Competition and Debate are for Those who must Convince Themselves thru Others

 by Jef Bartow

This title is not really a spiritual principle in itself, but incorporates two powerful principles in Always Seek Win-Win and Nonattachment as spiritual ways to learn to live life. Always Seek Win-Win comes from one of the nine spiritualizing habits for life that I learned on my spiritual journey. Nonattachment is a key principle in Eastern mysticism that must become our way of life in order to individualize our spiritual nature.

It seems that we are increasingly faced with a competitive society whether in business, government, education or relationships. Part of this is due to the accelerated objective material orientation that is spreading throughout our planet. Beyond this, competitiveness has been conditioned into humanity for so long that is now a part of our instinctual nature. What once was good for our survival and safety has now become a barrier to spiritual attainment. Although a primary orientation within Eastern mysticism, non-competitiveness is a fundamental requirement on every Spiritual Path to Mastery.

Both competition and debate are definite forms of attachment, whether to others or to winning over others. The positive part of competition is that motivates us energetically to do the best we can. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, without motivation and energetic catalysts we will not fulfill our spiritual journey. The personal or selfish part of competition is our attitude and orientation. If we win the golf match or basketball game, that makes us a better person. If we get the girl (or hunk) instead of our buddy, it raises our self-esteem. Somehow our conditioning says that by winning we will savor more in life.
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In actuality, not only will non-competitiveness accelerate our spiritual growth, it will facilitate a greater savoring of life experiences for us and those who participate with us. A good example of this is in playing golf with the regular foursome. I did so for over seven years in which we played, and even wagered, about every other week during the season. Since I was one of the lowest handicaps in the foursome, and a good teacher, I usually ended up helping and supporting the rest of our group. I always played to achieve the best score possible. And whenever possible, I also helped everyone else play their best game, even if that meant that I lost the wager.

The results were that we all highly look forward to our social time together and the match involved. The wager became incidental and only a part of our social ritual. The other result was that all four of us improved our golf game by a few to many strokes per round. My commitment to non-competitiveness rubbed off on the entire group. It not only made the day more enjoyable, but improved everyone's self-esteem in the process.

The way to eliminate competitiveness is to always seek win-win outcomes. When everyone wins, everyone grows. Step one involves identifying and eliminating the various ways we are competitive. If you need some help in identifying your competitiveness, just ask your family and friends.  Beyond the obvious, take time to observe the competitiveness around you throughout the day.  Next, take time to become aware of the ways in which you are subtly competitive or support the competitiveness around you.  

Step two is to learn to identify the difference between needs and wants. In cultivating a spiritual win-win attitude, our focus turns to fulfilling others’ needs and not wants.  Our girlfriend wants us to be more romantic, but what she needs is more intimacy in our relationship.  Our close friend wants a promotion with more money and a better title, but what he needs is for his wife and friends to recognize and affirm his positive traits as a husband and friend.   Living spiritually means that all of our needs need to be met, while fulfilling our wants might be nice, but they are not important to our spiritual life.

Step three is to reorient our attitude and behaviors to help fulfill the needs of others and our self when solving problems in every day life. A good way to begin this is by defining what our needs are and what are just wants.  With this new orientation, let’s stop chasing after our wants while at the same time hold strong to getting our needs fulfilled.  Learn to stop sacrificing needs for others’ wants and focus more of our energy on needs’ fulfillment.

Debate is just another form of competitiveness. The intent of debating competition in education is to improve everyone's knowledge and speaking ability. Again, there's nothing wrong with that. But look at the debates within our political system and within almost every field of study in our society. They don't contribute to more knowledge and better education. They just create more competitive polarization which undermines everyone's growth and journey in life.

My realization was that it isn't a sense of winning that was most important. The more intense and serious the arguing, the more I saw that the individuals involved weren’t even convinced of their own idea, theory or position. The most important motivation for winning the debate/argument was that by convincing others, they would convince themselves they were right.

The other effect of today's debate and arguments is that it continually drives (motivates) individuals, groups or factions to become more attached to a right and wrong world involving good and evil. The most spiritual definition for evil I have encountered comes from The Tibetan documented through the writings of Alice A. Bailey. "Evil is that which should be subdued and controlled, but which is allowed to govern." The subtle spiritual principle here is that what is good for one individual may not be good for another. And most powerfully, that what is good during one period of growth may become evil in a later stage.

The eastern principle of nonattachment is based on the reality that everything in our material existence and life must be transcended on the Spiritual Path. This means there are many things that we are conditioned to believe are good, but become barriers at one or another stage of spiritual growth. A few of these include patriotism, loyalty, honesty and even family first. 

The reality is that honesty is not always the best policy in helping our children grow and prosper. Patriotism for one's country when it commits acts of evil does not benefit the good of the whole. Choosing loyalty over justice is a fundamental form of attachment. And finally, the spiritual characteristics of Integrity, Love, Justice, Faith, Purity and Serenity (to name a few) must become first above all else for one to achieve either Christhood or Buddhahood. Even Christ taught that we must leave our family behind to become part of the family of Christ.

So, non-attachment and always seeking win-win solutions and outcomes are ways for us to find the self-esteem of our soul and spiritual Self within, rather than seeking it through others. These two key spiritual principles will separate us from the bounds of matter and help us achieve a liberated spirituality that is our destiny to begin with.