Ok, so in the first article on ego (EGO 1) I said that the ego is not real. I said that ego is really an illusion. I also said that “much of the spiritual ‘work’ that many people do and have done for many years, is almost a waste of time.”
I have to qualify my statement that the ego is not real. So first, I need to speak about reality:
Reality is subjective. But it’s also absolute!
What do I mean?
I mean that there is a subjective reality, and an absolute reality.
Two people experience one event and remember differently what happened – memory is subjective. But it doesn’t mean that two different things happened does it? It means that in reality, experience is subjective.
The reason for this subjectivity is that we don’t experience reality as it is – we filter it. We have a filter between the world and our brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It literally filters the information that comes to us from the outside world.
If you have never heard of a car called a Saab before, then you don’t see Saabs. As soon as you hear of it – as soon as it enters your awareness, you begin to see them!
How is this possible? One minute (in your experience) the car doesn’t exist – the next minute they’re everywhere!!…
It’s because there are literally billions of pieces of information EVERY SECOND coming to our attention. We simply cannot process all of them. So we filter out the ones that don’t serve us. This is the job of the RAS – basically it simplifies things for us.
So it begs the question: can we ever experience reality non-subjectively? Can we ever know the world AS IT IS, rather than as we THINK it is.
I said that the ego is not real.
Well, it IS real – it is real in a subjective, relative way, that depends on our previous experience. It shapes and conditions our present experience of life, so it has a real influence. But that influence prevents us from knowing the world as it REALLY is.
The RAS and ego are highly interconnected. They both simplify our experience of the world – something that has been necessary for our evolution, probably even our survival as a species. However, if we want to know reality – I mean, if we want to know the absolute truth; the absolute reality that underlies all of existence, we have to go beyond subjective, relative truth. We have to have a strong desire to let go of all that we think we know, all that we think we are, all that we think we see, and surrender to the vast emptiness of naive innocence and humble ignorance.
Is there anything more terrifying? I don’t think so…
Is there anything more worthwile?…
ENLIGHTENMENT. Over the ages there have always been people who have told us that there is another possibility in life: that there is something called enlightenment or self-realisation; that it the true experience of absolute reality.
When Buddha was asked the difference between himself and an ordinary person, he stated:
“I am awake”.
The difference is in where we put our attention. You can choose to put your attention on what you already know, think, and believe, thereby reinforcing and strengthening those thoughts and beliefs (and strengthening the illusion that is the ego). Or you can practice being completely open. Letting go of all that you think you know, and surrendering.
After all, whatever it is that we think we know, we are probably wrong!
As long as we struggle to destroy, crush, defeat, or ‘kill’ our egos we miss the point. It’s like fighting with your own shadow. The ego is there. It has an impact on us. But the more attention we give it, the more power it has.
I have known people who have suppressed many aspects of themselves in order to combat the ego. For example, renouncing sensory pleasure like sex, chocolate, and other kinds of ‘goodies’. In my opinion, they cause themselves a lot of unnecessary suffering. If you want to be happy, joyful, and at peace, why fight?! That’s what I meant when I said that a lot of people waste a lot of time fighting with the ego in the name of ‘spiritual practice’. Why fight with yourself?
“There is no way to happiness. Happiness IS the way”.
Be happy. Don’t fight with yourself. Especially with your shadow – the ego. If you feel something, whether it’s anger, joy, or conviction, use that feeling to get to know yourself more deeply. Knowing yourself more deeply is the only way.
Buddha’s last words to his students were:
“Be a light unto thyself”.
That’s where it’s at.