This article is based on a line from the Tibetan Buddhist text known as The Lojong. It says; 'Drive all blames into one.'
In Shakespeare's drama Othello it is Iago who subtly feeds the doubts into Othello’s mind that eventually convinces him that Desdemona, his young wife, is being unfaithful to him and stokes up Othello's jealousy so that, in the end, he murders her. The interesting thing about Iago is that Shakespeare gives him very little reason for this act of deceit and treachery. There is some mention of his being passed over for promotion but it hardly seems enough to justify such extreme action. The other interesting thing is that, consumed with hate as he is, he never stops to consider whether his actions are justified nor to question whether such emotions as he has have any grounding in the realities of the situation.
This is the theme of this article; that we find it much easier to blame someone else than to take responsibility for our own feelings and actions. The Lojong statement says that first we should take the blame for our own feelings and not claim that someone else made us feel it or that someone else has taken steps that have put us in this terrible situation, whatever it is.
I have read several commentators on this suggestion in the Lojong text who suggest that when we feel that anger or resentment with someone else or feel that someone has wronged us we should just sit down quietly and see how we are not being responsible for our own world. Some follow the Lojong statement quite literally and say that we should take all the blame for everything in our world onto ourselves. I feel that for whatever reason, possibly their own saintly natures, they have missed the point that for most of us this is like suggesting that a tram should jump off it's rails and behave like a bus! Iago's problem, my problem, and possibly yours, is that when our buttons are pressed (Those really big red buttons) we are hurled into a reaction which is so strong and so deep that it takes over completely. Just a little while before we might have been reasonable beings and even able to say; 'You know when XYZ happens and ABC does this, that and the other I do go off on a bit of a one.' But when the button is pressed we are off and our reactions are so out of our control that we do not even see what we are doing. We launch into an attack on the other person, or we feel hurt and it is their fault. We immediately feel that no reasonable person would behave in the way they have; say the things they say; would be so insensitive as to not realise how much that hurts, etc. It can be hard to believe that what we were then and what we are now are the same person. They just do not connect.
Our sense of perspective has flown out of the window and we could not even imagine that we might have been thinking about behaving rationally just a little while before. We are in the grip of this powerful demon and do not question where it is rushing us to. Iago thought he was fully justified in everything he thought and did and never questioned it. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we get to a point where we know we are behaving irrationally and try to reign ourselves in. Perhaps we remember our resolution to practice loving kindness in all situations. And then we discover a terrible thing; our rational mind tells us we are in the wrong to be like this, but we can do nothing about it. The conflict in the mind can become enormous and yet on we go; one stupid, or poisonous, step after another. We sulk, we row, we argue, we plot revenge and hate ourselves more and more for doing it.
Just as a little aside I would observe that it has become very popular in the post Freudian age to blame our parents for many of the hangups in our adult life. There are stages to this process. First we just think we are what we are. Then we start to see that many of our ways of seeing and dealing with life come from our parents. Then we start to blame them for the negative bits. Then, if you are going through a therapeutic process, you are encouraged to tell our inner parents what they have done to us and so get some sort of healing. I have known many people get stuck at this stage as ever more stuff comes up that has to be confronted. It will till you die. There is one step more that not many people seem to get to. Which is to understand that you are an adult now. Right now the inner parent is you so you can take the blame for what you are doing to yourself; forgive yourself; and move on.
Shakespeare was very clever. He knew that most people never even get to the stage of questioning these powerful states of mind. When it is just a like or dislike, a mild reaction to something that is not too threatening to us it is not too difficult to take full responsibility for our part in it. For instance, think of that politician who gets on the telly and spouts such nonsense. We can tell ourselves that our reaction of annoyance is unnecessary. We can take responsibility for the feeling and turn it into compassionate loving-kindness and know that even if we disagree with him he has a right to his opinion and instead of bad-mouthing him we can agree that there are many ways of seeing the world and dealing with it and freedom of speech is a valuable asset, etc. But when it is that deep emotional centre of ours that has been poked... Well then it is a different drama altogether.
Perhaps though, we have to start with the little things that are manageable. Take responsibility for our tendency to blame others when we could be seeing our part in the drama first. Practice self awareness and compassion in the little things to gain confidence and skills for the big ones. Indeed I think it is only practice in the little thing like this in our life that give us the skills and confidence to even begin to see the big ones, let alone start to transform them and take responsibility for them.
