The Sun Still Shines Behind the Clouds
I received an email with the folowing question:
I have something to ask that has confused me deeply. How are you going to respond if you happen to see a person molesting another person. Is it okay if we just let someone harm others? It seems that if we were enlightened, then we would perceive everything as one, so we would just let someone harm others without attachment.
Here is my response:
This is a common question as it is confusing to the mind when two opposite things are both true. So while it is true that everything is one thing, and there is ultimately nothing that can harm consciousness, it is also true that people can and do harm each other physically and mentally. And it is always possible to act in a situation like you describe also without attachment.
Another simple example of two opposite things being true is how the sun is still shining on a cloudy day. From where you stand, there may be thick clouds and even rain. And yet the bigger truth is that the sun is still shining above the clouds. I say it is a bigger truth as the sun shines on the entire earth, not just the clouds above your head, and the daily rising and setting of the sun is more constant and longer lasting than any particular rainstorm. However, just because it is true that the sun is still shining, that does not mean that you should go out in your bathing suit and some sunscreen to work on your tan! The rain is still real, and you may want to wear a raincoat instead.
When it comes to the hurt and violence in this world, the bigger truth is that the consciousness involved will recover from the pain and suffering. Yet, while the effect of the pain inflicted is temporary, it is still real, and it is still possible sometimes to do something that prevents or stops the violent or hurtful act, or at least to help sooth or even heal the person who has suffered after the fact.
Knowing the bigger truth that there is ultimately no lasting harm can actually free you to act in direct response to what is happening. It does not need to imply that you take no action to stop a hurtful act. There is nothing to lose so why not help someone out when you can? The real value of this bigger perspective is that it can allow you to see the hurt and violence that is real, and yet not be traumatized yourself by it or even overwhelmed by it. When we do not see the bigger truth, then our reaction to the pain in the world often is one of avoiding it or denying it because it can seem too horrible to acknowledge. When we see the bigger truth, then we can respond to pain as best we can since we also know it is not that big a deal.
We can keep a complete perspective on the whole situation by realizing that love and peace are still present. Knowing that the bigger truth is that love and joy are always here "behind the clouds" is what gives us the capacity to be compassionate and loving towards the victims of violence and even towards the perpetrators of violence. It is often possible to stop someone from being violent in a loving and compassionate way. In contrast, responding to violence with more violence usually just breeds even more violence.
When it rains that is not the end of the world. The sun is still shining and will eventually come out from behind the clouds. You do not need to overreact to the rain even as you might still take appropriate actions to stay dry. And even when you get wet, it is still no big deal!