Author Topic: Thoughts on Ego  (Read 4321 times)

overmyhead

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2010, 12:16:07 am »
That's interesting. Except "self as god" the "self" you are referring to seems to correspond to what I know as "the self being falsely apprehended as being 'one with the aggregates'" where 'one with the aggregates' may mean "one with all" or "one with individual aggregates".

I must confess I personally can not see the "self as god", however I infer that some people are thus deluded when I hear about beliefs in the immanent god or universal atman.

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The other misapprehension is "the self being falsely apprehended as being 'different from the aggregates'". That may correspond to "self as god" and/or to that the term "ego" as you apply it refers to.

I don't draw this line.  My "ego" can apprehend itself as one with the aggregates, or separate from the aggregates, or neither.  My "ego" simply is, and acts in a manner which supports, clinging to the personal object.  (The personal object is the object denoted by one's given name, which can fluctuate.)  I find it practical to think simply in terms of the intentions which lead to, and arise from, clinging - the delusional "ego" as an object-in-itself is not sharply discernible, except as name/form (e.g., given name, physical body), and it is clearly much broader and ambiguous than that.

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When you say "Ego ... which appears to exist due to attachment to sensuality" you seem to reverse the perspective I am familiar with: That initially there is this false  apprehension of the "self" - or the "I" - which then causes the afflictions attachment belongs to.

I would say that the dual set of descriptions are co-dependently arisen.  Two sides of the same coin, etc.  As soon as clinging can be discerned, there is self (even if recognized as delusional).  Where there is self, there is clinging.

So, what is the point of even bothering to discuss such concepts.  All of these and anything else that you could think of or name are impermanent and dependently arisen and therefore insubstantial, not to be relied upon, to be igonored, to be abandoned.

Of course I recognize that, ultimately, all concept of self must be abandoned.  In the meantime I categorize phenomena as well as possible, approximations though they may be, in ways which aid my examination into the nature of reality and cessation.  Chop phenomenal experience into this and that, observe, manipulate, analyze, suppress certain factors, encourage others, rinse, repeat.  Eventually the mind is pure enough to do away with ad hoc categorization, but in the meantime, as long as I don't mistake theory for reality...    Note that the aggregates are just as empty and impermanent as any other phenomena, but they are nonetheless worth thinking about, because categorizing phenomenal experience in this way has practical utility.

In general I agree with you that I must be careful not to overindulge in theorizing, and it's very likely that I do a little too much theorizing myself, but in this particular case, I think discussion is justified.  

Offline humanitas

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2010, 12:24:12 am »
Of course I recognize that, ultimately, all concept of self must be abandoned.  In the meantime I categorize phenomena as well as possible, approximations though they may be, in ways which aid my examination into the nature of reality and cessation.  Chop phenomenal experience into this and that, observe, manipulate, analyze, suppress certain factors, encourage others, rinse, repeat.  Eventually the mind is pure enough to do away with ad hoc categorization, but in the meantime, as long as I don't mistake theory for reality...    Note that the aggregates are just as empty and impermanent as any other phenomena, but they are nonetheless worth thinking about, because categorizing phenomenal experience in this way has practical utility.

 :sun: i get this feeling that this is a very core part of your process and method of discovery, I could be wrong, it's just a sense I've gotten from you...  If I am perceiving that correctly I am so happy for you that you can see it so clearly in a way that supports your practice on the path!  :cheer:

In general I agree with you that I must be careful not to overindulge in theorizing, and it's very likely that I do a little too much theorizing myself, but in this particular case, I think discussion is justified. 

There are drawbacks to any overindulgence right?  :hug:

 :headbow:
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TMingyur

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2010, 12:36:22 am »
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The other misapprehension is "the self being falsely apprehended as being 'different from the aggregates'". That may correspond to "self as god" and/or to that the term "ego" as you apply it refers to.

I don't draw this line.  My "ego" can apprehend itself as one with the aggregates, or separate from the aggregates, or neither.  
Well then this is an un-conventional re-naming of "I" or "self" as "ego". The convention referred to here being the buddhist convention.

