The Antidote For Assumption
There is a simple antidote for assumption. Simple yes, but also very profound. If you do it correctly, it will set you free. However, I should warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart. As Yuanwu said, “It is no small matter to step directly from the bondage of the ordinary person into the transcendent experience of the realm of the sage.” No small matter indeed. It’s a bit like unexpectedly being thrown into a rushing river or having the ground disappear from under your feet.
Ask questions. Yup. It’s that simple. As Socrates said, “Question everything.” and “Question authority.” The question the old Chinese (zen) masters recommend is: “Where does this (really) come from?” Another question I have found useful is “What am I really doing, and why?” (Or, “What is _______ really doing, and why?”) Then keep your mind OPEN, waaaaay open.
“Because that’s what everyone does/says.”
“Because it’s always been done that way.”
“Because person X (who may be an ‘expert’) said so.”
Or one of my personal favorites, “Because GOD says this is what we’re supposed to do.”
Ad infinatum, ad nauseum. . . . . .
Clearly these are not answers at all, they are assumptions based on culture and other concepts, and they have nothing to do with what is actual, with reality. A concept is an abstraction, something apart from concrete reality, specific things, or actual instances. When you start asking, you will be shocked at how many answers are built on absolutely NOTHING but assumptions, concepts, and (LOL!) popular culture and public opinion. Even in science, which presents itself as being open minded inquiry, and built on facts. Remember, at one time the “experts” said the world is flat – they said illness was caused by evil spirits. . .and everyone believed them and adopted these concepts as their own truth. In times past human sacrifice was accepted by the majority. Clearly 40 million people CAN indeed be wrong, and often are!
Happily, there’s nothing that says you have to be one of them.
© Babaloo Bonzai and Babaloo Bonzai’s Zen Soup, 2010.