Lovely. So do I.

To do it, we need to learn the art of recognising our betters. Don’t look at me like that, I’m being serious. Some people really are better than other people. Some people have this inner nobility that makes them shine. It’s what made the ancient nobles noble. We’re not all equal. We live in a world of inescapable inequality.

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We are born unequal and we have been told that it is the proper duty of all civilised people to ‘re-educate’ themselves to remove that inequality. Of course, our actual experience, if we’re willing to call a spade and spade, is of a world where some mobility can be achieved, but inequality? That’s here to stay.

And then we die. Death, you see, isn’t the great equaliser that people say it is. It’s only an equaliser in terms of material things at the point of death. In terms of body and material wealth, we all go down to zilch’o. But then we all move on after death to unequal destinations in accordance with our unequal karma (actions).

We will never see the end of inequality. It’s a reefer’s pipe-dream. But that’s ok because inequality isn’t in-and-of-itself a problem. The real problem is the penchant of the petulant for throwing grubby babies out with their bathwater. When I say ‘baby’, I’m talking about inequality. Yes indeed, inequality can be used for evil, it can get quite grubby. But inequality can also be used for the sake of goodness, it can be scrubbed up and made dapper. So let’s not throw inequality into the ditch holus bolus.

The Buddha taught that we become superior or inferior and experience superior or inferior conditions as a consequence of doing superior or inferior actions. This is the law of karma. So from a Buddhist perspective, actually, everything is completely fair. Samsara is a prison system of cosmic and multi-dimensional proportions that is always dealing out everyone’s just desserts. It just doesn’t seem that way to the ordinary man on the street because he can’t see what he or anyone else has done in past lives.

Even if we could get rid of inequality, we shouldn’t want to. That would give a free ride to all the beings who have killed, stolen, committed sexual misconduct, lied and done other egregious and harmful things. It would also penalise all the beings who have made the effort to heal and develop life, be content and generous, be chaste, faithful or even celibate, and spoken and stood up for the truth. Why would we want that? The potential amount of suffering that can come from encouraging people to be bad and discouraging them from being good is immeasurable. So the way to save and progress civilisation is not to destroy inequality, but to understand what needs to be done in order to move upwards.

We need to be pragmatic about this. Civilisation needs a lot of help. The poor bugger is sick, sick as can be. So we don’t have much time. Also, if you’re reading this blog, it probably means you’re a bit like me. That is, you don’t have much (or anything) in terms of financial or political power. That’s ok. We don’t need it, at least not for now. What we need, is to get our ideas and plans in order.

The first step is to understand the difference between the superior and inferior qualities dancing about inside the guts of us all. This world has gone topsy-turvy basically because we decided to sell out all the threads of culture which were designed to give us moral guidance for the sake of a few grubby greenbacks from the Church of the Dollar. What is it to transcend? To rise above it all? To become a better person? What is the vertical axis of life? What is the stairway to heaven?

To answer these questions we need to put an old argument to bed. It is a mistake, more than a mistake, it is a pernicious error, to say that the masculine is the vertical axis and the feminine is the horizontal plane of life development. We do ourselves great harm when we believe that spiritual transcendence is the natural domain of men and worldly development the natural domain of women. Neither the feminine nor the masculine, (henceforth yin and yang), has natural pre-eminence. Basically, yin and yang are equal in importance but different in function, and they must work together to achieve transcendence. They are not exactly the same, nor is one better than the other. These wrong worldviews are the root cause for perpetual conflict between yin and yang.

As each struggles for dominance, we create pathological yang dominance hierarchies on the one hand – say, for example, Wall Street banks where victory is achieved by playing the biggest and the nastiest aggressor on the block — and we also create pathological yin dominance hierarchies on the other hand — say, for example, Canadian university human rights kangaroo courts where victory is awarded to the shrillest most deceitful victim-status claimant. We must stop fighting about whether yin or yang is the true way to the tao. Neither yin nor yang alone is capable of transcendence.

The vertical axis, the stairway to heaven, is something else altogether. The apex of the vertical axis is good, the nadir is evil. Yin and yang are the left and right polarities of the horizontal plane, not opposing poles of the vertical axis.

Let’s pause for a few breaths to let that paragraph sink in. The fate of civilisation depends upon understanding this subtle map of the universe. Here’s a poem to bring home the message.

Yin and Yang, the horizontal.
Good and evil, the vertical.
Integrate Yin and Yang
To develop good and abandon evil
For the attainment of Nirvana.

Yin and Yang, the horizontal.
Good an evil, the vertical.
Integrate Yin and Yang
To develop love and abandon anger
For the attainment of Nirvana.

Yin and Yang, the horizontal.
Good and evil, the vertical.
Integrate Yin and Yang
To develop renunciation and abandon sensual desire
For the attainment of Nirvana.

The old go wrong when disrespected.
The young go wrong when left unguided.
Woman goes wrong when unprotected.
Man goes wrong when unsupported.

The old go right when well respected.
The young go right when they’re well guided.
Woman goes right when well protected.
Man goes right when well supported.

Yin and Yang, the horizontal.
Old and young, that way too.
Integrate old and young
Within and without
To go up the path vertical.

Yin and Yang, the horizontal.
Man and woman, that way too.
Integrate man and woman
Within and without
To go up the path vertical.

Do not mistake horizontal for vertical
Nor vertical for horizontal.
Mara relies on this confusion
To perpetuate oppression.

Yin and Yang, the horizontal
Good and evil, the vertical.
Integrate Yin and Yang.
Develop good, abandon evil.
For the attainment of Nirvana.

For the sake of all,
Remember this well
And do not dismiss it
As being merely medieval.

When and wherever this subtle map is misunderstood, we create faulty spiritual and philosophical value systems which lead to ever increasing levels of disintegration between yin and yang. This manifests in innumerable ways such as the war between men and women, old and young, teachers and students, parents and children, employers and employees, clergy and laity, governors and the governed, future and past, tradition and innovation, religion and science, modernism and classicism, competition and cooperation, capitalism and socialism, private and public, fringe and centre, nature and civilisation, heaven and earth, earth and air, fire and water, body and mind, feeling and thought, representation and experience … feeling stressed? Then let’s take a breather.

Imagine a game consisting of a vertical pole made of glass with a spiral path painted onto it. It looks like a drill bit that is sitting upright on a table. There is a disk, also made of glass, with a hole in the centre of it just big enough to fit onto the pole. The disk is fitted onto the pole and is resting on the ground at the base of the pole. The disk is also hollow and filled with two types of magic powder, yin powder and yang powder.

This is the game, let’s call it the ‘stairway to heaven’. A person, who we call the ‘seeker’, sits before the pole and disk and places his hands around the disk without touching it. The seekers job is to make the music of the spheres emanate from his hands. The extent to which the vibrations he creates with his hands is resonant with the spheres is the extent to which the magic powders inside the glass disks shift to take the form of the symbol of the tao. It is also the extent to which the disk spins. The disk is designed to gain upward momentum by spinning.

The seeker’s aim is to make the disk spin fast enough to overcome gravity and yet not so fast and chaotically that it breaks itself from collision and friction with the pole or from the internal pressure generated from the movement of the powders. The game is won when the disk flies off the upper end of the pole.

What does this have to do with how to recognise our betters and save civilisation? … Come back again next week to find out. Early Buddhist monks can’t spend all their time blogging, you know!