If we are driving, and someone cuts us off… Do we get angry?
If we are driving, and we see a rainbow over the lush hills… Do we get happy?
Who is the master here?
The driver who cut us off? Do we feel they made us angry?
The rainbow? Do we feel its beauty made us happy?
Bad things happen, good things happen. Do they master us?
Do we hold onto the anger of the driver who cut us off? Do we keep thinking about it, replaying it in our heads, projecting visions of them getting pulled over by the police.. or worse even?
Do we hold onto the beauty of the rainbow? Do we keep thinking about it, replaying it in our heads, projecting visions of how to find more of them, wishing we had our camera to hand?
In many ways, our external world is our master, and this can be dangerous, regardless if we suffer from this mastering (like the anger) or if we benefit from this mastering (like the happiness). The anger could be thought of like a dirty jail cell.. we are not free and in a bad place, whereas the happiness could be thought of as a gilded cage, though beautiful, the bird is never free.
Now, we can try to acknowledge this and also understand that although we may not be able to control what happens to us, we can control how we react to what happens to us. This, I feel, is a very important transition to make.. It is much healthier to feel as we are our own master than to have the Universe master over ourselves. It can be very empowering and good.
In Zen, ultimately, however, there is no master, as the duality of ‘ourselves’ vs. everything not-ourselves is illusionary. The distinction can be a useful tool, yes, and we evolved to have this tool of self- realization as it has aided survival. That said, there is no separateness between ‘ourselves’ and all that exists, the Universe. When this is realized, and not just understood with our brains, then a wonderful dancing emerges, naturally, from the underlying functions of the ‘Universe’ and ‘ourselves’…
So, let’s first become our own master, then when we do, let’s let it fall away, then we can be truly free.