Easter in a Buddhist Temple: Part 2: Diagnosing and Treating the ego

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July 14th 2008
Published: July 23rd 2008
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"My ego is like this giant tumor, with lots of... veins, spreading out from it." ~Sheng Shi

We were sitting in that room again, light flowing through the open windows and the opened minds. Bright were those days in the temple, literally and figuratively; so bright it is that anything hidden within, any dark tumor that causes inner rot and turmoil, can not long go undetected. At least if one is willing and able to observe their self and mind.

This vision that Sheng Shi gave me, among another of our great Dharma talks, came clear to my mind. I imagined this ugly, hairy tumor, with thick, juicy branches jutting out, like old gnarled trees that have grown for long and cold years. Sound disgusting? Then I drew it. And as I drew it, I poured all that harmful egoness that I had discovered in myself, through my vision, arm and pen upon the paper. It became, I guess a form of "art therapy" where I was using art to recognize deeply my own inner ugliness and to turn from it. In the Christian tradition that is the literal meaning of the word "repent" to turn from sin/ego, harmful modes of thinking/being. It seems that is what commonly happens at the temple; it is a place for recognizing, diagnosing and losing one's ego.

But I did not just draw some arbitrary picture of a tumor and call it my "ego." First, I investigated myself very deeply, looking for those developed patterns of thinking and behaving that tend to arise in me; those patterns, which are not an expression of love, or of divinity, but of insecurity, an attempt to agrandize myself in the perception of others, an attempt to aggrandize myself in my own perception, an attempt to harm others or dominate them, with words or thoughts. The root of the Ego, the key to its development, is ignorance. This is an ignorance of who we truly are beyond our name, form and limited concepts and ideas of who we are. An ignorance of our selves Being Divine, or potentially Divine. Children of God. An ignorance that we are all connected. If you know we are all connected would you harm others? For this reason it is said that spiritual awareness leads to the highest form of selfishness and at the same time selflessness. You help others because you love them, but it also benefits yourself. You do not hurt others because you love them and do not want to hurt yourself. Since all are one, what I do to another I do to myself. Since all are One let I harm none. Love All.

In our world we naturally become ignorant of this fact, the fact of Sonship with God, of Oneness. In Christianity, they teach that 'sin' separates one from God. Sin is defined as 'missing the mark,' being imperfect, and thus unable to connect with and be One with God. Even that definition is seldom known by many preachers. But the teaching about sin tends to lead one to have an abstract concept of oneself, many are led to identify with sin and have a deprived view of theirself. Conditioned feelings of guilt arise and as people are identified as 'sinners' there is little motivation or faith that one can actually change, albeit by the power of the Divinity that God has bestowed within us. Many do not realize that "sin" is a word that informs us of barriers in our minds, that needs to be purged and removed if we are to realize our closeness with All, with God. Because of poor teaching many people misunderstand this meaning completely, and are led into an insincere state of guilt, which is useless and which does not help one to realize one's potential. It is all because of poor teaching. The Buddhist tradition can also offer some insight into what keeps us from realizing our divine potential.

Naturally, yes, we are in a sense imperfect, we tend to be led into an ignorance of our true self and to live in a way that is inconsistent with the loving way of Heaven. Nevertheless, this ignorance becomes a development in human beings. Instead of developing the tendency towards living in the Divine way, doing the will of God, loving others like Jesus, people develop habits, which are ultimately an expression of an ignorance of the Way. These habits, these developed patterns of thinking, feeling, behaving, that correspond to commonly fired neuron chains in our nervous system, come to constitute our sense of self. This false sense of self, this ego, seeks to take the place of our true self, as is that divinly beautiful and totally unique personality that is manifested by the First Source and Center of Reality, the Divine Origin of all Being(s).

I came to understand it like this. Imagine that unenlightened (unregenerated) consciousness, a state of consciousness that is ignorant of our essence (the divine nature, God, even our own consciousness itself) is like water. The developed habits and patterns of mind that replace divinities Way and come to constitute a sense of self, are like formed molds of wax. Archaic and twisted shapes, like gnarley trees, or dry tumors. When the consciousness flows into the triggered mold, it manifests as harmful thought, action or words.

"Entrenched ways of thinking and feeling about ourself, reality and our relations with others which are not mutually beneficial, which are harmful, limiting, and illusory. Formed molds into which unregulated consciousness flows once it is triggered by thought memory, perception, experience, etc.

After investigating my own mind and its conditioned reactionary tendencies to various thoughts, memories, or outer phenomenon, people, books, I made a diagnosis concerning some (there are many others) egoic molds that are in me:

'-Attached to "others" in mind

-Dependent on "others" to think/believe as do I

-Effected by others presence, mind, and my perception or misperception of their perception of me. In other words being what others want me to be or seem to.

-Attached to telling others or "correcting" them, "teaching" them, or pointing our "errors." '

Then I thought of counter-truths, really just words, that can counter these negative tendencies and lead to the realization of the truth, thus transcending the ego. Since each of the following points is a response to those above, it is best to read the above point first, followed by the response below...

"-There is no other. The other is not their form, rather, the body does not exist. All true existence is the Divine Spirit in All. We are All One. One Spirit.

-I abide in the abode of experience and knowledge and am confident in knowing, being at once in communion with the Lord Spirit within which continually inspires, gives conviction, and becomes me. Of course, all may think as they wish, but I hope for all to have the pure thoughts of the Spirit.

