So, probably this is better laid out sooner than later.
“Achura Shuijing,” or the “Crystal” (lit. “crystal of size and clarity suitable for jewelry”) sect is dedicated first and foremost to “seeing the world with clear eyes.” That is, we seek clarity, to see the world clearly and without illusion, as symbolized by the crystal that names our sect. All Achur monks seek, by one means or another, to perfect their souls; this method is ours.
Core to Shuijing practice is the idea of the Totality, the universe (or multiverse, quantum or otherwise, if such a thing exists) as a single, unbroken whole. Understanding this as an abstract, intellectual concept is relatively easy; the goal, however, is to perceive this single whole as our experienced reality.
It’s a little easier said than done.
The truth of the universe is an intericate web of interaction without clear borders and divisions, but people have these troublesome navigation systems that keep going around wanting to give stuff names and boundaries and assign purpose to what’s on this side of the boundary and a different purpose to what’s on the other. This is understandable. Actually it’s pretty important for staying alive; the boundaries we set are functional, necessary-- it’s important to be able to designate this as “food” and that as “poison” or to differentiate between a cup and its contents. So the boundaries we create are functional, and important; they’re just not real.
For the most part, as long as we’re conscious and aware, we spend our lives in a world of symbols. They’re important; they keep us alive. “Vehicle.” “Street.” “Imminent high-speed collision.”
“Word.” (A deep well to dive down, maybe.)
They’re not “real,” though. There’s only one real “thing”: all that is-- the Totality.
So, no, I’m not real. Neither are you. We have an existence, just, not like we think, not apart, as separate beings.
As separate beings, we’re shadows of our own minds, illusions-- illusions that can suffer terribly, through our own blunders and the blunders of those around us. If we don’t want to blunder, and harm ourselves and each other, perhaps we should try to see things for what they are.
That’s not easily done, though, so Shuijing practice focuses on revealing those borders as illusions through mind exercises (meditation being an obvious one) and martial practice. The idea of the martial practice is to learn to act and move without thought; pure awareness and response, without thought-- that is, interaction without intermediation by the illusory, symbolic world in which we typically operate. To break barriers down further, a Shuijing monk learns a weapon, and trains with it until the difference between self and tool erodes and fades. Thus, the fictitious nature of the border between “self” and “other” is revealed.
It’s still a bit of a trick to make the jump from that to really perceiving the Totality in other contexts-- to be able to handle a dispute between neighbors, for instance, as easily and gracefully as a sparring match. That’s the idea, though, pretty much, and the goal: to truly perceive the world, and so be able to discern “right action.”
In short, the goal is wisdom.
(You can find wise people in any culture, of course. A Shuijing monk would argue that such people have come to clarity by their own methods. That same monk is pretty likely to argue that those methods are less reliable, though-- that such people have sort of stumbled onto insight, and Shuijing methods, carefully calibrated over hundreds or thousands of years, are obviously more reliable. If someone had a better way, why would we use our own?)
(Monks, just by being monks, are not made immune to pride. Sometimes it seems to be the opposite.)
(For me, too.)
Because of this focus on the Totality, and perceiving it clearly, we’re one of the more spiritually skeptical sects out there. It’s not quite like we don’t believe in the spirits or gods, and definitely our temples and monasteries have shrines for the lay practitioners, but, well … if the spirits, or even the gods, exist, they’re just like us: parts of that same undivided, indivisible All. The same’s true of other people’s gods, as well. Similarly, if dreams really are window into a spirit world where the dead live on in a community ruled by greater celestial beings, then that place, too, is part of the Totality.
That’s not what I expect to happen to me, when I really die, though. More likely a mind is like a candle flame. Where does it go, when it’s snuffed? The same place a storm goes when it’s blown its last gust and scattered on the air, maybe. … That’s what I expect, anyway.
But that’s not a very good thing to tell a grieving grandmother who’s sure her dead son visits her in her dreams. And, maybe he does. It’s not like I know, really. So, yeah, lay practice (AKA “folk religion”) and monk practice differ a bit. As usual.
(As an aside, “talking like a monk” is a lay Achur phrase for someone who’s getting eye-rollingly abstract, “riddling,” or metaphorical. The fact that a lot of the stuff we deal with can’t be approached head-on with symbolic forms of communication is responsible for a lot of this.)
Anyway … more later.