Wisdom Living

Openness

Introduction

Before we continue the subject of integration of Wisdom Training into our everyday life, I decided to discuss our attitudes to which we adhere. In the last chapter, I already talked about the necessity of the attitude of treating common household tasks as opportunities rather than chores. But the subject is much wider than that,  particularly when we will discuss integrating more intellectual and interactive activities into the MR training. In such cases, the importance of our attitude is paramount.

I decided to use it as a model well known in Buddhism paramitas, which directly translated from Sanskrit into English, would be meta-actions. Introduction  of them is usually attributed to the Mahayana branch of Buddhism around the beginning of the last millennium, though some scholars date them even earlier

Para means in Sanskrit above or beyond like parapsychology, while mita refers to usual activities. For that reason, they are sometimes translated into English as meta-actions since meta is often used similarly as para. They are fairly similar to the concepts of virtues as used in Western philosophy though they are more free from being a tool supporting social stratification. 

However, I decided to call them attitudes because what predicates an action is an attitude. For example, if our attitude is that our income and comfort are more important than the survival of humanity, we act accordingly, leading to the catastrophe unless this attitude would change.

I want to add that the six attitudes as presented here are free of any religious, moral or other ideological pollution. They are viewed as a manifestation of innate qualities of human wisdom that we need to re-discover and re-embed into our life.

Openness as an attitude of giving

Openness is an attitude of being free from narrowness our habitual constraints.  A person is usually considered as open if she or he offers others some material goods or ideas without any compensation. I use the term open instead of traditional generosity because openness includes generosity; it means that one is open to doing actions beyond the restrictive habitual patterns of holding to property that we own.  

The original Buddhist interpretation of openness as generosity, called in Sanskrit dana, was critically important for the survival of the earliest Buddhist communities of monks who were entirely dependent on alms received from their patrons.

The etymological Indo-European root do of Sankrit dana is present in many Western languages like donation in English and French or Polish dawać (to give).

This interpretation of openness as giving is as valid as it was 2000 years ago but it is extended to other forms of giving beyond the material goods and money. Openness inspires us to share our ideas which may be helpful to others. However, if it used, indiscriminately it also gained a facetious  interpretation to be “generous with advice and  opinions.”

In spite,  that taking the attitude of openness as unrestricted giving may appear simple, it is often far from easy to realize. It goes exactly against the grain of possessiveness, one of the two key poisons embedded into our social consciousness for several thousand years, the topic we already discussed earlier on.  The very idea of giving without any religious or moral reasons, without any advantages to ourselves, is difficult to swallow. Recall a moment of resistance that one experiences before giving little money to a beggar who, we believe, could do something else than begging. 

Our openness of offering is often limited to giving to some charity a piece of used clothing or other items that we do not need anymore because otherwise, we would have to throw it away. Of course, it is a positive action, but it is far from the true openness of giving.

Openness as an attitude of receiving

You may be surprised that an attitude of accepting what is offered or shortly receiving needs to be reinforced by a special attitude. It seems to be a natural, genetically ingrained since the earliest infancy when a baby receives nutrition and care from its mother. And it is also true that for a while, children, on multiple occasions, are happy and even expect to receive presents.

But receiving becomes more complicated for adults. In general, we are happy to receive gifts: we feel being appreciated and liked. Sometimes, though we consider the fact that someone offers us something contradicts our pride or belief in our ability to take care of ourselves, etc. But it is rather rare.

The situation changes drastically when it comes to receiving objects which are not material like someone’s opinion or advice. That may open a can of worms because such opinion may go against our views while advice hurts our pride, our feeling that we know better, that we do not need help, etc.

But that is just a surface; on a deeper level, the root of our resistance to receive in such context has to do with our desire to dominate rather than be dominated. It especially applies to concepts that differ from ours. We identify our existence with our opinions and, we treat offering us counter opinions as a personal attack. Very often we prefer to avoid even the possibility of such a situation and ignore it altogether.

It often produces situations when we are not able even to listen. Before someone ends we already have a counter-argument ready and elaborate it in our mind, it instead of listening.

The relations of the attitude of openness with Wisdom Living

First, I would like to reemphasize that the attitude of openness must not be interpreted as a religious or moral principle. It is a way of regaining what we, as humans, accomplished at the dawn of our existence as Homo Sapience. Without such an attitude, we would perish like the rest of hominids, which continued their ancestral aggressive and ignorant tendencies.

The development of the attitude of openness is indispensable for establishing real human cooperation based on compassion which saved out species at the beginning of its existence  (we discussed it earlier on). The need for it become more and more evident as our world situation declines day by day. That is fundamentally a result of our holding tightly to our egocentric views of “me” or “mine” rather than see humanity as the most important.

However, unrestricted giving may not always be beneficial and,  in many situations, it may be even harmful. For example, it may reinforce the habitual patterns of lack of self-confidence and belief that we have to rely on the help of others. Also, attempts of imposing our ideology upon others may lead to disastrous results.

To become really helpful, we have to combine the attitude of giving with the attitude of discernment, another of six attitudes, which will be discussed later on. It permits us to be aware of the totality of the situation and helps us to examine the potential consequences of our actions.

The attitude of openness becomes particularly important in situations when what is offered to us are alternative views and advice. They are often difficult to accept because it challenges us to abandon our cocoon of established concepts and opinions so we may feel suddenly confused and groundless.

How to develop an attitude of openness?

This development is intimately related to the practice of  MR. If we experience resistance to give or to open ourselves to other views different than ours, we know that happens because it contradicts one attachment to one of the root poisons. We treat it is as a warning signal which tells us that it is the moment to return to the state of MR.  

Afterwards, we can look closer at this situation and examine why we have felt this discomfort.  We may discover, for example,  that we experienced resistance to offer something because it feels like giving away a part of ourselves. Or, when someone proclaims some views with which we disagree, we refuse to listen to it to avoid irritation.

By practicing reinforcement of the attitude of openness, we, so to speak, kill to birds at once. First, we gain an opportunity to return to the state of MR. Second, which is more directly related to the development of this attitude, it helps us to looks at our embedded patterns of attachment to our material or mental properties and to our feeling of being on top of the situation, our dominating position in the social structure.

Closing remarks

Thie development of the attitude of openness is particularly important because it is the basis for the rest of the remaining five attitudes by directly confronting our attachment to ownership and social position of knowing best. The latter one can be diffused if we open ourselves to see views of others which are different than ours. Repeating it, again and again, makes it possible to realize the fluidity of the world composed of the interplay of energies rather than fixed entities that open new unknown possibilities.

That is not only philosophically significant but has a critically important pragmatic dimension. It permits us to create social, scientific and technological solutions that would be unthinkable within our limited and stiff world views. Such new solutions are desperately needed if we want human civilization to continue.

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