Sunday, June 1, 2014

Examining Assumptions and Blame: On Driving All Blames Into One

I've been trying to write this post for a week now. Recent events (especially the misogyny fueled tragedy at UCSB last week) have made it hard for me to wrap my mind around this tenet. I'm making myself sit down, though, because I need to get working with this teaching and I need to move on.

So, the newest tenet:
Drive all blames into one. has an almost identical translation ("drive all blame" instead of "blames"), so it doesn't add any depth. Their explanatory text isn't very helpful either:
"Reactive patterns bring about precisely what you try to avoid. When things go wrong in your life, blaming circumstances doesn't help. Look at the role your own patterns play in bringing about the problem." (Source.)
There's some of the same self-examination I've seen in previous lojong teachings, but for me their explanation doesn't line up well with what I know of driving all blames. As I always do, I turned next to the Tricycle piece by Judy Lief. If you want a fuller examination, and lots of wisdom, about this teaching please follow that link. The quote that hit me hardest, though, was:
"This slogan is quite radical. Instead of blaming others, you blame yourself. Even if it is not your fault, you take the blame. It is important to distinguish this practice from neurotic self-blaming or the regretful fixation on your own mistakes and how much you [are] at fault. It also does not imply that you should not point out wrongdoing or blow the whistle on corruption. Instead, as you go about your life, you simply notice the urge to blame others and you reverse it."
I am someone who tends toward self-blame as it is, but the juxtaposition of this tenet with the shootings... Wow, it brought things home. It's one thing to look for the causes of ingrained and socially acceptable misogyny, systemic racism, and the like, the things I know were at the root of the events last week. It's quite another to take the blame myself. This led me to thinking about the role I play in our racist culture. I can tell you that the moment I went from being a White Feminist to being a feminist who just happens to be Caucasian was definitely tied to me taking the blame, to seeing my privilege and how I've benefit from the systems in our country just because of where I was born and to whom.

But taking all the blame for everything isn't the point of this tenet. "The Middle Way," which is an important concept in Buddhism, talks about finding a way between extremes. It is more tied to navigating between a purely material and a purely spiritual life, but it's a philosophy I try to apply to other aspects of my day to day. So, yes, I will work with taking the blame no matter what it is, but I'll also work with not beating myself up for it. And I'll follow the advice with which Lief closed her piece about this tenet:

"Pay attention to how blaming arises and what patterns it takes.  See what happens when you take on the blame yourself. Notice what changes in your own experience and in what you observe around you."

Until next week, namaste and all that.

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