In order to fulfill a mission, we have to know the mission. We mustn’t fool ourselves or others with a misguided sense of mission. And if we are going to take on a mission, we must be willing to see it through. If at some point we decide to abandon the mission, we must also be responsible for that decision. Again, we must not fool ourselves.
In an elite military force, the mission will take precedence over the individual. Every member of that force must accept this principle; had they not accepted it, they wouldn’t have made it through the necessary training. Individual cares and desires are left out of the equation; everyone has to have signed on to this code and proven it in the selection process. If they then care about other soldiers more than the mission, they may be seen as good or nice human beings, but they will have failed in their purpose. They would then not be fit for the force, because they could not be trusted to fulfill the mission.
In spiritual practice, the same principle applies. If the individual is encouraged to thrive, then no one grows, no one changes, the mission fails, and the shrunken self is alive and well. We will not get to who we really are. Instead of letting go of wrong identification with the individual and being who we are—Love—the mission will become the propping up of that very individual, the perpetuation of separateness.
If we are not in line with the true mission, then either we must realize that and excuse ourselves, or the leader/teacher needs to inform us so we have the opportunity to either commit to the mission or leave. It is okay if we leave, it is okay if we stay. We need to call everything what it is, not what we may prefer to call it. After all, no one does anything because they think it is bad; they rationalize it as good.
For instance, I may think I am fighting or standing up for myself appropriately when in fact I am being selfish. I may think I am fighting for others and being a team player when in fact I am being a doormat. If I operate this way, I will not be able to fulfill the mission appropriately. Instead, I will be pursuing my own, hidden mission of individual self-preservation.
Here is a foursquare that allows us to work with this dynamic:
|Fight for self / Self care||Doormat|
|Selfish||Fight for others / Selfless|
In spiritual practice, many people abandon the real mission out of fear. The Zen Master Nan Huai-Chin addresses this issue in his commentary on the Diamond Sūtra:
Are there actually people who have fright, terror or dread over these teachings? Among practicing cultivators one will see this. In their practice, many people are seeking the alambana [foundation] of emptiness but when this alambana actually appears, they take fright or are terrified. People say they are scared out of their wits and sweat bullets because they’ve “disappeared.” I say to them, Aren’t we seeking to be selfless? How can you be frightened? Wisdom needs strength behind it.
At times, our strength may free us to abandon an inappropriate mission. Many years ago someone told me they were not a quitter. What I then said was to imagine that it is 1935 and you are a member of Hitler’s Youth. You have now seen what the mission is, how destructive it is, but you are not a quitter. The truth is you should quit, but because of your idea of yourself you will not quit. You are in fact selfish in the maintenance of your individual identity.
So we all have to face up to the mission we are actually on. If we are on a secret mission to preserve our separateness or specialness, we have to recognize and own that. Otherwise, we will defer joining the true mission of Love and Liberation. But join it we will, sooner or later—because Love is our True Nature.
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