Living in Thailand, I'm not always up to date with what's going on around the world. In fact, I rarely know what's going on in Thailand itself. This morning my father phoned to ask how I was doing in the face of the coup. At first, I didn't understand him, until it was spelled out C-O-U-P. It's a French word.
I don't have much to say about the state of Thai politics, but it does bring up an issue that is close to my heart, the issue of "cooperation". It is clear that whether we be religious people or otherwise, we cannot simply cooperate with everything and everyone. But dispute leads never to happiness, and it is only those who can not see the truth of karma who insist on fighting with others.
What I have to say on the subject is that we can surely allow others to do as they will, insofar as our own duty is not involved. This is the way to keep a sense of cooperation or communal harmony. When our duty is invovled, the most difficult of cases, we must never involve our hearts in the process, but rather insure our duty is done and stop just there. Yet here I hesitate, as it is difficult for us to always know our own duty. In the Buddha's teaching there are two duties, Vipassana, the duty to practice to see clearly, and Gantha, the duty of preserving the teachings on such practice. These can be said to be the true duties of all people.
Be that as it may, what interests me more is how cooperation can come into conflict with our own morals and values. When everyone else is doing one thing, how do we manage to do something which appears to be in direct conflict therewith?
I don't have a clear answer to this question, as it seems a difficult subject. Clearly, even if we knew always what were the right thing to do, we would still sometimes appear to be in conflict with others. Me, I think it is important to challenge such accepted ways and practices but still, it might be carried to a futile extreme where, like a lump of salt in a great lake, it cannot hope to to bring its expected result, and instead cause only confusion and turmoil. Surely, we may have to give up our ways and practices in certain situations in order that greater and common truth might be attained by all, through the power of cooperation. This is an issue regarding the vinaya (rules and disipline).
But, as the Lord Buddha said, no one should be complied with, if complying with their wishes will go against the dhamma (truth). Sometimes we must have to go against the wishes of others, creating disharmony without intention, and though they my claim we are breaking this most important communal harmony, we can hold with the knowledge that harmony in the highest sense is harmony with the dhamma, no matter who may disagree, no matter who may refuse to cooperate. Thus may we follow the dhamma in harmony!