Friday, November 07, 2008

Ego and Self

From Twitter today:
moritherapy: question to my buddhist friends: fear of connecting deeply with dharma/the divine = fear of ego death?

me: yes, with some qualifications

and the qualifications are ... ?
I promised a reply of some sort, so here I go (please note that these are only my views and my understanding of Buddhist ideas and Western psychology).

In general, the answer to the question is YES. Ego fears its own dissolution and doesn't realize that any experience of deep connection with the divine is only temporary and will not result in the annihilation of the ego.

But ego is not a singular thing, but rather a collection of smaller selves (subpersonalities) -- ego is the attempt by the brain to make some kind of continuity out of the smaller selves.

Confused yet?

Now here is the kicker -- behind all of this is the Self that doesn't fear anything, least of all a connection with the divine. Higher self, authentic self, anterior self, true self, Self (even Buddhanature?) -- it goes by many names, but this is the self that is always already enlightened (to an extent). This is also the self that seeks that union, the nondual experience -- it's already plugged into that reality in a way ego never can be.

The ego (that fragile collection of small selves) eventually learns through meditation practice that it does not die if it is transcended for moments or minutes. As it begins to learn this, it lessens its hold over the psyche and we become less constrained by its limits. The more we meditate and practice various forms of mindfulness, the less it -- the ego -- feels a need to hold on, knowing that we always come back to the body and its collection of smaller selves we call "me."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, I'm curious. You mention "coming back to the body?" I'm curious as to where you think that, during Zazen, you have gone?
Since mind-body (shinjin) is a unity, "going away" is not zazen. If you "go away," that's your ego, playing games.
Dogen wrote, "...because the body necessarily fills the mind and the mind inevitably penetrates the body, we call this the permeation of body-mind. That is to say, this is the entire world and all directions, the whole body and the whole mind. This is none other than joy of a very special kind."