Fighting for justice can seem to be the right thing to do, when in fact it keeps us locked into polarity — us vs them. If we truly want to heal the world and ourselves, we need to let go of our addiction to the justice paradigm.
WHEN OJ Simpson was acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ronald Goldman, many were incensed because the evidence overwhelmingly indicated that he was guilty. Indeed, a jury in a subsequent civil trial unanimously held Simpson liable for damages, and Simpson himself even later wrote a book entitled, If I did It. Fortunately for those angry and upset by his acquittal, exactly 13 years later he was found guilty of leading an armed robbery which saw him sentenced to 33 years in prison. Justice was served in the end!
This is the justice paradigm that humanity is hooked on. We like to believe that people who do bad things get punished; and people who do good things get rewarded. This sense of fair play is very important to us because it gives us a way to control life: if we act good, good things happen; if we act bad, bad things happen. In other words, how we act determines our fate; life is not unpredictable. In other words, cause and effect extend into the moral realm. This is why a perceived lack of justice is so abhorrent: without it we feel that the individual and society would be out of control.
This sense of fair play is maintained and orchestrated by our legal system, our religious beliefs, our economic systems, and our conscience (what we believe we deserve). The rewards we expect to receive for doing good things include being happy and loved, being left alone by the authorities, receiving more money, being held in high regard by our peers, being owed favours, gaining religious merit (such as God's approval and a blissful afterlife or favourable rebirth) and generally feeling good about ourselves. On the other hand, punishments for doing bad things include being unhappy and unloved, being brutalised by the authorities, losing money, losing our social standing, forfeiting our liberty and even lives, being punished by God or the Universe in both this life and the next, and generally feeling bad about ourselves.
In modern secular societies, the legal system deals with justice before death, and our religious or spiritual beliefs, if any, deal with justice after death. And because conscience seems to be in short supply these days with the prevailing "do it but don't get caught" attitude, guilt is taking up none of the slack in perceived failures of legal or religious systems. Indeed, those who perpetrate the worst atrocities — our sociopathic politicians, corporate heads and religious leaders — do not seem to feel any regret for their actions (outside of regret for being caught).
Recently, the British television personality, DJ and charity fund raiser, Jimmy Savile, a friend of Prince Charles, was exposed as one of the most prolific paedophiles of modern times; a man who used and abused his high-profile position in British society to satisfy his lusts. The problem with Savile was that his crimes came to light only after his death at the age of 84, and coupled with his lack of a conscience (as indicated by newly released interviews), the general consensus is that he got away scot-free, committing multiple heinous crimes and infuriatingly paying no penalty for them.
Of course, those who hold religious worldviews believe that Savile will pay for his crimes in the afterlife: whether that be in some everlasting hell, or hellish bardo after which he will have to be reborn many times to pay off his karma. Religious belief systems are very detailed and often brutal on punishment, in this life and the next, so that the wayward flock are kept in line. For theistic religions, God or the Gods are believed to see and judge everything, and the punishments given out in the name of these gods have often been shockingly brutal.
Nontheistic religions, on the other hand, usually deal with punishment by appealing to a mind or energetic mechanism that auto-punishes the perpetrator, especially after death, although brutal punishments before death can also be meted out. We are all aware of the violence associated with religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaisms and Hinduism, but few are aware that Buddhism, including Tibetan Buddhism, is also associated with violence. The Wikipedia entry on "Buddhism and violence" states:
"Although among the least associated religious traditions with violence, there is a robust history of Buddhist-related self-flagellation, suicides, torture, and wars. Within the monastic traditions alone, there are over sixteen hundred years of Buddhist violence in Asia. There are ample doctrinal sources that provide Buddhists with a justification for violence such as the Mahayana Chinese version of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Upayakaushalya Sutra, and the Kalachakra Tantra."
That said, non-theistic religious are generally less punitive than theistic religions because they regard sin or "missing the mark" as self-correcting: we inevitably suffer the consequences of our actions by the loss of our equanimity — cause and effect. And as peaceful or clear states of mind or consciousness are the ultimate goal, there is less incentive to take justice into our own hands because the punishment has already happened.
