I read a book recently by Paul Ferrini; illuminations to road of nowhere; and found that it resonated deeply with my core. What I had thought was somewhat a cease to a journey I was seeking was actually a turning point to another journey that I wasn’t really seeking but have been inevitably put on. Just the other day, I was complaining to myself on how my teacher wouldn’t let me rest. It was like each time I ‘arrived’ at a peak, he’d already be cushioning me for another peak that I’d need to embrace. To a certain extent, it is quite tiring. But who is the one who is tired; and then came the question – who was the one seeking all these time?
An interesting article I read today talked about ‘hanging on to the ego’. In the traditional understanding of the Buddhist context, it has been understood as a goal to attain a state of ‘egolessness’ or what we would normally term as ‘non-self’. What came as a surprise as I read this article was that the Buddha’s teaching is more in line with ego-development rather that getting ‘rid’ of ego. It is somewhat a relief to read that, but also accompanied by a grudging feeling – when will I ever get outta here!! And my teacher told me today, ‘We can never win the ego, but make peace with it.’
An excerpt I wish to share from the article ‘Hang On to Your Ego’ by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
“… It is possible to taste an immediate gratification that causes no harm to yourself or anyone else. Genuine happiness doesn’t require that you take anything away from anyone – which means that it in no way conflicts with the genuine happiness of others.”
“Because the Buddha saw how these enlightened qualities of wisdom, compassion, and purity could be developed through the pursuit of happiness, he never told his followers to practice his teachings without expecting any gain in return. He understood that such a demand would create an unhealthy dynamic in the mind. In terms of Western psychology, expecting no gain in return would give license for the super-ego to run amok. Instead, the Buddha taught that even the principle of renunciation is a trade. You exchange candy for gold, trading lesser pleasures for greater happiness. So he encouraged people to be generous with their time and possessions because of the inner rewards they would receive in return. He taught moral virtue as a gift; when you observed the precepts without ifs, ands, or buts, you give unconditional safety to all other beings, and in return you receive a share of that safety as well.”
*for full article, please click here.
It is astonishing to note that this is especially in line with what my other teacher preaches, though not in exact words – unconditionality. Unconditional because whatever we give, or receive; it comes back to the Self ultimately.
So there are indeed two lessons to learn here at each moment in time – the inner lesson within us, and the outer lesson outside of us in which we have to respond to and address. Now I begin to understand what my mom meant when she observed that most of her friends on their spiritual journey turned out to have lacked the quality of compassion. Although what could be more accurate is only her perception towards them and may not necessarily be true, I was inclined to think that there is indeed no such thing as compassion unless I am seeing the other as a victim (stated in a previous entry of Arrogance & Compassion). However there is something called the Great Compassion, apparently; and it has meanings taking upon ourselves the responsibility of freeing sentient beings from suffering. Great Compassion is not only feeling the unbearable sufferings of sentient beings but also a wish for sentient beings to be free from suffering and its cause thus taking on the personal responsibility upon oneself to free sentient beings from suffering. That is Great Compassion, or also known as Mahayana.
When we recognize our own sufferings, do we too recognize the sufferings of others? And thus the compassion to teach and uplift others just as what Buddha and all other great Masters and loving teachers had done and still continuously doing – disseminating teachings to the rest of us, is there a possibility to be free like the Buddha.
I give thanks to the Great Compassion of the Buddha, Jesus and all other Masters and also the living teachers amongst us who are each also on their own journey towards freedom. For without their quality of Great Compassion, these information would not be passed on to us. Having said that, it still requires us to take responsibility for ourselves, coupled with our own willingness and effort; nothing is exempted and no one can do the work for us, but us. So let us work with the ego then with Wisdom, on the remaining ignorant part of the ego, to a sheer state of Purity and Love so as not to get ‘rid’ of the ego, but for the transformation of the ego to be possible.
As how Thanissaro Bhikkhu worded it, “a healthy, functioning ego is a crucial tool on the path to Awakening.”