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Thread: Acceptance vs. approval

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Acceptance vs. approval

    Acceptance is not approval. But we often get them confused. People often assume that acceptance means approval, but they are two different things not necessarily related. As Buddhists, we accept things as they are, but this does not mean we necessarily approve of things as they are. Sometimes acceptance and approval go together, and sometimes not. So I think it is good to be aware (accept) on one channel, while recognizing that on the other channel you can have your choice of approval or disapproval. An example: I accept all the suffering in the world, but I don't approve of it. Another, more explicit, example: I accept that John Doe beats his wife, but I don't approve of it.

    The way I see it is that acceptance is openness and awareness; it is pre-judgment of approval or disapproval, which are labels, which are secondary to whatever it is we are accepting (being aware of). By starting with acceptance as a base of action I am able to operate in the world more compassionately, but if I start with approval or disapproval the self gets in the way and things get rougher. Using the John Doe example, if I start with just accepting that he beats his wife instead of immediate disapproval, then I am more likely to try and help him, and because of that he is more likely to work with me, thus creating a more positive karma for all. But if I start with disapproval, I am more likely to act in a negative manner and John is not going to work with me. He might get pissed off and then take it out on me and his wife, thus creating a more negative karma for all. (Please, this is just an illustrative example meant to dramatize the issue. If it upsets you or you feel it is a poor one, I apologize and ask that you accept it instead of disapprove of it).

    My point here is that typically, our approval/disapproval channel gets really good reception, but we need to put our antennae up higher so that we get better reception of the acceptance channel. And, most importantly, (1) recognize the difference between acceptance and approval, and (2) act more from a position of acceptance instead of approval/disapproval.

  2. #2

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Acceptance is not approval. But we often get them confused.
    Hi.

    _/_

    Mtfbwy
    Tb

  3. #3

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    I don't think it really has anything to do with what "You" approve of. There's right and wrong. Not a right and wrong from any particular point of view. We know the cause of suffering, and disapprove of it naturally.

    Anootherr Example:

    Way back when...

    Me and my friends went to the seven eleven. One of my friends, was doing drugs very frequently, marijuana and such, (which I disapproved of but didn't nag him about). We were standing beside the seven eleven drinking our slurpies when My friend started to puke. Of course, when someone starts to throw up, you feel for them. Anyway, at this time it was quite common for "Jocks" to pick on "Skaters". You know, beat them up, and what not.

    So, my friend was getting sick and some "Jocks" came out of the Seven Eleven. One of them had a hot dog, or something. He said. "F**king skater. Now I can't eat my hotdog." Without speaking I knew he was going to maybe hurt my friend. I just shouted at him "LEAVE HIM ALONE! CAN'T YOU SEE HE'S SICK!" after saying that the Jock said something, but didn't do anything and they left. You see, there's some sort of understanding there, even if we don't recognize it. The "Jock" (it seems) wasn't heartless.


    The same thing happened when I got split up with my girlfriend late a night in Quebec. I had to travel with some other guys because there wasn't enough room in the car. However, it seemed these guys liked to fight. They picked a fight with these two guys. At the end of it, one guy was kicking one of the guys I was riding with, in the head. I was afraid for him. I yelled at them, holding a 2 for 1 pizza in my hands "THAT'S ENOUGH! STOP!" They stopped and took off running. Whether that had something to do with me shouting, I don't know, but I definitely did not approve.

