The Ten Commandments. The Five Pillars Of Islam. Maimomides’ Thirteen Principles. Buddha’s Eightfold Path. Thich Nhat Hanh’s Five Mindfulness Trainings. The Four Agreements.
A short list of the numerous rules to live by – moral codes that have been passed down through the ages from the many spiritual and philosophical traditions – wisdom to guide us in our everyday life, and, if all goes well, to lead us to the land of the pure after death.
Originally, these edicts described the qualities of an Awakened Being. They were not a list of goals to aspire to in order to become someone other than, better than, more perfect than ourselves, but the qualities of our essential being – who we inherently are.
Instead of starting from the point of view of a limited separate self that is always involved in the act of becoming, how about starting from the point of view of that which is always present, aware, and unchanging? From the point of view of that which has no agenda, no desires, and is inherently peaceful and happy? It can be such hard work trying to become a perfect person, and, in any case, impossible to maintain. The separate self is never satisfied – it can never be perfect enough. And beside, perfection is a relative concept, so what is perfect to one is imperfect to another.
Start from the place prior to any concept of good or bad, compassion or indifference, perfection or imperfection. It is from this limitless placeless place, the source of our being, that all these rules of proper conduct, these moral codes, have arisen in the first place. In fact, it is the place from which all appearances arise.
Setting aside the illusionary separate self – for who can identify with something that by its very nature comes and goes? – something like the Buddhist Eightfold Path – Right Understanding, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration – is revealed not as a collection of qualities you have to seek, or a path to follow, but as qualities that you, we, all seven billion of us, already embody as infinite and eternal beings.
And the sweet thing about something that’s infinite and eternal is that there is only room for one. Not two.