Person A: I like red sauce
Person B: I prefer brown sauce
Person A: Well that's just dumb, anyone who prefers brown sauce to red sauce is an idiot.
Person B: you're a saucist!
So the above is a rather simplistic version of what people do every day to friends, family, enemies - basically to everyone and everyone without discrimination. Usually we do this without even realising we are doing it, and the reality of doing this is insane. Ok, insane is a little harsh but perhaps a better word would be stupidity. And no, of course, I'm obviously not talking about sauce, although I'm sure the above conversation has happened from time to time - maybe I've done this myself - I'd be Person B as I'm a brown sauce kinda guy.
So perhaps you've guessed what the hell I'm on about here (it's not rocket science after all). But if you haven't, I'm just drawing your attention to the human disease of judging other people based on your own opinions. And I'm talking at a very base every day level here. The way when someone tells us they are going to Greece for a holiday and we pour scorn on that idea - basically because we don't like Greece for whatever reason. Or perhaps someone tells us they are going to a Bikram Yoga class and we go into a massive rant about how Bikram Yoga is the devil's work - we've all been guilty of that one eh? Me included and I've never even been to a Bikram Yoga class, so how the hell would I be able to make any kind of judgement on it? And this is usually the case when we make the judgement in that we have very little or no experience of what we are judging. It's like, "ah you're telling me not to go to particular yoga class, mainly because YOU don't like the idea of it even though you've NEVER done it before. Thanks very much for the advice...NOT."
I know all this because I do it at least 15 times a day to various people sometimes to myself. It's become a kind of game for me to count just how many times I get caught up in the red sauce/brown sauce debate. What drew my attention to this more than anything I guess was my zazen practice. Zazen is the Zen form of meditation, and the particular zazen practice I do (as there are quite a few) is called Shikantaza, which translates as 'just sitting'. I learnt this practice from my teacher Brad Warner. It's due to this goal-less 'just sitting' and staring at a wall practice that I'm able to become aware of the crazy fluctuations of the mind (copyright Patanjali). And as I mentioned above, I'm talking about the real mundane day to day judgments we all make a lot; we invest so much energy into doing it perhaps I was right when I said it's insane. I know the armchair psychologists will say the reason we do this is because it gives us a better sense of self and all that bullshit - but does it really? Try it for yourself see if you can beat my record of 15. Maybe you might need to do a little meditation first - it won't kill you and it might just change your life. At the very least you'll have great fun with the red sauce / brown sauce game.
You really going to start a war?
Slightly unrelated to the above, ok completely unrelated to the above but it's a nice story. A few years back, I was watching my eight year old son play football on a wet Sunday morning. Tearing down the left wing with the ball like a very young Peter Barnes, he was stopped in his tracks by some young kid sat by the side of the pitch who decided it would be a good idea to stick his foot out and trip my son up. I did what any other rational yoga teacher would do in my position and went completely berserk at this kid - well, until the kid's dad turned up who was at least 6ft 8in and built like a brick wall. The father offered me some verbal abuse along the lines of "I'm going to kick your head in right now" until I hit him with the line "This is how wars start" - BOOM! I'm not sure who was the most surprised, him or me? I mean where the hell did that come from, this is how wars start? Anyway the father stopped the rant and sauntered off looking rather bemused. I carried on watching the football as if nothing had happened and feeling secretly pleased with myself for not getting my head kicked in.
So this (true) story has a rather nice coda to it: when the game was over I was walking back to my car with my son when who do I see approaching me from the opposite direction? Yep, you guessed the head kicking-in father and without any talking what so ever we both simultaneously smiled at each other which turned into a bear hug, no word of a lie! Nothing was said, just two humans resolving their differences with a big hug and the understanding that sometimes we do and say daft things but fundamentally we are all the same.
The moral of (the first part of) this story? Don't get too attached to your opinions - once you drop the labels brown and red all you're left with is just sauce.
The moral of (the second part of) the story? Don't try and start a war, make like a bear and get hugging.