Theistic religions, by contrast, generally comprise a submissive (and all too human) relationship with easily angered gods, and so punishment for disobedience requires a public forfeit as amelioration for any relationship breakdown does. Today's medieval crime and punishment systems of most traditional Islamic nations is a prime example, as is the Christian baying for blood after 9-11 despite the assurance of their god, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," a command that is not taken literally and never was.
Indeed, the Evangelical Leader Survey released in 2008 showed that most evangelical leaders in the US still supported the mass-murderous invasion of Iraq, despite the fact that Iraq was a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with 9-11 and that its leader, Saddam Hussein, was actually opposed to the very Islamic fanatics that the US government pointed a finger at. (All that has been achieved is a Muslim radicalisation of this part of the world, a radicalisation which makes the world significantly more dangerous.)
So religious punishment is used to achieve political ends, and always has been. "Holy" books such as the Bible (especially the Old Testament), the Torah and the Koran are basically punishment manuals, telling adherents what they can and cannot do, and the consequences of obedience and disobedience, in this life and the next. Indeed, the central part of practically all religion is "not getting away with errant behaviour", and this is important for imposing a set of expected behaviours on believers. (There are exceptions to this "not getting away with anything" belief such as can be found in some occult organisations, but they suffer from other delusions and lead to toxic narcissism which itself can lead to cruel and violent behaviour.)
No wonder there is a mass exodus from traditional religious beliefs: when religion becomes a choice rather than a reality, why would we choose such restrictive and punitive belief systems? In fact, the more we are able to choose our religious belief systems, the more those belief systems serve our ego rather than someone else's. This is why so many New Age beliefs seem to be about ego glorification.
With conventional religious belief on the wane and our conscience perhaps not being what it used to be, justice is left to our legal system. This is why we are all so fixated on criminal trials, and why crime and detective television series are so popular. And it is also why there is so much public outrage when the legal system is seen to fail.
High profile trials such as those for Amanda Knox or Oscar Pistorius evoke a very high emotional response because, with each trial, our justice paradigm is on the line, the very paradigm that supports our belief that life is fair. And so we find ourselves hooked on the drama, rooting for an outcome that will validate our sense of justice. And if that validation is not forthcoming, woe betide our emotional equanimity!
We saw earlier that the justice paradigm is important for giving us the illusion of control over life: justice insulates us from life's capriciousness. But the truth, when we investigate these issues, is that justice is just a belief system and that what happens to us in life often follows no discernible cause-and-effect pattern. Just look at the bad things that often happen to innocent young children — and even to saints such as Ramana Maharshi who died from cancer. Life does appear to be capricious, although we have choice in how we react to life's events.
Of course, if we are religious or spiritual we can still deny life's capriciousness by assigning what seems to be random events to the workings of hidden causal mechanisms, such as karma or the mind of God or All-That-Is. Just because we cannot see causality does not mean that it is not there somewhere, enfolded in other dimensions. But equally, it is important to realise that justice is a paradigm that supports a dual worldview: justice and duality go hand in hand.
For there to be justice, there has to be independent beings with free will to act in ways that shouldbe rewarded or punished. After all, we do not seek justice if there is no free will and therefore no responsibility; we do not seek justice if victim and perpetrator are the same being; and we do not seek justice if say a computer malfunction has deadly ramifications as there is no conscious intent. And finally, we do not seek justice if we do not hold a conceptual template by which to judge whether actions are acceptable or not. So justice hinges on multiplicity or separation, conscious free will, and conceptual expectation. If any of these ingredients is missing, justice becomes meaningless.
But when we examine reality closely, we do not see any joins between our consciousness and other consciousnesses, and between our consciousness and objects. Which means that it is all consciousness… one consciousness. Whilst this is acknowledged at the deepest core of religious experience, it is a realisation only more recently being rediscovered by modern science. Invalidate multiplicity and you invalidate justice.
We are obsessed with balancing the books in our minds because we are mesmerised by the human story of responsibility, a story that is ultimately a fiction. But it is a fiction that we cling to because it gives us the illusion of being in control. And control is important because it validates our sense of individual self — our ego. Without some level of control, we lose our individuality. And so we are always fighting for ego survival using the judgement and the justice paradigm to protect ourselves from facing the abyss of non-individuality, which from the ego's perspective is non-existence.
