When planning to write this Service I wasn’t sure which of the 16 Teachings I might choose, so I decided to do all of them!
Amongst the discussions of the past few weeks a topic was brought up, a recurring topic, or at the very least a recurring theme within a topic; this theme is by no means unique to Jediism in fact it is a theme which will occur in any group or community of like-minded officials.
The theme I want to talk about today is perhaps best presented with the rhetorical question in which it is often asked: “That’s not very Jedi of you is it?”
For those who may have read it, this topic was a recent sermon by steamboat: http://www.templeofthejediorder.org/sermons/2152-that-doesn-t-seem-very-jedi
I won’t go into too much detail, but essentially when someone says that one’s behaviour is or is not “Jedi” they are taking a position of authority and determining what “correct” Jedi behaviour is. The problem here though is that they don’t have the authority to make that claim – hence the logical fallacy.
As humans we will be in situations where, upon seeing something, we will grow concerned and think “Hang on a second, that’s not very good!” or as the English might say “It’s just not cricket”. If we see a Jedi doing something that we think is unbefitting of a Jedi then this is when the phrase “That’s not very Jedi of you” begins to crop up.
But that phrase, and the thoughts that go along with it, are going to appear in whatever group one is a member of, so we should perhaps ask “What can we do differently?” What can we do that will help address the concerns we have while respecting the other person instead of belittling them?
I believe in this regard I have a good alternative suggestion. At least one we could consider.
If we see something that concerns us we, as Jedi, should be motivated to try and resolve the problem. If our motivation is to help people then criticising them with “That’s not very Jedi” will not be of much help – and probably betrays one’s own insecurities and problems.
There is a Mahayana Buddhist text called the Vimalakirti-nirdesa-sutra which I think we can take some inspiration from.
A man named Upali was one day reproaching two monks, because they had broken a monastic rule and had become ashamed. Then Vimalikirti comes along and says: 'Reverend Upali, do not aggravate further the sins of these two monks. Without perplexing them, relieve their remorse. Reverend Upali, sin is not to be apprehended within, or without, or between the two. Why? The Buddha has said, "Living beings are afflicted by the passions of thought, and they are purified by the purification of thought.”’
Such passages are not immediately understood with a modern eye (I certainly find it difficult!), but here is the gist of what is being said: If one criticises these monks then what one is doing is creating guilt, one is making them feel bad, but inherently their minds are pure, so one’s spiritual practice is about wiping away the impurity. Instead of criticising them one should try to bring their Lotus Flower to blossom.
There are several Buddhist ideas present in that very rough interpretation, and not all would I apply to Jediism but I believe there is value to be found.
This tradition of Buddhism is teaching that our selves are ultimately Pure, in Mahayana Buddhist philosophy this is “Buddha Nature” which is akin to Daoist ideas of one’s True Self.
In Jediism we might compare this to the realisation of our Hero Self, our Self as it is when we live our lives in accordance with what we feel is “right” for us; a life in which we are the arbiters of our own decisions, where we do things not because we have been told to, or are expected to, but because they are appropriate for our own personal Paths.
In such context the “wiping away of impurity” is one’s spiritual, intellectual and moral growth. One removes the troubling dirt which is built by our imperfections and deficiencies and reveals ourselves to be the best Jedi, the best people, we can be.
Horticulturalists may be aware already, but the Lotus Flower is native to swamps which are normally rather ugly and unattractive, however when the lotus flower blossoms they mark the swamps with their great beauty.
Such is Vimalakirti’s suggestion, instead of just criticising with people, or arguing with them over details, or belittling them from positions of presumed superiority why not instead focus on encouraging them?
If we wish to help people then we should offer suggestions on how they might better themselves. Don’t just dismiss them as being “not very Jedi”, “I’m sure you can do better”, don’t push them down! Pull them up!
If you see something that makes you concerned try to help! How might they be better people? How might they try to address some of their problems? In doing so one might better identify one’s own problems and then that person you offered help to can offer you some in return – benefitting you and your communities both.
Encourage betterment; don’t declare judgement.
May the Force be with you all, Always