This is a lovely ideal and something for all of us to aim for.
I think it is true that culture, as a big part of our personal history, does condition how we view and relate to grief, guilt and well, a lot of stuff.
Conditioning plays such a huge role in our Views, Intentions, Actions and Speech… It makes it so easy to misunderstand each other. I travelled a lot in my childhood. This was difficult for me. But it has conditioned into me an appreciation for and ability to be, flexible. And this has fed into how I view others. I have often been surprised when people couldn’t seem to see each other’s points of views. As a child, this level of “mental flexibility” was rather destabilising but it did give me the chance to see how many different ways of looking at the world there are. I sometimes feel like I’m a chameleon of sorts - it’s easy for me to agree with almost anyone if they present me with good reasons for something! Though in my teenage years, I would, despite seeing different sides to things, still be quite judgemental - I had a certain standard of how things/people “should” be!
But Practising the Dhamma has had a sort of “mellowing” effect on me. Now, I find myself seeing the constant ocurrence of misunderstandings as part and parcel of our messy humanity - it is normal. I am less surprised when it occurs - and it almost always does - even in the most friendly interactions.
This has made me value Right View, Right Intention, Right Action and Right Speech even more; especially Right Intention - a part of which is Compassion, or as Ajahn Brahm likes to say, “Gentleness”. I find myself, wanting to grow this more and more. Especially because I’m so hot tempered - it’s even more important for me to cultivate gentleness. But I also see that being so conditioned, I can’t force this upon myself whenever I want to! So, being hot tempered, the person I’m closest to also being rather strong minded, we find that together we have a very robust, occasionally loud, very forgiving relationship!!
So it made me smile when I read the Michael Bird article Dxm quoted! A bit of it reminded me of my relationship with my partner. But we’ve made understanding, love, acceptance and forgiveness so important - that it’s safe to be ourselves, it’s safe to have really cranky, grumpy moments! We know we’re loved regardless. It’s such a relief. Love can create safety, safety creates a container within which we can be “me”, even as we attempt to gradually change what that is to something kinder and wiser, even as we attempt to understand what this “me” is. (As meditators, self-love therefore becomes essential.)
So while I aim to be accepting of how we all are; I am also aware that there is no right or wrong conditioning as far as the world’s conditionings go - they’re all just conditionings and not our fault. But I strongly value the conditioning of the Buddha’s Dhamma.
I know sometimes it seems that we’re talking to aliens instead of other human beings! But that’s when I hope that my Dhamma-gentleness conditioning kicks in and helps me navigate a sea of misunderstanding with at least restraint.
And while I find myself, expressing myself more here (on D & D) than I ever thought I would, I am beginning to also notice the value in not saying anything. I guess the Buddha spoke about that too…Right Speech is also described as being uttered at the right time.
Reflecting on our diversity of conditioning, makes me want to make allowances, let people be and explain more about where I’m coming from in an effort to make more heartfelt, relatable connections - so I hopefully start to see the aliens as being human, and perhaps they will see me that way too. And perhaps together we can increase the kindness and gentleness in this world.
Reflecting on diversity makes me want to accept and understand and let people be. It makes me realise with a sense of compassion and also a bit of equanimity, that misunderstandings are normal and will continue to happen in my life.
Actually, it kind of makes me want to slip quietly away - to leave this mess. But, I can’t, so I’m trying to tread as gently and as kindly as I can and cherish the quiet moments when they come.
As far as any of my past “misdeeds” go, I think I have been an alien to myself and still 'am regarding some blind spots/issues that still ache at times. I need to see myself as human (instead of alien). To realise that it’s normal to misunderstand myself and that I must grow gently towards understanding of myself. If something I have done still hurts me; I know I haven’t understood, because for me, it’s understanding that creates a release, a letting go. And it’s gentleness and kindness that facilitate this process. The factors of Right Intention at play.
Conditionality is a sort of “brain washing” that has happened and is happening to us all; whether we are aware of it or not. At a certain point in my life as a Buddhist, I realised that the Buddha was offering a way out of this circle. But he couldn’t just break the cycle. He saw that we have to use the very process we are trapped in - use it against itself. So he gave us the gift of another type of conditioning; a conditioning which will enable us to understand the process that we are - to understand ourselves, our past, the whys and hows, and all of this infused with increasing resilience and softness. A conditioning to break - ever so kindly, ever so peacefully - all conditionings. But he never forced it. He offered it. It’s up to us to take it up. When we begin to wake up a bit from the dream we are mostly in, we begin to choose our conditioning - we choose who we associate with, what we listen to, where we go and how we live and what we train in. It’s at the point when our Buddha-conditioned choices feel like we are deliberately making them, choosing them, that we begin to grasp the training with both hands and bring it closer to our hearts so it becomes more and more, who we are.
Basically, we’re “brain-washable” - that’s just how it is. So we have to choose: which type of “washing” do we want to expose ourselves to.