I recently read somewhere that behavioral scientists recommend that small groups appoint a devil’s advocate to challenge the worthiness of various claims and logic. Incidentally, this is something President Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. The decisions that the group usually agree upon tend to be more accurate and more grounded in reality with a devil’s advocate. This also works with individuals.
I remember doing this to some degree when I was still searching for pure Mind. I questioned my assumptions and forced myself to look deeper and to stop playing games with myself thereby deceiving myself. I didn’t allow myself to claim any satori—on what grounds? Some intellectual insight? I also had a gut feeling that pure Mind would give me the key to understand the koans (I turned out to be right).
By being my own devil’s advocate I became skeptical of some of the major assumptions of Buddhism, one being that the Buddha denied the self or âtman. I was looking for any passage from the Buddha’s discourses that might undermine the view that the Buddha denied the self. I wasn’t willing to let Buddhists get by with what looked like to me to be a doctrine of crypto-nihilism. I hit pay dirt when I could read the discourses about the five aggregates, not as a rejection of self, but that we shouldn’t identify as our self that which is not our self, namely, the five aggregates!
I think being a devil’s advocate with myself helped me to connect the dots of Buddhism. It became more systematic, but foremost it was based on awakening to the absolute which is supramundane and unconditioned. With our seeing of ultimate reality, certain implications stem from it which eventually grow into a beautiful system. To get here, I had to be a devil!