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24 July 2008 @ 09:57 am
On Pretention  
Buddhists generally profess commitment to the notion that there is only one reality, not several, that we are 'all One', so to speak. A person who takes this seriously, it seems to me, must accept the ultimate non-substantiality of the 'self', or ego, at least as an unchanging inherent being. According to Buddhist tradition, accepting this principle allows one to let go of the notional basis of belief in separateness, and allow suffering over this 'self-construct' to drop away. In turn, one is freed to experience Life in all of its moment-to-moment glory.

There was a recent discussion/debate on one of the Buddhist LJ communities surrounding the blog of a Shingon priest that is here on LJ. Rather than exacerbate the contentious state of affairs in that community, I just wanted to write some notes of my view on what constitutes pretention, especially from a Buddhist standpoint. This is what I imagine a Buddhist would say when asked to define pretention or arrogance.

Pretention is:
  • holding fast to a fixed idea of how the world/life is. Having to be 'right' instead of 'wrong'; arguing with others to uphold the trait of being 'right' instead of being 'wrong'. 
  • believing strongly in the real existence of one's self as an immutable core, rather than recognizing the inherent changing of the experience of what we normally call the 'self' and the ultimate equality of all beings; the impossibility of pinning it down at all, since 'it' is not substantial.
  • acting/speaking in such a way as to foster the felt divide between one's 'self' and another 'self''. Both of which are imagined constructs we use for our everyday purposes, but which have no more substance than that which we ascribe to them.
  • accepting as real and indicative of the status of one's 'self' the nominal 'honors' placed upon it by priests or 'masters'; in the Buddhist world, this is all too common. Robes and Japanese names, certificates and so forth.....all just empty distinctions based on a complex structure of meaning and perception in the temporal realm.
  • using the acquisition of such honorific status to enshrine one's 'self' as this or that in the world, as an 'Authority'. As T'ang dynasty Zen master Huang Po once said, "There is no Zen teacher."
  • defending one's honorific status by engaging in and provoking pointless semantic debates; once again, having to be 'right' vs. 'wrong', yet another empty distinction.