Rules of Life Game

Imposing Rules vs. Developing Mindfulness

Rules are forms of enforcement – a way to deal with symptoms as opposed to the root cause. Rules just create a fake external cover, a mask. They destroy our genuine and authentic nature – and hence they only cause suffering. Rules (especially religious and political ones) tend to create judgmental attitude and hypocrisy.

Developing mindfulness is about cultivating present moment awareness to act clearly knowing – clearly knowing our current state and motivation.

  • Our current state: Are we physically and mentally relaxed and peaceful? If not, we tend to make unskillful decisions and actions (emotionally hijacked). Hence we better wait first for our body and mind to settle and relax before making any actions.

  • Our motivation: Are we trying to build, protect and strengthen our ego? Or, is it about the well-being of ourselves and others? Is it rooted in our craving and aversion, greed and hatred, desire and fear? Or, is it rooted in loving kindness?

Developing mindfulness is about welcoming every moment as an opportunity to learn towards eliminating our defilements and impurities that hinder our genuine and authentic way of being. Instead of hardline/dogmatic rules, we can have guidelines or precepts to help us to bring our clear awareness of when we cross certain boundaries. At the same time, we should allow ourselves to make mistakes; otherwise we become too tense and tight to learn properly. ("Perfect is the enemy of good")

Act clearly knowing (with four pairs of questions) is one such a method. Though initially it may take some time to reflect and contemplate, gradually it becomes natural to us.

Bottom-up vs. Top-down Approaches

When it comes to establishing personal and social order, there is some tension between the approaches of Lao-Tzu and Confucius. Confucius favored creating rules and laws – though he understood the futility of enforcing it. Lao-Tzu focused on realizing one’s inner order that naturally transforms into external order – instead of externally forcing it.

There are fundamental laws that govern our universe (such as elementary particles and quantum physics). These fundamental laws create complex high-level structures (such as molecules and life) and they in turn modulate the fundamental low-level structures. These two bottom-up and top-down flows are an inherent part of our universe.

For example, our perception is the result of bottom-up processes (information about what’s out there through our senses) and top-down processes (our brain creates a model, its own reality). We have bottom-up attention (anything around us can capture our attention) and top-down attention (we can consciously decide to pay attention to anything in particular).

Lao-Tzu's approach is bottom-up (non-egoistic approach). Confucius' approach is top-down (it can easily become an egoistic approach). Buddha's approach skillfully goes though in-between utilizing the both (Lao-Tzu and Confucius created a proper tension and prepared a good ground for Buddha's teaching to catch hold easily in the east Asia). For a proper learning we need to utilize both the bottom-up and top-down approaches skillfully. Meditation is mainly a bottom-up approach. We equally need a proper top-down wisdom to guide it towards wholesome. A good teacher would guide through the process to balance them towards proper development and growth.

Rules of Life Game

  1. Realities of life

    • We suffer when we fight against the realities of life. We better learn to deal with them appropriately.

    • Impermanence, change, uncertainty, etc. are inherent part of life.

  2. Socially imposed

    • Rules (such as traffic rules) and laws (such as common civic and criminal laws) are unavoidable and necessary part of society – because others are involved.

    • They are many culturally and religiously imposed rules, customs, taboos, etc. such as how men and women suppose to behave, racial bias, caste and class system, women repression, etc.

    • First and foremost, we better beware of them clearly and learn to play them without being corrupted by them.

    • Then, we can work on minimizing suffering in the world towards more fair and equal society depending on our capacity. But if we are too serious and mainly focused on top-down approach, we bound to cause more suffering for ourselves and others.

  3. Self imposed

    • We better throw away all our limiting, restricting beliefs and constraints.

    • We can develop proper mindful discipline towards eradicating unwholesome behaviors and cultivating wholesome behaviors.

CK. Kamaraj

13 November 2020