In daily life, be a child of illusion.
All perceptions are internal mental representations. As such, they are distorted by afflicted emotions and wrong views. Your perception of phenomena is an internal representation, a mental concept. Your perception of ‘self’ is equally an internal representation. Even the ‘remedy’ for illusion —the understanding of the emptiness of self and phenomena— is itself a concept, an internal mental representation. Only the basis of perception, the luminous clarity of mind in which all such perceptions appear, remains.
And yet, while it is necessary to carry this sense of all experience being a magical illusion into daily life, it is no less important to recognize that right view must take into account the proper sphere of application. There is ultimate reality, and there is conventional reality. Clinging to conventional reality as if it were substantial and permanent will not bring you happiness. However, the view of ultimate reality cannot be used to justify immoral or antinomian behavior.
Being a child of illusion in daily life entails observing ‘filial piety’ toward conventional reality. In Eastern cultures, filial piety is thus defined:
to be respectful and obedient to superiors; to perform service; to engage in moral conduct; to perform well all prescribed duties; to obtain the necessary material means to protect and support dependents; to honor ancestors; to be courteous; and to dissuade others from moral unrighteousness.
In our Dharma lineage, these injunctions are presented as the Seven Natural Perfections:
- Healing the Sick: the desire to alleviate the suffering of all who experience pain, discomfort, and anxiety.
- Nourishing the Young: the will to provide favorable conditions for the maturation of our juniors
- Protecting the Weak: the capacity to extend shelter to those who are oppressed by others or by negative circumstances.
- Loving the Beautiful: the outpouring of genuine appreciation for the attractive qualities of others.
- Serving the Good: the instinctive drive to contribute our talents, time, and treasure to further virtuous undertakings.
- Honoring the Wise: the cheerful acceptance of correction and guidance from our seniors.
- Aligning with the Highest: the constant disposition to search for the truth and aspire to the full manifestation of Natural Perfection.
Understanding the emptiness of self and phenomena is not a license to disregard the suffering of others, nor does it invalidate the norms of conventional reality. On the contrary, understanding the basis upon which conventional reality arises —our collective karma— should imbue us with a sense of responsibility for our own and others’ suffering. The higher the view, the more mindful we must be of the needs and concerns of others, and of both our own and others’ ultimate benefit.
A good athlete understands that the rules of the game are only a convention, but he or she also knows full well that knowing and observing them is essential to success. Daily life is no different.