The Fruits of Non-Identification

Buddhist psychology calls non-identification the abode of awakening, the end of clinging, true peace, nirvana. Without identification, we can respectfully care for ourselves and others, yet we are no longer bound by the fears and illusions of the small sense of self.

Does non-identification really work in the toughest situations? Maha Ghosananda embodied it for fifteen years as he walked through Cambodia’s battle zones, teaching peace. In the same spirit here is a story by a police officer that I found in Ram Dass and Paul Gorman’s book “How Can I Help?”

Now there are two theories about crime and how to deal with it. Anticrime guy says, “You have to think like a criminal.” And some police learn that so well they get a kind of criminal mentality themselves.

How I’m working with it is really pretty different. I’m a peace officer. I see that man is essentially pure and innocent and of good nature…

Now it’s interesting how this works.

I had arrested a very angry man who singled me out for real animosity. When I had to take him to a paddy wagon, he spit in my face-that was something-and he went after me with a chair. We handcuffed him and put him in the truck. Well, on the way, I just had to get past this picture of things, and again I affirmed to myself, “This guy and I are brothers in love.: When I got to the station, I was moved spontaneously to say, “Look, if I’ve done anything to offend you, I apologize.” The paddy wagon driver looked at me as if I was truly nuts.

The next day I had to take him from where he’d been housed overnight to criminal court. When I picked him up, I thought, “Well, if you trust this vision, you’re not going to have to handcuff him.” And I didn’t. We got to a spot in the middle of the corridor, which was the place where he’d have jumped me if he had that intention. And he stopped suddenly. So did I. Then he said, “You know, I thought about what you said yesterday and I want to apologize.” I just felt this deep appreciation.

Turned out on his rap sheet he’d done a lot of time in a couple of bad prisons and had trouble with some harsh guards. I symbolized something. And I saw that turn around, saw a king of healing, I believe.”

Mindfulness and fearless presence bring true protection. When we meet the world with recognition, acceptance, investigation, and non-identification, we discover that wherever we are, freedom is possible, just as the rain falls on and nurtures all things equally.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology”

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