    Gassho

  4. #4

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    HI,

    I think that there are three different definitions of "acceptance". One is (for lack of a better term) simple acknowledgement that a phenomena exists (e.g. there is cat puke on the carpet). Another is to believe that there is no alternative or possibility of changing the phenomena (there is cat puke on the carpet and we must all just live with it because that is jsut the way things are). The third definition is that acceptance means approval (there is cat puke on the carpet and that is wonderful because all dharmas are inherently enlightened so I will leave the cat the cat puke because it is perfect just as it is).

    gassho,
    rowan
    who will now wait for Fugen to say it much more succinctly

  5. #5

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    Another is to believe that there is no alternative or possibility of changing the phenomena (there is cat puke on the carpet and we must all just live with it because that is jsut the way things are)


    What happened to "There is cat puke on the carpet, and I'm gonna clean it up before someone steps in it and adds to it." :?:

    Alan's original post is a new area of consideration for me, and I like your addition, Rowan- but is it complete?

    gassho

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Shohei's Avatar
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    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    Thank you for this post Alan, and all that have added to it ...
    Rowan your cat puke analogy is great and yes Tobiah there damn well better be that last line you mentioned :twisted: Here, with four cats, 2 long haired ones and two that just shed for giggles, there are often cold squishy presents left in the oddest places. The Wonderful gut full of dharma our lil buddhas dumped on the floor are perfectly puke piles and are even better when picked up before squished underfoot! Rule here is They who hear it happen and/or see it get it! :twisted:

    Anywho very good thread, Thank you all

    Gassho, Shohei

  7. #7
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    Thank you for that great clarification, Rowan. The very fact that "acceptance" can mean three different things is what causes confusion. We need to be clear which type of "acceptance" we are talking about. Words are so imperfect, as are we. I was talking about her first definition and trying to distinguish it from the other two.

    Will's example strays from my point a bit into a new area. I am not talking about situations that require immediate intervention. If John Doe were in the act of beating his wife, or was about to start doing so, then clearly bypass acceptance and go straight to disapproval and intervention. But if John Doe is a friend of yours and you come to find out that he beats his wife, then accepting that and helping him is the best course of action for a Buddhist, or so I believe.

  8. #8

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    But if John Doe is a friend of yours and you come to find out that he beats his wife, then accepting that and helping him is the best course of action for a Buddhist, or so I believe.
    What if the time it takes you to "accept and help" enables him to beat his wife a time or two more? Is it still the best course of action?

  9. #9

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobiah
    Another is to believe that there is no alternative or possibility of changing the phenomena (there is cat puke on the carpet and we must all just live with it because that is jsut the way things are)


    What happened to "There is cat puke on the carpet, and I'm gonna clean it up before someone steps in it and adds to it." :?:

    Alan's original post is a new area of consideration for me, and I like your addition, Rowan- but is it complete?

    gassho
    Hi Tobiah!

    Sorry, I thought the "cleaning it up" part was an implied result of the first definition (since I have yet to hear of anyone using cat puke as a part of their overall home decorating scheme). Mostly I was trying to highlight what I think of as the frequently unfortunate fallacy of the second two definitions.

    Hi Dirk,

    I also have multiple cats, one is a very fluffy tortoiseshell. When I vacuum I end up with enough fur to make a new cat (or atleast a couple of kittens :wink:

    cheers,
    rowan/jinho

  10. #10

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    Hi Guys,

    Lovely discussion. Thank you for bringing up "acceptance without acceptance". I would just like to add another perspective that makes us the mystics which we are ...

    For besides merely accepting and not accepting and all the variations ... we EMBRACE, CELEBRATE and SINK RIGHT IN! (and that includes the cat puke and all of it)!

    The garden has flowers and weeds ... life is beauty and ugliness (some of it heartbreaking). Yet we see ALL of that as life's nature. We not only accept and tolerate ... we GIVE THANKS FOR even the worst of it.

    There are stories of Hassidic Jews giving thanks and praise to their God while standing to march into the ovens during the Holocaust. Simple thanks for the time they had, and all until that moment. Asking nothing, needing nothing more.

    Now, don't ever get this point wrong: Praising the weeds, and being thankful for all of it ... that does not mean we do not set to pulling weeds, fixing this world.

    Remember that in our Zen Practice, we are often tasting life from many perspectives at once, some downright opposed, some downright so crazy ... it's as sane as sane can be.

