Just answering some questions and remarks made to me in an email which was part of an ongoing conversation on spiritual enlightenment, identification and ego. First up are the readers comments:
You have talked about ego being the ‘identification’ with a thought, emotion, action, experience. In effect, ego is saying: that thought is MY thought, that action is MY action, that emotion/sensation is MY emotion/sensation.
But, as you also noted, these thoughts/emotions/sensations are just ‘stuff’ filling an empty vessel.
And I think this is an important distinction that needs to be realized here.
I think there is a confusion around thoughts, emotions, all that is ‘experienced’. You recently made some comments to me related to this. And that is: the existence of what is experienced versus the falseness or illusion of what is experienced. Two very different points. Just because perceived reality is false, or an illusion, does not mean it doesn’t exist – that which we call reality is a dream or illusion. The problem is it sure doesn’t seem that way when looking through the lens of ego.
The sages say that it is possible to look through another different lens – but when stuck in ego, such a non-ego perspective is beyond comprehension and almost beyond imagination. Another problem is – how would you know the difference?
Many seem to think that not only is ego bad but then so are thoughts because they think that thoughts/thinking is ego and therefore the way to get rid of ego is to get rid of thoughts. But that’s not the point. Thoughts, emotions, actions, the ‘experience’ of life/reality, while false/illusory – still exists. It is the belief that these thoughts/experiences are both real/true, and are ‘me, that is the basis of ego. Thoughts, emotions, actions, the ‘experience’ of life/reality does not ever go away – correct me if I’m wrong, but even the enlightened think, have emotions, act, and experience life/reality through the physical senses – all that doesn’t go away with enlightenment/truth realization.
Yes ego is not the thought or emotion or sensation, it is the identification with these thoughts and emotions etc. along with the accompanying belief that you possess them and in some way are in control of them. Its the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves. A good question to ponder is are these sensations something we own or are they just occurring and after they occur we take take ownership of them?
On knowing the difference, you as a human being do not have to know the difference. Abiding in non-dual awareness is not having non-dual thoughts, or non-dual emotions. It is the direct experience of the Absolute which cannot be comprehended by the human mind. We would be wise to take note that “abiding in non-dual awareness” is written neither as one-awareness, presence- awareness, unity-awareness, consciousness awareness, now-awareness, or loving-awareness, personal awareness, or any other type of awareness. We would equally be wise to recognize that almost every one, attempts to make it something other than non-dual awareness.
That is why this little verse from the Tao Te Ching resonates so much:
The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly free of desire
One observes its wonders
Constantly filled with desire
One observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders
Also I don’t think the sages are saying there is a different lens to look through, spiritual enlightenment is the shattering of the lens altogether. To me what the sages are attempting to say however is that a different perspective can be achieved for the human being. It is not a new lens, rather the old lens has been cleansed, and all the grime that was once covering it was removed. Experientially, it may feel like a new lens, but it is the same lens employed before, it’s only that lens is now crystal clear.
Thoughts as they relate to the “enlightened” your confusing enlightenment as some type of transformative experience which relates to the human being.
Thoughts, emotions, sensations, actions come and go without identification. In my experience all that has dropped is anxiety and fear and for others it may be different, they may have anxiety but are filled with compassion as one example. In terms of fear and anxiety, the body may experience a flight/fight response, e.g. dog barking and startling me, but the ensuing anxiety or fear that often accompanies that dissipates extremely rapidly and with each passing year, there is less and less of that. Aside from that, I experience every other emotion fully, in fact, I would say there is more connection with emotion now than before, because they are not clung to and turned into states of despair, heavy sadness, depression etc… So yes, nothing much has changed on this front, except the identification with these things as being something that I own, possess, control in any way shape or form. They are seen for what they are, things that pass on the screen of consciousness and leave the screen, if let alone. They are no longer clung to and allowed to come and go as they please.
But here is the thing, in the above; I am describing an awakened dream state, not enlightenment itself. The above is just another part of the show, albeit a different show. This is always known in consciousness; it’s just another part of the dream realm, another possibility of the dream unfolding. In other words, from the perspective of ‘Eddie” it’s still a subjective experience and has no more basis in ultimate reality than the thoughts, emotions etc. perceived before enlightenment.
A thought in itself can be said to be enlightened. These very words can be said to be enlightened as every single word ever written in the history of humankind are enlightened, since they all spring from the same source. But the identification with the thought as being something your mind possess and controls, is the grand illusion.
Underpinning all that is the direct experience of the absolute- abiding in non-dual awareness, but the confusing there for seekers is they think the body/mind is the one doing the abiding, where in fact it is the absolute that is abiding in non-dual awareness and this is what everyone is, except of course remove the everyone part.
Spiritual enlightenment does not need to occur for emotions, thoughts, sensations etc to flow in this manner. It helps that there is no longer identification yes, but any human being could function in the same way if they set there mind to it. What does have to occur is the cleansing of the lens, the letting go of control, understanding the nature of ego and how to overcome all the associated beliefs at a conscious and unconscious level. And that is only scratching the surface of the lens.
“Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm at the end
as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching