reject anything, right?

And now we have the foundation for acceptance.

And that includes accepting that we’re not okay with certain things, accepting that certain things are unacceptable, accepting that we have very strong opinions about this or that.

And now we’re not trying to cut off the fact that we have strong opinions because we think we’re supposed to be nonjudgmental to be a good Buddhist.


See the trap that people get into as soon as we start to fail to accept the totality of our experience.


And this is, you know, beyond self-authorship is self-transcendence.

And this is eventually the mode for that too.

But we’ll talk about that another day.

Thank you all very much for your attention.

Leave this about 15 minutes to have some organic discussion wherever it may go.

And yeah.

Happy morning.

I think Marie should kick us off.

There we go.

Marie always waits.

And we’re going to ask Marie to just jump in and lob the first pebble into the pond here.

Are we muted?

No, I wasn’t saying anything.

I was taking my time getting over to click on the mute button.

I don’t know what to say with that right yet.

I really don’t.

Pieces of it are just kind of flipping around with that name.

So when you look at the concept of energy, for example, everything emanates from a single source.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed.

So from a philosophical standpoint, there you get into, so from a philosophical standpoint, there you get into, well, what’s the origin of the human soul?

Is there a human soul?

Is there an afterlife?

Is there this?

Is there that?

Do we reincarnate?

Is there, you know, all of these belief systems have stemmed out of this idea of energy, basically.

If you kind of break it down to its bare bones, they’re all just different words for the same thing.

What happens to that energy if you can’t, because we’re all made of energy, and energy can’t be created or destroyed.

Got to go somewhere.

And so that ties back into the whole idea of everything emanates from a single source.

And so if that energy cannot be destroyed, it just gets reintegrated back into that single source.

And therefore, logically, you would think has to come back out somewhere, you know, in whatever form that may be.

But, you know, if you look at that idea, that, for me, has always been a comforting thing, regardless of like, whatever your doctrine happens to be, whether or not, you know, you subscribe to the Christian theology, or the what have you.

You know, scientifically speaking, you know, scientifically speaking, that’s what we know, at least what we think we know at this point.

So I mean, I think that is a small comfort, I suppose, even if you’re, you know, of the, you know, if you don’t subscribe to a specific religious theology, or, you know, what have you.

That’s always a fun point for me anyway, like, okay, well, that’s some small comfort, I suppose.

And then you get into the idea of, okay, well, everything stems from the same point.

How can you reject anything, regardless of what subject is?

That, I suppose, could be a point of not necessarily contention, but a point of, like a sticking point.

You’re like, okay, well, yeah, that’s the truth.

If everything stems from the same thing, like, I can’t reject that as a thing.

Like, it’s a thing that exists.

The only thing, like, I can accept that it’s a thing that exists.

So I also have to accept, okay, well, that’s a thing that I personally will not stand for, x whatever it is, you know, and whoever it’s coming from.

That’s an interesting dichotomy to kind of fit together.

Like, yep, I can accept that this is a thing.

I can accept this is a thing that happens, unfortunately.

Don’t have to like it.

And so it’s always an interesting balance to see, like, okay, well, knowing that this is a thing, accepting that it’s a thing, is that truly acceptance?

If you’re like, okay, well, yes, I can accept that that’s a thing that happens, but I can also understand that I’m, like, wholeheartedly against that with every fiber of my being.

What’s the difference between, you know, you can say, oh, I accept that that’s a thing that happened, but I also reject it with every fiber of my being as something that I will not stand for.

What’s the difference?

How is that not rejection?

So it’s not rejection when we recognize that it’s arbitrary.

What is arbitrary?

Your refusal to accept that thing.

How is it arbitrary?

Well, it’s arbitrary because there are other people who do accept that thing.

Oh, arbitrary in the grand scheme of the gadget.


And it’s arbitrary within yourself too, right?

If you, for example, if we take it out of, like, really strong moral connotations, I mean, bring it down to, like, food.

Did you have food that you hated as a kid?


Did you have a food that you hated as a kid that you can tolerate now?


I can only think of one, honestly.

And here’s the funny part about that, is that I actually haven’t eaten it since I was a little kid because I had that strong of an aversion to it, but it pops into my head every once in a while, like, eat a lot of this cottage cheese for anyone who’s wondering.

Um, and it was always a texture thing.

I’m like, I lived in Japan.

I ate, like… Oh, if you ate their weird egg custards with mushrooms in them… Yeah, yeah.

Like, I’ve eaten way stranger things.

Like, I’ve eaten things that have tried to crawl back out in the process of swallowing.

Like, cottage cheese can’t be that bad, but I’ve never brought myself to, like, I should go to the grocery store and grab some and see if that’s a thing that I… Yeah.

I just haven’t done it.

So, but philosophically, I can hear you accept this, and you know other people, maybe, who hated broccoli as a kid, but now eat broccoli as an adult.


All right.


And so what this shows us is that all of our preferences are arbitrary.


Our ethics are preferences.

Well, is it true?

Ethics are just preferences for how we think life should be and what we think it means to be a good person.



So if your preferences around food change with your perspective and change according to your experience, then your preferences around ethics are likely to do the same.

You may know people who, at one point in life, thought it was okay to shoplift a six-pack of beer from the local drug market.


And now, as adults, they would never shoplift a six-pack of beer.

