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Sunday, January 24, 2010

See Things As They Are

Back in 1997, just before moving to Japan, I was blessed to be able to spend a few hours in a discussion led by Dr. Huston Smith. Author of a book once titled The Religions of Man (now known as The World's Religions), he is perhaps the best-known popular spokesperson for my personal worldview, generally called the "Perennial Philosophy."

In his opening remarks, Dr. Smith gave a list of three virtues as being of "primary importance." These were: humility, charity, and veracity.

Humility, he said, was "to see oneself as one and fully one, but not more than one." Charity was "to look upon one's neighbors as one, and as much a one as oneself, putting their concerns on par with one's own."

Although the language here is meticulously scientific, the ideas are not far from the everyday use of these words.

The third usage, however, seems a bit unusual. Veracity, he said, was "learning to see things as they are, without injecting my fears and desires into my perceptions."

He went on to compare these three to Buddhism's "three poisons." Humility was meant to counter greed (or desire); charity (in the Biblical sense of "compassion") was the antidote for hatred; and veracity is the opposite of delusion.

As delusion (or ignorance) lies at the root of the entire problem, so veracity is a sort of universal panacea.

I don't have space to go into the implications of this virtue, so let me just state it again, and you can explore its application to your life:

"See things as they are, without injecting your fears and desires into your perceptions."

You'll be happier.

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