What Marcos told me when I met him in heaven

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 12, 2015 – 12:00am

The opposite side also has an opposite side.— Zen saying

Many of us have spent much of our lives struggling. We struggle over everyday problems, irritations and blocks that stand in our way. We struggle for better living conditions for ourselves and our loved ones. We struggle for a better society, a better breed of politicians to lead us forward as a nation with a better future. We struggle to keep healthy, and maintain a lifestyle we are accustomed to. One might say we struggle physically, economically, psychologically, morally and even spiritually.

In the course of our struggles, we make allies and enemies. We reject people who are not aligned with our moral, religious, social and political universe. We avoid or reject people who we feel are toxic.

I get so uncomfortable and agitated over political issues and personalities whom I feel are not morally fit to be in office. I feel the same way about some leaders of the Church. I think my moral judgments have basis since they are backed by facts.

I look at certain politicians with disdain and contempt, knowing how much they have stolen from our coffers and lied to us.

I have often wondered about how right I am in judging people. I know I do judge from a template of morality and values I was raised on. Everyone comes from his own upbringing and history. And yes, everyone judges. Maybe some are just more judgmental than others. I struggle with this often.

When I became interested in Zen, Buddhism and other religions, I realized that Christianity is quite an emotional religion. People can get passionate about their moral and religious beliefs. There is an emotional relationship to the “Father,” to Jesus, etc. Faith can be so compelling that people go out of their way to convert others. Often, they even impose their morality on others.

In people I meet in Zen, I see a dedication and passion to meditate but I do not see them rushing to judgment, or correcting things and making them right, or launching a crusade about anything. There is no active aggressive recruitment. Zen is very laid-back. To a newbie, this can be disconcerting.

I once asked my Zen teacher why she seemed to not feel the need or urge to change the world. She smiled and explained the concept of non-attachment to things, feelings and outcomes.

She said there is nothing wrong with activism, but in the pursuit of it, one must not permanently identify with the labels and feelings that go with it. Certain people are not necessarily “good” and their antagonists are not necessarily “bad,” even if, morally speaking, the “enemy” looks, acts and talks immorally. What is good for one may be bad for another.

Good and bad exist and necessarily so. Sometimes you know who you are by knowing who you are not. How can you know goodness without knowing evil? How can you experience joy without experiencing sadness? How do you know if, in the eyes of others, you could be the evil one?

The pair of opposites is always actively dancing to the key of life. The Zen master walks the thin line that separates the two sides but will not cling to any.

While that explanation was well and good, I asked myself if it isn’t a human duty to correct the wrong and fight for what is right. Isn’t it a human imperative to help end suffering? Should we not fight for, say, equality? Should we not fight corruption?

There is a Zen koan which asks, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” This koan stumps a lot of people probably because they look at the question literally. Koans are never answered logically or literally. One can only understand them by intuiting the meaning of the question. Only then can one attempt an answer.

In my own understanding, this koan points us to think of why humans frantically cut up life to separate the good from the bad, when it is impossible to do so.

The whole package comes with the two opposite sides tied up into a unity. Life is both hard and easy. Life is a gift and a curse. Life is good but can be tragic at times. The wise person, instead of trying to cut up this duality, must accept it and live with it “as it is.” Only by accepting opposites can things make sense.

But does this mean we can stop trying to change the world? No. The struggle to change things is also life itself playing out. Good and evil will forever search and find each other and have that confrontation. The ideal will always have to deal with the practical. The old order will be challenged by the new. All opposites will always appear and we must live with them. That is the conundrum of life. A line in Bhagavad Gita goes, “Be in the battlefield but be not the warrior.”

We must act as we should, according to the dictates of our conscience. But we must neither gloat in victory, nor cling to the side we choose. The world is around. Opinions, feelings and beliefs are merely clouds passing by. Do not be bound by them in the face of an ever-changing reality. We must detach if and when it is time to detach. Who we are is the eternal blue spotless sky. We are without attachments.

What, then, should be our attitude towards our adversaries?

Zen says to have compassion. Christianity says we must forgive. But justice must still be served in this phenomenal world where duality exists. But looking with compassion makes us see beyond the duality and see the Oneness of everything. There is no “other.” This is heaven’s portal available to all sentient beings living on earth.

In Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch posited that Hitler is in heaven because God loves us all unconditionally. If there is a hell, then His love is not unconditional.

I wondered about that when I wrote my first book. I imagined meeting Marcos in heaven and, without rancor or bitterness, asking him why he was such an a-hole while he was alive.

I imagined his answer. He said, “It was difficult. But someone had to do it.”