17 The shadow of ego

What is selfishness? What is dharma? What is love?

When we say to someone ‘I love you’ it may come from ego, which is inseparable from language. It is therefore very difficult to investigate Zen, because ego is so close to us. Ego is behind our nose. Like a shadow ego follows us everywhere. This shadow cast by our ego hides deeply in our mind. Ego is a master thief which steals our mind and drives us. ‘I’ is a thief. Why?  ‘I’ arises from language and excess data. Who is pure ‘I?’ In the end, where does ‘I’ come from?

Everything here is interconnected. If we investigate Zen we will find our true Buddha nature. Enlightenment will give us an answer and our system will give us an answer. There is no birth and no death.

Our lives are lived in a highly competitive and challenging environment. People like to go to rural areas, into the mountains or beside rivers, for example. We take long holidays to release pressure. We enjoy fragrant flowers, and summer, and so on. We feel our troubled minds are more at ease. After we return from these escapes however, we must face again different kinds of people and situations. Our mind returns to state of war and nervousness, and we wait again for the next long holiday.

We may relax observing birds flitting from branch to branch, butterflies or busy bumble bees taking nectar from flowers. Then our minds quickly jump to thought again, and we must face a troubling situation such as an earthquake or our mortgages. Our minds are not always happy.

Why can’t we simply enjoy the beauty of nature?

Our minds haven’t really reached the mountains or the rivers or the beaches. When we simply contemplate the sky or nature with a pure mind we can truly enjoy natural beauty and be truly happy. However, knowledge mind is consciousness. Why do we find a flower beautiful or ugly? We must compare them to be able to make this distinction. We take our experiences and our knowledge mind to describe the flower. Is it a happy mind that enjoys a beautiful place? Our minds are unstable. Even when looking at the mountains or the birds we are not really happy. We have not truly relaxed our pressures. Answers arrive quickly from past experience, which has already been set up. Our labels such as beautiful, pure, bad and ugly are fixed. When we return to these beautiful places we may find that they have become overcrowded by tourists or full of litter. Then our view changes and we say that the place is now ugly. We can’t avoid the comparative mind.

It is necessary then to truly face our comparing mind and ask what our original ‘true face’ is. What is my true identity? The traditional Zen question asks, ‘what is your face before you were born?’ Once we know our true identity our minds will be pure and clear after awakening. We will know what we are doing, what we are eating, and so on. This is true reality. The reality of our true mind is neither happy nor unhappy. It is free of comparison. It is a holistic state of ego, which has surpassed language. We simply concentrate when we work and concentrate when we listen. We pay full attention. This simple act of concentration is liberation. There is no more coming and going, no death or birth, no happiness or unhappiness. This is our nature. Our mind is as peaceful as if it were sleeping.

When we sleep deeply we don’t know where we are, and yet we are not afraid. People facing death are afraid however, because they know that they are not just going to sleep.  When we are sleeping but not dying our bodies know this and enjoy and cope with the knowledge that we are only sleeping. We are not inhibited. Our mind is always active, continually reaching outside of itself in order to get something back. It is difficult to believe that we are simply downloading this information. Our eyes are always looking outwards.  Dharma is also constructed from an external source. It is difficult to look inside.

Some teachers say that your mind is in your heart, not your brain or your head. Some teachers say that your thinking is not your true mind. Some say that mind and heart are peaceful places and some say that the mind is in the heart. This is all language. We must investigate these questions: what is true happiness? What is permanent liberation? This is the way of dharma.

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