Monday, May 28, 2007

Errata (3): Wanting to Be Effective

While living as a student in Shefffield aged around 20 to 21, I got caught up in a kind of pre-Zen koan, an Accounting & Financial Management koan -- What is organisational effectiveness? What makes an organisation truly effective?

I would think about this problem all day long, and lie in bed thinking about it too.

There were two main approaches to the problem: the goals approach, and the systems approach. Wanting to find a definitive answer as a foundation for my own prospective career in corporate management, I wobbled back and forth between the two approaches.

The reason I had chosen management accounting as a subject of study in the first place was a strong desire to be effective, to make my mark. As a schoolboy I was both altruistic and ambitious -- a dream-hero. The pleasures of living a humble, simple life as an ordinary bloke didn't occur to me. I thought I was destined for great things. And to make a great mark in the real world, I figured, you need great material power -- the kind of power that lies in the hands of leaders of big corporations.

In many ways, I have behaved like the Chinese Emperor Wu, who strove to accumulate great merit by building loads of Buddhist temples, having sutras copied, et cetera.

Have I completely sprang free from that deluded viewpoint yet? No, I haven't. It has been too difficult for me so far, despite the input of several excellent teachers, to give up the deep-seated belief that real, lasting change is only affected by a big effort to shift matter about.

Delusory belief in the permanence of what cannot be permanent is traditionally represented by four Chinese characters:
JO = constancy, permanence.
KEN = view
GEDO = off the way.

Energy, even in its most gorgeous & warm accumulations, even in its most sharp & brilliant combinations, has an inherent tendency to disperse, and it will disperse spontaneously unless prevented from doing so. This truth is glaringly evident, but very difficult to accept.

To see things, notwithstanding the 2nd law of thermodynamics, as if their existence were permanent, is a deluded and one-sided view, off the middle way.

Only recently have I begun to see that holding onto such a one-sided view is at root not a philosophical problem. It is a vestibular problem, a kind of grasping for security. Straying from the middle way in any sphere is always a vestibular problem. Wobbling is just a vestibular problem.

My failure thus far to achieve any true merit has been just a vestibular problem.

When Emperor Wu asked Master Bodhidharma what merit he had acquired through his temple-building and other efforts to promote Buddhism, Bodhidharma replied: "None at all."

So the Emperor asked, "What is true merit?"

The Master said, "The body being naturally empty and still."


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