They’d just buy it because stealing is wrong.


Their ethics have changed.

Now, maybe they became a small business owner, and theft has actually almost driven them out of business.

And so now they’re vehemently opposed to theft, even though, at a certain point in time, they could understand shoplifting because they didn’t have the money or the right idea to get their beer.



And so ethics are preferences.


So if our food preferences change according to our conditioning, then our ethical preferences also change according to our conditioning, in which case it’s all arbitrary.

Fair enough.

Just because it’s arbitrary doesn’t mean that we don’t get to go, that’s true for me.

It is.

It’s absolutely true for you.

It’s also true that if you want it to be otherwise, you could.

And so now we’re not accepting anything.

We’re just acknowledging the perspective that we bring to the situation.


And now we are in acceptance.

And that also allows us to accept the fact that the person who’s perpetrating the deed is, for whatever reason, in their mind, justified in doing what they’re doing.

Because we can see that their ethical preferences are also completely arbitrary and derived out of their conditioning and understanding, and whatever drives them.

And now we’re really in a state of acceptance.

I accept that you are who you are, and you are doing the thing that you’re doing because to you, you have the rights or the capacity, or you’re so lost in this particular sensation or emotion or whatever that that’s what you chose to do.

It didn’t feel like a choice to you, maybe, but ultimately that’s what you did.

I can accept that that’s how reality played out in the surface.

I can also accept that my arbitrary view of ethics makes what you did unredeemably foul, and I will hold you accountable to that.


And if we live in a society where everyone agrees with me, then that person is punished.

If we live in a society where everyone agrees with that person, then I am ostracized and weird.

And so now we got acceptance.

Fair enough.

It’s an interesting thing to roll over just from a perspective thing.

I was trying to think of, is there one subject that is universally applauded by absolutely everyone, everywhere?

I can think of a couple that I would assume would be, but that doesn’t necessarily make it correct.

And the more that I think about it, I’m like, I’m not going to throw the subject matter out there, but actually I can think of several societies in which those things are perfectly acceptable.

Totally not.

In that context, yeah.

And so you can’t like, yeah, I mean, as a Westerner, sometimes you can’t necessarily wrap your head around like, yeah, but you can’t, you shouldn’t.

But then again, if you were brought up in that environment and that belief system and that what have you, you wouldn’t be having the exact same argument from the opposite side of the table, like, what do you mean?

Like, this is absolutely, look, here are examples as to why.

So it’s very interesting.

It’s an interesting topic to take a look at and like where one’s morals come from or one’s ethical ideals come from and how those either compare or contrast to others.

You can’t necessarily say that one is right and one is wrong outside of the framework of your own personal morals and ethics, which we can accept, right?

It’s interesting.

It’s a fun, I don’t know if there’s like a definite answer to that, like it’s a fun topic.

Well, the answer is the fact that everything is totally okay.

The answer is that everything is fundamentally acceptable because it is, because everything that is is exactly the same thing.

And then it’s like, okay, well, if that’s true, how do we navigate our lives?


Well, now we have the infinite choice to navigate our lives according to however we want to because we recognize that it’s all arbitrary.

Now we’re in the realm of self-authorship.

See, there’s my speed bump there because at that point, now you’re almost touching on hedonism.

Like, not necessarily.

But if everything is acceptable and I can author anything that I so choose, there are no rules.

There’s no law, there’s no rule, there’s no anything stating that I can do this, that, or the other outside of whatever moral framework that I’ve built for myself.

But if you’re accepting that that doesn’t necessarily need to be a thing, there has to be a governing, like there has to be some form of self-governance there.

You see what I’m saying?

Like, so here’s where it gets fascinating.

And I don’t mean to be dominating the conversation, so if either of you want to jump in, please feel free to jump in.

But so there’s nothing inherently wrong with hedonism.



So anyone can choose to live a hedonistic life.

We can say that.

But one of the things about everything being the same thing is that the impact that we have on the world around us is also our responsibility because it’s also us.


All right.

So we are each of us a star, but we are each of us only one star in a vast cosmos of stars.


And so then it’s like, okay, well, if I live a hedonistic lifestyle, and through my pursuits of pleasure as my highest value, I take advantage of others, I manipulate, I steal, I engage in greed, I engage in deceit, I engage in affairs that harm families, I’m doing other things.

Well, now I have rejected the truth, actually.

Now I have failed to accept the reality that this is all one and that the harm I’m causing to others is the harm that I’m causing to myself.

And if I receive input that my hedonistic behavior is having a negative impact on the world around me, then it’s my obligation to care for that because that is me too.

That’s a good point.

And I’m not saying that I’m like advocating that lifestyle.

I’m just looking at like, okay, well, that’s the self-regulatory mechanism in the system when you really get it.



Because hedonism is a trap.

Asceticism is a trap.

Any extreme view is a trap.

Anything that says that I, as the individual, am more worthy than you, as the community, is a trap.

Anything that says the community is more important than my views as an individual is a trap.

So where’s the balance there?

Well, it’s exactly in the space where recognizing that I am the community and the community is me.

I am my impact on the world, and the world creates me because it’s all one endless cycle of cosmic vibration and energy, like we play with in qigong, which is why we play with qigong.

And so with that delightful foray into deep thought and philosophical re-indoctrination, we are complete for today.

I dig it.

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