Lifetimes of ignorance have brought us to identify the whole of our being with ego. Its greatest triumph is to inveigle us into believing its best interests are our best interests, and even into identifying our very survival with its own. This is a savage irony, considering that ego and its grasping are at the root of all our suffering.
Yet, ego is so terribly convincing, and we have been its dupe for so long, that the thought that we might ever become egoless terrifies us. To be egoless, ego whispers to us, is to lose all the rich romance of being human, to be reduced to a colorless robot or a brain-dead vegetable. (source: Rigpa Glimpse of the Day, March 16, 2011)
The “show trial of the ages” has been a long one. As the spectators expected, Ego put up a spirited and clever defence. As one media headline put it, “Ego unmasked as manufactured self – trying to pass itself off as something it isn’t.”
Now the jury trooped back into the courtroom.
Have you reached a verdict, intoned the judge?
Yes Your Honour, replied the foreperson.
Read the charge, says the judge.
Ego is charged with masquerading as something it is not.
It is charged with vainly struggling to prove something unproveable, i.e. that it “exists.” To quote Byron Katie “The ego is terrified of the truth. And the truth is that ego doesn’t exist.”
Ego is further charged with duping human beings into believing a huge lie, namely, that it is real, solid and permanent, when in fact it is manufactured, like a car or a toy. The bureaucracy it has set up to protect its interests surpasses that of the largest international corporations.
Ego has misled us! Thus, Ego wastes vast amounts of time that could be put to better use, that of waking up from its delusion. As the expression goes, “Get a life, Ego” instead of wasting ours!
How do you find the defendant? Guilt or not guilty?
We find the defendant guilty as charged.
The courtroom erupted. The judge bangs her gavel. Silence.
The foreman continues:
Because of this vain struggle to prove that it exists, and the suffering that struggle produces, Ego is charged with the following counts:
- Count One: being self-absorbed to the extent that it prevents us from going beyond neuroses and becoming fully human – We find the defendant guilty as charged;
- Count Two: obesity from its insatiable hunger to convince us of its own importance – We find the defendant guilty as charged;
- Count Three: dabbling constantly in poisons. Poisons cause suffering. They sometimes kill – We find the defendant guilty as charged;
- Count Four: believing itself to be the centre of everything, just like the Middle Ages mistakenly thought the earth, not the sun, was the centre of our galaxy. Because of you, Galileo was thrown in jail – We find the defendant guilty as charged;
- Count Five: creating barriers between people by setting up “self” and “other.” Therefore, there is discord, suffering, war, hunger and poverty. Even the “happiness” we experience is just another form of suffering, because it is fleeting and based on illusion. We quote the Dalai Lama on this topic: Many problems due to demarcation of “we” and “they.” Shortsighted. Narrow minded.”
- a by-product of this need to cut up humanity into “self’ and “other” is Ego’s ingrained tendency to engage in any action that will prove it is “better” than others by putting others down;
- Ego encourages us to compare ourselves to others;
- Ego depends on “external” conditions — which it itself has created — to get a sense of confidence and self-esteem;
- Ego creates obstacles for us by spinning a story-line around our experience, including blaming others for our suffering.
- Ego creates a bag of tricks (paragraphs 16 + 17), e.g. habitual patterns, to cover up the pain and suffering and discomfort we experience from trying to prove something unprovable.
We find the defendant guilty as charged.
- Count Six: believing whatever it thinks to be true! As a result, it is fooled by its own projections (thoughts about things) and distort the truth; from this follows karma, karma that keeps us imprisoned in a treadmill life and robs us of our free will – We find the defendant guilty as charged.
In short, concluded the foreman, Ego is charged with both the creation and maintenance of the world of confusion and suffering (samsara). To put it another way, ego robs us of experiencing the world in a fresh way moment-by-moment.
Again, the courtroom noisily erupts, spilling out all its discursive thought and exchanging gossip. What will the sentence be?
“All quiet in the courtroom” shouts a court official.
The judge pronounces sentence:
The court takes these charges very seriously. The suffering that Ego causes is enormous. But jail is not the answer. While it’s true that Ego keeps us imprisoned, putting ego in jail and throwing away the key would just be a form of resistance. It’s like putting your hand on a bedspring. When you remove your hand, what happens? The spring bounces back. If we put Ego down, it will just bounce back when we remove the restraints.
There will be no jail time. Instead, I propose an innovative solution to the problem of Ego. Put it under house arrest. Monitor its activity closely without judgement. In short, practice mindfulness and awareness.
And then the judge reads part of a poem by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche:
Ego continually tries to create and maintain its security through the constant chatter of thought, our constant thought process. That process keeps itself busy, and it allows you to regenerate yourself constantly. Your mind’s motor keeps running because you have been pouring the fuel of conceptual mind into it for a long time. If you don’t pour more fuel in, if you don’t go along with the thought process, ego is starved. It is no longer sustainable. ….. Boycott ego-not as a villain or an enemy-but don’t give it any fuel. Let ego have an energy crisis. That is the basic approach that Buddha developed, and it is still up-to-date.
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