Buddhism 201: There are no Winners and Losers…

In the best negotiations and most serious debates, everybody should walk away happy. This is the secret to all good dealings, of course, but all too often forgotten, in the rush to seal deals, and replace stocks, and return to life as normal, on the battlefields of commerce and contentment, where the fruits of life are often commodities, and the rewards are consumption, a vaguely full sensation, quickly desiring something more or better, as if there is no balance.

But balance there must be if happiness is truly our goal, and that is the open secret of the Middle Path, something so simple, and something so sublime, that it is easily overlooked in the rush to judgment and the customary division of spoils among victors. But did the losers really lose, and if so, then what exactly did they lose? And did the winners really win, and if so, then what exactly did they win?

The short answer is that no one really knows, and so any bettor worth his chips knows that to cover your assets, you hedge your bets, and hopefully cover the spread in the process. Because not only do we never know whether we truly win or lose, but by even less will we know by how much.

And that balancing act is more than smart business; it is an epistemological reality, if not necessarily a metaphysical one, which it may indeed very well be. And this is the beauty of agnosticism, which is often reduced in value by vague insinuations that it is avoiding a decision by refusing to take sides. But that is one of the fundamental facts of life and the world: absolute knowledge is simply unknowable.

This becomes a tautology, of course, in the sense that we are claiming to know that unknowability, but that does not diminish its value, no, or at least not by much. We simply cut the conversation short to avoid endless reductions and descensions into a void. Don’t you wish everybody did?

So Buddhism as a philosophy is fundamentally an open doctrine, even if Buddhism as a religion is saddled with karma, rebirth, and past lives as customary baggage, just as Christianity comes pre-packaged with democracy and capitalism, the trifecta of hedged bets within the trinity of no limits. And that is as much a myth as reincarnation and past lives, though it doesn’t catch so much flack for it by the simple trick of perception bias: we can’t see the forest we live in for all the trees that stand in the way.

So we assume by instinct that there is an underlying fundamental reality, even if we are hard pressed to say exactly what it is. Somehow some way it simply is, as Nature is, sublime in its silence, commanding in its occasional outbursts. After all, if the lion and the lamb are raised together in the same crib, then any future violence is unlikely. Thus the dharma is simply an admonition to be like that, like nature. You’ll know it when you see it. Mindful silence is better than mindless chatter almost any day.