Now we are both retired my friend and I often end up talking about our careers. We were both in the teaching profession and knew one another almost from the beginnings of our careers and so we have a lot of common ground to talk about. Teaching is about so much more than just the teaching element. A school only runs if the adults in it all work together very closely and it is the failure to do this due to the vagaries of human nature that cause so many of the problems.
The other day my friend was reminding me about a situation that he got involved in many years ago when he was running a small unit attached to a school. He had about five staff, both teachers and classroom assistants, working with him at his direction and he in turn was answerable to the headteacher and had to liaise with the other teachers in the main part of the school. Everything seemed to be going in the usual way with his fair share of successes and problems, non of which were particularly out of the ordinary, until he appointed a lady in her mid forties onto his teaching staff. At first the new teacher seemed to fit in well and was a good teacher but gradually he started to notice a change of atmosphere in the unit. The staff seemed to be getting more touchy and critical of what was going on. Eventually he realised that his new member of staff was briefing against him, as they say in political circles. Behind his back she was constantly pointing out to the other staff things that she thought he was not handling very well. This is not a pleasant thing to discover but he handled it by raising it as an issue with the new teacher only to find that she flatly denied that she was saying anything about him and accused him of starting a witch hunt against her. In the end they had to agree to differ but it did not leave things in an easy place.
OK. So you want to hear the story of Milarepa again do you little ones? I guess even though he was one of our rare failures it's worth the telling just so you don't feel so bad should it happen to you one day. Yes; now they think he is a saint and Buddhists all over the world remember his songs, poems and deeds, but it wasn't always that way.
To begin at the beginning, he was just an ordinary Buddhist monk who had decided to live and meditate in a cave half way up a mountain in the middle of nowhere- and there is plenty of nowhere in Tibet as you may find out one day. Well, at the time, me and my gang were hanging out in the mountains round there ready to do a bit of screaming and wailing and scare the habdabs out of any pilgrims who came through those mountain passes, when this prime opportunity, as it seemed then, was put right in our way. You see, with human beings, it doesn't matter where they are really, they can so easily get screwed up and give us pain to eat. Mostly they just stay asleep and work all their little traumas and complexes (as they seem to call them these days) out on one another, become miserable, angry and all the rest of it and we can feed off them no trouble, as you know. Baby Demon Food we call them. But every so often along comes one of these humans who starts to wake up and sees what a mess they are and wants to do something about it. Aha! We say, now the fun begins because this one is going to generate food for us like there's no tomorrow (which there isn't as you know, but we never let on to the humans of course.)
To attend the annual Rainbow SuperSpirit camp is to be part of a unique social and spiritual experience set in a beautiful rural environment that lasts for eleven days at the end of August culminating in the bank holiday weekend. The Rainbow camps were one of the first camps in this country and have been copied by many groups since with many different aims. The people who started the Rainbow camps wanted to encourage and celebrate a particular vision of communal living that grew out of the visions and dreams of the alternative lifestyle movements of the sixties and seventies and which still has great relevance for our present times.
Before getting into the philosophical side of Rainbow it might be an idea to give you an idea of what you might see if you came to camp for the first time. Deep in the Gloucestershire countryside you would see a few ribbons tied to a hedge at a farm gate as your sign that you have arrived. After driving across a field you come to a Welcome tent where you register and are warmly greeted and beside which is a car park to keep cars out of the living area. You are invited to take your car onto the site for long enough to unload your stuff and set up. The field is marked off in areas and you camp as part of a circle so you soon realise that the apparent hotchpotch of tents, teepees, yurts, caravans and motorhomes are in rough circles which are known sometimes as villages. Once you have found a spot that suits you you soon get talking to the people in your village who will help you set up if you so wish. During your stay you will get to know people in your village as you go to and fro to the main marquees or sit by your tent or the central fire of your village. As you look around you will see that in one area there are a collection of much larger marquees, yurts and teepees. They are arranged around a large central space and big communal fire. This is where the workshops and meetings go on. To one side is the healing area and also just outside the main arena are the craft area, the children's play marquee and area and the teens' marquee and area. A little exploration will let you find the toilets, of which there are several and the showers and sauna which are cunningly built into horse boxes. You might have come for the whole camp or just for a few days and you might have paid the full price or you might have defrayed some of the expense by taking up a working ticket which could be for a range of things from working in the cafe to cleaning the loos. Or maybe you have qualifications or experience in an activity that you can offer in the Craft Area or the Healing area that you can offer in return for a cut price ticket.