Thursday, January 07, 2010

Purify What?

I've read a lot about spirituality, and I have seen many movies about various spiritual traditions. One thing that is starting to grate on me is the use of the word "purify". I can't for the life of me understand what people are trying to convey with this word.

First of all, what is purity? Is a glass of clean water pure even if it has millions of microorganisms in it? Does pure mean empty? If so, I can understand the metaphorical context in which it is used, but I feel that its use needs to be defined, otherwise we start to create a supreme wall dividing that which is pure from that which is impure. A war of morality begins, Good vs. Evil continues forever onward.

I would contextualize my current spirituality as primarily shamanic in terms of my relationship with the universe, but in order to come to a peaceful understanding of myself and my relationship to this world I have utilized the Buddhist path as well. In terms of Buddhism, "purity" can mean realizing the true formlessness of reality. Many people think that such thoughts are hopelessly nihilistic, because without form, without substance. without love and pain, our lives lose meaning. But in my experience, the realization of the formlessness of reality only reinforces the beauty and sacredness of all life. There seems to be a paradox there, but it is similar to when you are sick with a cold and remember breathing easily with fondness. Being sick restricts your breath, but you can yearn for the day when your lungs and sinuses are clear, and when that day comes it is all the sweeter for the absence of any infection or blockage. But this doesn't condemn the sickness as evil, it is simply what it is.

So in my mind, purity is the absence of illusion or blockage, enlightenment I guess you could say. In this universe, nothing is materially pure. There is no such thing as a pure thing, or a pure idea. Everything mixes with everything else, it is the way of the game. So when we attempt to enforce a rigid purity rule on any behavior or material, we end up fighting a morality war forever. In this case I think we should give up and make our peace with impurity forever. That is not to say that we should never clean our houses, but that we should always have the reality of endless impurity in out minds.

For some, purity can mean God. As I have previously stated, I do not hold within my heart or mind any such notion of a single omnipotent being that rules over the universe, so I can only say that if your idea of God is purity, then you will fight a morality war forever. I think we have been programmed since birth to want to be superior in some ways to all of the universe, and a morally pure God is simply our visualization of this ideal. If we work toward acceptance of our own impurity and physical humanity versus warring against all that is impure in life, we could step toward a peaceful path at last.

As Thich Nhat Hanh says so beautifully:

"If you are a good organic gardener, looking at a rose you can see the garbage, and looking at the garbage you can see a rose. Roses and garbage inter-are. Without a rose, we cannot have garbage; and without garbage, we cannot have a rose. They need eachother very much. The rose and garbage are equal. The garbage is just as precious as the rose. If we look deeply at the concepts of defilement and immaculateness, we return to the notion of interbeing. "

-Peace Is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh

1 comment:

gianna said...

interesting viewpoint, bro! i would love to talk more about your thoughts! thanks for being open and real.

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