Conditioning East/West

Posted: 12/09/2017 by zandtao in Buddhadasa, Freedom, Insight

When I was writing the last blog I was conscious of the word conditioning. In Buddhism there are causes and conditions often associated with the teaching of Dependent Origination. In the West conditioning is much more associated with indoctrination, yet in the West we also have the dual educational understanding that there is a need for education and there is education as indoctrination. Going beyond conditioning means only having the positive aspects of these processes.

Let me begin with Buddhism. Buddhism tends not to examine the political aspects of what is. For example the first of the 4 Noble Truths is that there is suffering; it then goes on to say that there is an end to suffering by not clinging to desire and describes the 8-fold path as a way to do this. But clearly part of that suffering is caused by the political situation, it is not simply clinging to lust, for example – an important problem nevertheless. Buddhism talks about the Unconditioned and the conditioned as that which is not unconditioned so conditioning is far more than political indoctrination. It is seen as far more than education for wage-slavery for example.

For me attachment is key to understanding conditioning in Buddhism. Here I will talk of the 5 khandas – rupa-body, vedana – feelings, sanna – perceptions and memories, sankhara – mental formations, vinnana – consciousness. Without some khandas there is no human being but if we identify with these khandas then we are not true. There is no anatta, no insight, just conditioning that comes from this identification. This atta-self-identification tends to be the dogmatic approach of Buddhism in describing conditioning. Within this identification is all the conditioning that the West tends to discuss such as conditioning to wage-slavery, but there tends not to be the same emotional reaction when we say we are not attached to the 5 khandas as there is to being educated as wage-slaves.

Instinct arises as part of these 5 khandas, and instinct is necessary. Instinct is nature’s way of survival when human consciousness has not developed. But at some point we must let go of the mother’s breast or we are clinging. Instinct falls away when consciousness arises but consciousness can attach to instinct if we are not aware. Instinct is natural in its place as are the khandas, it is not natural to create selves – to create the self, I.

However being attached to the 5 khandas says far more. There is a tendency not to see the positive value of education when there is so much indoctrination and educating for wage-slavery. Yet education does teach organisation and necessary basic skills needed to survive such as language. Another way of describing this basic education is that we would be educating for the 5 khandas without attachment – necessities. But conditioning creates attachment, and we then have the conditioning that is more associated with what the west describes as conditioning.

But the western view of conditioning is limited because it does not see the conditioning that is the identification with these khandas as self. The standard western response to conditioning is dichotomy. There are those who accept conditioning and those who reject. This tends to be fought out on an outer level in which political systems are counterposed. For example Marxists use his theories to show how the 1% are exploiting working people through wage-slavery. But those same Marxists do not see the importance of self as being attached to the 5 khandas as they themselves are attached to the political theory that is part of sankhara. The revolution that comes from awakening by moving beyond all conditioning (including self) is the revolution that is permanent, within that permanent revolution would of course be the compassion that rejects wage-slavery and demands an end to all wars.

Moving beyond conditioning is awakening and anicca, western conditioning is still self – not anatta and is only temporary.

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.

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