Thoughts on Looking Inside Oneself

A Practitioner in the U.K.

PureInsight | May 6, 2007

[] In the world
of psychology there is the idea of "projection" or "transference," when
we disown the parts of ourselves we dislike and assign these unwanted
pieces of ourselves and project or transfer them onto another person.
This is why we should not think of ourselves as "special." To be
special is to deny our shortcomings and put them onto everyday people,
falsely elevating ourselves above people using such denial. The
scapegoat person becomes blamed for that part of us we have been
unable to admit to. That transferred shortcoming might come from a
past self of ours that is a person we used to be which that
other person reminds us of, and thus they become a target for us
to dump our dirty water on. It may be we cannot feel at
peace whenever they are around. In this way we can hardly forgive
ourselves for our past mistakes, because such targeted people
reappear as people we encounter frequently. Had we forgiven
ourselves for our past these people would not evoke our
negative responses. There is a frequent process in cultivation as
we are constantly being compassionate to our selves of last
year, last decade and so forth and on it goes. It is like those people
who become rich and now look down upon the poor, thinking they are
different and important when their roots are the same.


 The other person is not related to our old self or who we
used to be, so why must they be disliked because of one's
own shortcomings in the past? How much is projection of self and
how much of a separate person independent of us do we see when we meet
another? How mysterious they actually are, but they are reduced to the
quirks of our own character.


 It takes courage to own up to our shortcomings and attachments
and we often believe we are "above" the attachment we see in the other
person. Teacher says sometimes practitioners will only feel
slighter better and more virtuous than everyday people
(paraphrased). This is because, I think, as human beings we often share
many of the same qualities, good and bad, but the vitally important
thing is in their degree of intensity. For example, in England
when someone makes us feel angry we exclaim "Oh, I could kill him."
Obviously, this person isn't about to kill that other person. But he
does have a microscopic seed of the desire to kill, perhaps, that
if deepened over years or lifetimes he would indeed be capable of
doing that. What differentiates us from bad people is

the degree to which we give energy to certain thoughts and feelings and
where we cast our attention. When we realise thus, in our potential we
could be any of the people in the world, our compassion then deepens,
and we do not have enemies as such anymore. We feel we are not so
different and special from others after all. 


Once we recognise what we are truly capable we can then choose
compassion and forgiveness. Turning the other cheek does not seem
"extreme" after all.  I sometimes like to quantify in terms of
percentage: I want to reduce a certain attachment by 20 percent, or
some such amount. This helps prevent going to extremes in our actions,
and in this gentle way we can make progress. No one is perfect, so we
need to be realistic. Attachments resurface and it is very much like
that game where one bashes one of the things down and
then elsewhere another one pops up, and we run around trying to
hammer down each thing. That running around is awareness and that in
itself, that process, fully realized, is a goal in cultivation, in my


We think that if we own up to all our shortcomings
they would extinguish the light of the good qualities we do
have. There are shortcomings we sometimes cannot face because perhaps
we may not think a single person could have such deep juxtapositions
within himself. It seems paradoxical or oxymoronic even, to be good at
times and, other times, bad. We are good and bad and we are
neither. The shortcomings we do not face up to are what Swiss
psychoanalyst Carl Jung may have called the Shadow. Teacher
has said that being aware of one's bad thoughts is an excellent state
of cultivation (paraphrase). No one wants to think they have a "filthy
mind" among cultivators. People are not even shocked to read this in Zhuan Falun because we really have to cultivate the humility to admit how we really are and this truthfulness can make us free.


Because we have not yet had the imagination to conceive that one
may have a filthy mind for a few moments but in the next he may have a
very pure thought, we have had a narrow vision of who we
really are.  If we can understand our own
shortcomings and admit to our bad thoughts, we thereby free
ourselves. It seems we are moving backward, but in admitting
a shortcoming is moving forward! It is more negative
to ignore our shortcomings. It is just like the "nice" people in
certain spiritual circles: they love attachments, but then their shadow
or repressed awareness of their shortcomings will be blurted out in a
vicious joke of some kind, and their smiles are only pretend sometimes.
Some English comedies such as Faulty Towers are terribly vicious
when one looks at them carefully.  


I've notice many middle class background people have this quality about
them, they love to be jolly, and avoid all the rough things of honesty
which can dampen one's spirits. But if one's high spirits are based on
illusions, is this true happiness? Thus they will avoid the gruff lower
classes when they actually have the same feelings as the working
classes covered over with their refinement. They are cutting themselves
off from universal compassion. Can life only consist of delicate and
sophisticated finesse? Does it not need to be balanced out with the
raw intensity of our will and our conviction also? In Zhuan Falun
it mentions "kowtowing until one's head bleeds," which makes
apparent what the feeling of striving forward vigorously in
cultivation really is. Cultivation is not a thing for overly
cautious gentleman, scared to do this or that, or say this or that. It
is to cultivate thoroughly and meticulously. 

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