-I must be as I am in the light of the LordSpirit. Realizing, thru Christ Consciousness oneness of essence with God the Great, my true self as I am made is revealed. It is I. Regarding all, from I love goes forth, as from the LordSpirit, regardless of the forms of body or mind.

-the Truth is concerned with the things of itself not those which are not of itself. Therefore it is always revealing truth that beings can receive, not pointing to error unless necessary and possible. And to abide in the Truth of Love and let the luminosity of Divine Love fill my presence and shine on others, such is all that is needed. All words stem from there and appeal not to the mind, nor mindfulness of error but spiritual realization of Truth. Anyways, since All are One with the LordSpirit in essence there is nothing I can say which is unknown. I can only say what needs to be heard and that is enough and usually less."

... This is like being a doctor who finds various illnesses and then creates unique medicines to cure the diseases. The difference is that the disease is in the mind (and what I am calling a disease is really a plague that prevents spiritual growth and self-realization. It is considered normal, this disease) and aspects of mind become the medicine. These egoic tendencies are like deep places in one's mind where one is stuck. By identifying a specific and actul egoic tendency it becomes exposed and opened up. By implementing some words or insight concerning that tendency, I am leading my consciousness out of the trapping pattern, a pattern that is ultimately harmful. It is like finding a person who is in a car burried under the ground. First you find the car and open a door, then you find a way up and out of the earth, until you reach the wide and expansive atmosphere. Leading one's consciousness out of egoic patterns and into expansive consciousness itself is similar. You use awareness to find the pattern, then use mind content (words, thoughts, ideas) to lead the consciousness from that place out and upward towards truth, and end up in a higher level of awareness, closer to a consciousness of Spirit, of Truth, or God, of oneself and of others, all as inevitably at One.

...There I am, under that little Buddhist gazebo, writing out this prescription.

...There I am inside the temple, quiet enough to hear all sounds, clock ticking "tick, tock, tick, tock' in the gulf of silence. Monks and nuns line the walls under shadows, sitting, meditating, or what not. I sit, gowned in gray, legs crossed upon the stool, back near the main door; the big Buddha statue rises up before me in rooms center and the monks surround. I watch my mind, what thoughts arise, what patterns are here to be dispelled. What molds are waiting to be identified and dismantled through awareness.

...There I am in our little room, sitting at the desk, now drawing an arm of a tumor, now drawing another...this one represents attachments that I have (to thoughts, a girl, lust, certain words, etc), that one non-acceptance of what my mind perceives to be "error" "wrong" "not the way" "non-Dharma"(which results as judgment, anger, even hatred).

...There I am in the scripture reading room. Echos of chanting monks and nuns, in constant rhythm; to me it sounds like "Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na....", it goes on for over an hour. Enchanting wisdom, spoken half-consciously; a mysterious language I cannot discern; a mysterious teaching I can feel. I read the book in English as the monk/nun filled room fills with their voices unisoned. I watch my mind as it attempts to focus on the "errors" or the "human elements" of the teaching, "harmful" aspects. All such labels only justify a negative attitude towards things, which is above all not necessary, nor useful and is itself harmful. I'm identifying patterns, in my mind.

The patterns of thinking and being that are in us, are always there to be observed. They arise periodically, and, IF WE ARE AWARE, we can recognize them as they arise, catch them by the tail. The key to change is awareness. If you are aware of a tendency, like anger, aware WHEN IT HAPPENS, you step out of it, it no longer controls or dominates your mind. Other teachers have gone into this more deeply (See Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now). The important thing is to do it, to practice. Every moment is an opportunity to practice mindfulness, to identify the patterns of our own uniquely ugly egos, to release our uniquely gorgeous selves. This is the life of realizing our full potential as beings, of being aware and alive to live life, not a mere robot like creature, conditionally living out of the same old patterns, most of which are harmful or just stagnant, dead.

LIVE!!! Wake or Die. Die or Fly. What other choices are there? You are alive, you have been given existene, life, an opportunity for endless growth and exploration of REALITY, vast and unfathomable, and your own hidden potentials. If you are not interested in that just die. Or why aren't you interested? Have you been conditioned to be careless about all that matters? Then step out! Don't become a slave of those who subtley seek to use you, and for what empty purpose? To make money? To live in an illusory and fleeting existence without even realizing who we are, or how to have real relationships with people? Is that not all that really matters? Free your mind and heart to live, live a joyous life of adventure and growth, of learning. Wake or Die. Die or Fly. Those are your options, why wait to choose?

Every moment practicing
what I will be
Every moment Being
what I am to become

Every moment we are practicing, reinforcing certain patterns, certain modes of mind and being, or others. With such knowledge you realize the purport of every moment, every action, every thought. You realize responsibility for your mind, every moment. It comes from another teacher who said "Every moment we are either practicing mindlessness or mindfulness." Every moment you are either unconsciously practicing being the way you do not want to be, or you are consciously practicing, intentionally being the way you want to be. Awareness is the key. Our thoughts and mind become adjusted, so that the light of our spirit can shine through the channel, into the world.

There is only one I
There are many personalities
There is only one Spirit
There is only one Love
There is only one Way
There is only one Reality
in this we are One
All in All Unified

Since All is One
Let I harm none!


5th August 2008

G, good things here -- thought provoking, great insight and perspective. I especially like the poem at the end, because it is true.
6th August 2008

it is really wonderful of your unique travel,george.sometimes i fell enlightened by your words,you are finding very hard of our father's will,it is very great!may god bless you more!

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