Q: You said that we are ‘utterly and passionately compromised’ – insofar as we cannot take a puritanical stance. Could you say more about that, please?
NN: If I decide not to drive a car anymore because it is bad for the environment – that is one thing. It is simply a choice among choices. But if I became an ecological fascist and vaunt my stance as a definition of my purity and disparage those who drive cars – then I would become an ecological hazard in the emotional environment. If—as a puritanical pedestrian—I feel more courageous and willing to struggle with inconvenience, then I would cut myself off from both compassion and wisdom. Taken to its logical end, I would have to become the ‘Stalin of the Sidewalk’ or the ‘Polpot of the Pavement’ and kill everyone with a different opinion and view to mine.
I would have to destroy that difference, that impurity, that audacity of living a different way.
Q: So relaxing our outlook will loosen up these judgements?
NN: It’s not that we can’t make a stand about something and have a strong and radical view. It’s simply that we cannot—as practitioners—see ourselves as being ‘pure’ because we have that strong and radical view. I am not a better person, nearer enlightenment, more worth listening to, seeing, or knowing, because I hold these strong and radical views and live my life in a strong and radical way. Everyone is beginninglessly enlightened. Everyone may be worth listening to, seeing and knowing. Everyone is a fascinating manifestation of form and emptiness. Form will arise in whatever way it arises and if you can enjoy its dance, it is all fascinating and wonderful. Even a viewpoint that is totally in opposition to my own is simply a display of form and emptiness and no more or less entrancing than my own.
Q: But surely some opinions are simply bad – like anti-Semitism.
NN: Certainly. But then there are the people who hold such views, and they may be simply severely misguided and personable enough in other respects. Even something as horrendous as anti-Semitism is interesting if we dare to let ourselves look at it. It is interesting to see what life circumstances led Hitler to that point, and how the characters of his staff, and the situation at that particular time in history enabled such an idea to actually manifest.
The holocaust was an epic of paranoid brutality. It was neurotic dualistic view to an extreme degree, but if we define all those involved as ‘utterly evil and beyond redemption’ and all those who were horrified by it as ‘good and utterly worthy’, then we have cut ourselves off from any possibility of feeling compassion for Hitler or from any examination of our own prejudices.
Ngak’chang Rinpoche often points out,
As soon as we
place Hitler in a category called ‘utterly evil and beyond
redemption’ we have taken the first step in the direction of
establishing our own Nazi regime. We have laid the first brick of
our own Auschwitz. As soon as we feel that anyone is beyond
compassionate consideration we become closer to the person we condemn
than others who are merely aghast. I read that Hitler was rejected
in his application to Art College – so I hazard the notion that the
world could be thankful that I was accepted…