But if we are serious about waking up from the dream of the little self — the dream of the ego — then at some point we have to face the emptiness of pure awareness, an emptiness that shines silently in the background of all experience. And this requires us to drop judgements and the justice paradigm. "Judge not lest ye be judged," is not a moral code: it is a prescription for dropping the illusion of individuality that keeps us lost in the life's stories. Least ye be judged by whom? By ourselves… for a mind that judges is one that is locked into a conceptual framework that will be used to interpret every part of our own lives. As long as we are in judgement, we maintain the ego.
This is why letting go of the justice paradigm is so important: it frees us from the chains of our own minds. But how can this be done practically? How easy is it to let go of judgement?
Modern society is fixated on justice. Just pick up any newspaper, watch any television program or movie, and you will see the justice game being played, a game that might seem a good idea as, on paper, it makes society a safer and kinder place to be, but one that destroys our chance of experiencing true awakening.
For many years, I was involved with alternative media, putting out information on all the injustices in the world: political, societal, ecological, animal, corporate, scientific etc. But this fixation on global justice became a heavy weight on my shoulders, a chain that shackled me to the inferences of the justice paradigm that distracted me from flying free and realising truth. If the world is your focus, you will never see past it. And paradoxically, only by seeing past it can we liberate the world from ourselves. For the truth is, ego is the blight of the world, not bad people.
Letting go of justice can seem like defeat by the dark forces, but it is actually the only way to end duality's right-wrong, good-bad conceptual charade and wake up to right action. As long as we are motivated by righteousness, we will be unconsciously sowing the seeds of destruction whilst we go around doing good in the world.
At first, it can be difficult letting go of justice because it has been one of our prime reality lenses. The more conscious we are, the more injustice we see, until we reach a point where we realise that the injustice we are focusing on is destroying our inner environment, so that what we focus on mending outside of ourselves gets automatically broken inside. And that broken inside causes real damage in the long-run. That is why all the political, ecological, sociological and religious discourses come to nothing unless those involved can let go of being righteous and learn to forgive rather than vilify. I have met many eco-warriors, for example, over the years and am always amazed how unharmonious their inner ecosystems are — the very ecosystems they ironically have most authority over. Would you entrust the world to these individuals when they cannot even be trusted with their own immediate psychological environments? And what about human and animal rights advocates: how many of those would treat the abusers of those rights with kindness? Not many! Most are just as abusive as those they are fighting against, except their abuse is targeted elsewhere, including on themselves and anybody with a different opinion.
So we need to go through a period of turning out bank on the world and focusing beyond the story, so that we can find true peace and clarity. For only then can we realise a love that is unconditional that will heal the world without underhandedly destroying it. Otherwise we are caught in conditionality, duality and indignation… and the pain and drama continue unabated. Just look at the forums in progressive political, sociological, religious and ecological websites to see the general nastiness — the outpouring of mental poisons of unexamined lives. And we wonder why the system is broken! Most of those pushing for solutions, even intelligent solutions, are just as unhinged as the people who cause the problems, and so the chaos continues until we figure out that the commotion out in the world is just a projection of the commotion inside each of us.
If you want to save the world, do the world a favour and get out of the picture. Disappear… so that in your place a natural solution can flow. If we think this will result in no-action and the perpetuation of evil, then we have not experienced the natural wholeness and kindness of humanity that expresses itself whenever egos take a backseat. But as long as we think we are part of the solution, we are actually part of the problem.
Today, our media is all about ego-promotion. The young want to be famous and beautiful, and of course rich… the richer the better! This is the age of the ego, a time in which we seem to have lost our way completely as narcissism has become "healthy self-esteem", and we parade our egos along the social promenades of cyberspace.
So the next time you hear about someone getting away with murder, take it as an opportunity to drop indignation and go inside in the realisation that the only crime is to remain addicted to the story of justice, a story that will ultimately destroy us and the world. Only by freeing ourselves from our toxic fascination with this concept do we have a chance to bring authentic and long-lasting peace and harmony to this world.