The Four Reliances

One of the sharpest quotes from 2020 was James Lindsay on American life post 2020 election:

It’s rather important that more people take the gift of the Trump era while its fresh: being able to see extremely clearly that “normal” was completely messed up and that “back to normal” politically (and in media) is not just garbage but positively dangerous.

Each and every day it’s clearer that ‘back to normal’ in the USA, and by extension much of the west, is not normal at all. When the heady hysterias of 2020: Pro and Anti Trumpism, racism and COVID misinformation-ism, continue to thrive in the media and political arenas, it means somebody has a vested interest in keeping them alive.

We like to think that humanity has evolved past the witch hunts of the distant past and more recent cultural/political created witch hunts like McCarthyism or the CCP cultural revolution, but we haven’t. We also like to think that computer technology, the internet and social network media have created a new culture of wisdom and awareness. It has not. We’ve created a world of fighting demons.

The world of fighting demons, a never ending struggle of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ is one of sub-human realms in traditional Buddhism. In Nichiren Shu Buddhism these are realms of our mind. You choose to live in the mind of fighting demon or you choose to live in the mind of a human being or bodhisattva. It’s up to you.

The teachings of Nichiren Shonin are based on the Lotus Sutra but he did quote a very useful part of the Nirvana Sutra, known as the four reliances. They are extremely useful in daily life. They are: (1) rely on the Dharma and not upon persons, (2) rely on the meaning of the teaching and not upon the words, (3) rely on wisdom and not upon discriminative thinking, and (4) rely on sutras that are complete and final, not on those that are not complete and final.

The context here is the Buddhist Dharma, the body of Buddhist teachings and practice but if you examine the four reliances carefully you see that it compares things that don’t change vs. things that do, real vs. false. One of the greatest challenges of our era is that we have collectively lost the discerning wisdom of previous generations. It’s impossible to nurture the discerning wisdom true when blindingly reacting to or tweeting something false ‘in the moment’. Let’s leave the realm of the fighting demons to the demons, and choose our better natures.