    Gassho, J

  11. #11
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    Tobiah wrote:
    What if the time it takes you to "accept and help" enables him to beat his wife a time or two more? Is it still the best course of action?
    The quicker we accept the quicker we can move on to help, and if immediate intervention is required then, of course, you immediately intervene. I think part of our practice is learning to accept first, immediately, and then move on to approval/disapproval, or making no judgment at all. Jundo talks about the two channels operating simultaneously, which I think is true for situations that are ongoing, but I think for new situations, something you just find out about or experience for the first time, it might be easier to consider it sort of a sequential process of first accepting and then judging, if at all. And afterwards, as Jundo says, acceptance without acceptance simultaneously.

  12. #12

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Jundo talks about the two channels operating simultaneously, which I think is true for situations that are ongoing, but I think for new situations, something you just find out about or experience for the first time, it might be easier to consider it sort of a sequential process of first accepting and then judging, if at all. And afterwards, as Jundo says, acceptance without acceptance simultaneously.
    When I talk about "two channels", ya know that it is really the "relative & absolute" that I am talking about too, and a bit more than just "two channels" or "acceptance" in its ordinary English meaning.

    So, I am not really just talking about only "acceptance" (small letter "a"), but also the "Acceptance" (big letter "a") which may be tasted when there is no "you" to resist some condition, no separate condition to be resisted. In such case, this life is seen to be something like a dream or a bit of theatre, and we just allow the dream to be. I am talking about both acceptance and Acceptance.

    (I know that it all sounds very 'theoretical', and just a bit of Buddhist philosophy ... but I mean this as a true way to taste and approach life). So, really I am talking about what I might call " acceptance + Acceptance without acceptance !! "

    So, for example, your car breaks down on a snowy road, middle of no where, far from help ... as recently happened to our friend Dirk. Or you have the flu and have to move apartments, which recently happened to our friend Jinho ...

    There is the acceptance (small "a") of life just the way it is. A broken car is perfectly a broken car, the flu is just the flu, moving precisely moving. We accept.

    And there is Acceptance (big "a") by which there is no car, no driver, nothing to break or be sick, always at home.

    It is important to know that our Shikantaza practice can lead us to both acceptance and Acceptance ...

    ... and even EMBRACING CELEBRATING and SINKING RIGHT INTO our broken cars, ailing bodies and such.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - I am not saying, by the way, that any of us needs to celebrate, or even smile at, a broken car or body ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, it is okay just to think "this stinks!" ALL THING IN MODERATION, and that includes acting Buddha-like! 8)

  13. #13
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    I think it might be helpful to consider disapproval, acceptance, and embracing a condition of life as sometimes a developmental process. This could be true for new or ongoing experiences. Here is a story one of my students told me recently.

    A young white woman is pregnant by a black man. The young woman's father is very racist and completely disapproves to the point of saying, "I no longer have a daughter." The young woman's mother also disapproves, but motherhood trumps disapproval and brings her daughter back into the home when she needs some help with the pregnancy. This causes great fights between the young woman's parents and great animosity between the young woman and her father; he refuses to talk to her in the house, refuses to acknowledge she is even there, when at all possible. Such is all the grief caused by one man's disapproval. Maybe after the baby is born and he becomes a grandfather he will accept this condition. Maybe after the baby grows up to the point he/she calls him "grandpa" he will embrace the condition. Let's hope so, but it will take time.

    This developmental process does not necessarily need to take a long time, however. Here is another example. You are late to work and curse a red light (disapproval). But you recognize your negative reaction and realize it can give you a moment of insta-zazen (approval). The light turns green and you are grateful that the red light allowed you that moment to pause for insta-zazen (embracing).

    But if you can go straight to acceptance and/or embracing all the better.

  14. #14

    Re: Acceptance vs. approval

    An interesting discussion about acceptance. I have just today been reading Hubert Benoit's idea of
    acceptance ("Zen and the Psychology of Transformation") which was a fresh take on it for me.
    He says that acceptance means that you wouldn't change a situation even if you could. Resignation
    on the other hand is accepting something but wishing it were otherwise.

    Jenny

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