We think, in part, by using many labels, a necessary and useful process when done with care. These labels are rather like bags or boxes into which we neatly put our experiences, our reactions, our environment, and our fellow humans. But often our labeled-boxes mislead us because the specific people in time and space (what they actually do, value, and represent) may not correspond well to the label. So the generalizations arrayed in our minds, under associated labels, can mislead. Ironically, our mental boxes can box-us-in psychologically. When our quick firm categories lack thoughtfulness, they act as blinders. Then, it’s as if the boxes are not just in our minds but around our heads!
If we’re free from attachment to any particular school of thought—assuming we are not empty headed—it probably means our concepts and predisposition are drawn from a variety of sources, perhaps without much conscious thought, or more rarely by a thoughtful eclectic approach.
But most persons are more formal in their identifications. They take upon themselves fixed ideas and orientations inherited from some collective, from some social matrix or group, or from reading. Individual affinity plays a role, and the karma of our group connections. We all have these connections, these mental and emotional locations and identifications, some obvious and some subtler.
Whether obvious or not, it helps to see that a school of thought is a temporary dwelling and not a fortress. In fact we might think of our school of thought more like a bridge than a house. We don’t stop, settle down, and build a house on a bridge.
Each school of thought has its value and its limits. When we mentally “incarnate” in a particular school, the trick is to realize that we are “not that.” The distance, the “divine detachment” between our “I” and the school, maximizes the value and minimizes the limits. The real value of identifications is in the motion and motivations they support. Each identification gives a certain spin, and if we’re fortunate, ascendancy to our thinking.
It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel, so a thoughtful person should not be afraid of mentally incarnating in a particular school of thought—a primary teaching or a secondary one can both be valuable because needs are highly individual. But the key of freedom is in our awareness of the limitations of any identification we may take up and in the realization that schools of thought, the forms of things, never say all that can and should be said about anything. There should never be a sense of finality in a teaching because there is always more beyond the current horizon.