(Prologue: I’ve got first-hand experience that a real understanding of the laws of karma can substantially change our lives for the better. I created this weblog to share information and personal experience with others. May it be beneficial!)
What warning did Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche never tire of repeating? It’s this: the more senior we become in practice and study of the Shambhala Buddhist teachings, the more subtle ego gets.
First, here’s how I’m using the word “ego”:
Ego is the absence of true knowledge of who we really are, together with its result: a doomed clutching on, at all costs, to a cobbled together and makeshift image of ourselves, an inevitably chameleon charlatan self that keeps changing, and has to, to keep alive the fiction of its existence.
In Tibetan, ego is called dakdzin , which means “grasping to a self.” Ego is then defined as incessant movements of grasping at a delusory notion of “I” and “mine,” self and other, and all the concepts, ideas, desires, and activities that will sustain that false construction.
Such grasping is futile from the start and condemned to frustration, for there is no basis or truth in it, and what we are grasping at is by its very nature ungraspable. The fact that we need to grasp at all and to go on grasping shows that in the depths of our being we know that the self doesn’t inherently exist. From this secret, unnerving knowledge spring all our fundamental insecurities and fears. (Italics are mine.)
(source: Rigpa Glimpse of the Day February 10, 2011)
So what is it that has become more subtle as we advance and become senior students?
Its [the Sadhana of Mahamudra] essential teaching is that the nature of the practice itself undercuts any ideas of spiritual materialism. The practice addresses the subtle corruption that can take place when our spiritual practice makes us feel superior to others and we become engaged in rebuilding the fortress of ego. <emphasis mine>
Senior students and practitioners have done years of work on understanding ego. We have experienced, to some extent, what I call the Humpty-Dumpty syndrome.
But the danger lies in going into GUT mode:
- Grasping onto this understanding;
- Using advanced knowledge to feel superior to others; and,
- Turning it into just one more way to build ego back up again.
OK. That’s the summary of the webpost. Now let’s examine a little more.
We’ve all seen a young child who screams “Mine! Mine!” when another child takes his\her toy away. As adults we go through a more complex process, something I call “ego’s check-list.”
- We cause someone suffering.
- On the inner plane, we then justify our actions by blaming the person to whom we caused that suffering.
- On the outer plane, we turn to our friends to boost our “cause” and to prove that we are still “somebodies.”
- And the final step is to try to turn our friends against the person to whom we caused that suffering in the first place.
Ego is leading us by the nose. And in our vast ignorance we go willingly. This kind of behaviour is what Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche calls “the Me plan.”
….out of ignorance come negative emotions, which produce more harmful acts, which make the dark age darker.
In contrast to this behaviour, more evolved students — the students who are devoted to actually living the dharma rather than just teaching it — can say “I caused suffering. I feel remorse. I hope I do not do that again.”
However, some senior students fall into the trap of feeling superior to others. This produces negative karma because we have used our advanced knowledge to “rebuild the fortress of ego,” by once again going through “ego’s checklist” described three paragraphs above.
Another way to put this is that the antidote (the dharma teachings) has become the obstacle (we’ve allowed ego to misuse the teachings).
The result? Like compound interest, the initial negative karma that we have “deposited” into our karmic account by causing suffering now compounds itself. In other words, we not only have the original negative karma. We have now also added to it.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche suggests an antidote to ego’s tremendous influence:
…you are encouraged to say to your ego, “You have created tremendous trouble for me, and I don’t like you. You have caused me so much trouble by making me wander in the lower realms of samsara. I have no desire to hang around with you. I’m going to destroy you. This ‘you’ — who are you anyway., Go away! I don’t like you. <source: Chogyam Trungpa and Carolyn Gimian: The Collected Works of Chogyam Trungpa: The path is the goal…; in the chapter entitled “The Utilization of Practice,” in section entitled “Reproach” page 185; published by Shambhala Publications>
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