My "ego" simply is, and acts in a manner which supports, clinging to the personal object.  (The personal object is the object denoted by one's given name, which can fluctuate.)  I find it practical to think simply in terms of the intentions which lead to, and arise from, clinging - the delusional "ego" as an object-in-itself is not sharply discernible, except as name/form (e.g., given name, physical body), and it is clearly much broader and ambiguous than that.
"Intention" is "sankhara" the 2nd link. And yes, "the delusional ["I"] as an object-in-itself is not sharply discernible, except as name/form."

You may want to compare with this:
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sometimes the "I" will seem to exists in the context of the body. sometimes it will seem to exist in the context of the mind. sometimes it will seem to exist in the context of the other individual aggregates [feelings, discriminations, and compositional factors]. at the end of the arising of such a variety of modes of appearance, you will come to identify an "I" that exists in its own right, that exists inherently, that from the start is self-established, existing undifferentiatedly with the mind and body which are also mixed like milk and water.
this is the first essential [in meditation on the selflessness of "I"], the ascertainment of the object to be negated in the view of selflessness. you should analyse until deep experience of it arises. having generated such in your mental continuum, you thereby crystallize an identification of the "I" conceived by the innate consciousness conceiving "I" as able to set itself up within the context that it and your own aggregates are like water put into water.
5th Dalai Lama


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When you say "Ego ... which appears to exist due to attachment to sensuality" you seem to reverse the perspective I am familiar with: That initially there is this false  apprehension of the "self" - or the "I" - which then causes the afflictions attachment belongs to.

I would say that the dual set of descriptions are co-dependently arisen.  Two sides of the same coin, etc.  As soon as clinging can be discerned, there is self (even if recognized as delusional).  Where there is self, there is clinging.
Clinging and apprehension of "self" re-inforce each other. This is the aspect of inter-dependency. However I think that initially there is an distinct very brief instant of self-"impulse" before clinging to an object can occur because clinging is based on the dichotomy "self and other" and without apprehension of "self" there cannot be apprehension of "other" to cling to.

We should also differentiate between the innate view of self (that you may call "ego") which is sort of an "impulse" but is already an "early concept" and the acquired view of "self" which is caused by philosophies/religions through learning.

Kind regards
« Last Edit: January 09, 2010, 12:42:55 am by TMingyur »

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2010, 08:24:32 am »

Your responses were understood and are respected.  Thank you for the excellent way in which you presented them.  I appreciate your kindness and admire your skill.

However, there are two cases at hand which always get in the way of meaningfull communications when discussing the false notions and delusional identifications of self.  In the one case we must deal with the practical requirements of the mundane world.  Your observations clearly apply and are very well constructed.

Buddhas words with regard to the insubstantiality of concepts of self, the debating and arguing about them, perhaps endlessly, causes the mind to focus on issues which cause a false and delusional self picture to arise:  The so-called Ego, and associations dear to this false self, longings for being, perseverative lusting for becoming, which are endless, and attachments to that which causes only suffering, stress, and disatisfaction because they are dependently arisen, subject to kamma, and impermanent.  These are The Dhamma above the mundane view.  Buddha taught that Arahants are aware of this and out of necessity speak in mundane parlance to the general community.  But, Arahants also see the greater than mundane view with regard to self, the lack of which keeps the rest of us in samsara.

Unfortunately, in this samsaric realm in which we currently exist, we must learn to deal with both skillfully.

Hope this clarifies my meaning and my intentions.
 :hug:
The common meaning of ego is "self picture".  Since there is nothing mental, nothing corporeal, no social affiliation such as family, friends, institutions, nor posessions, nor accomplishments, nor experiences which can be named which are the self, then all of these are not self.
If there were a "common meaning" then there would not be definitions. And since there are many definitions each depending on its own context there arises the need to discuss the meaning as it is applied by users of this forum in specific contexts.

So, what is the point of even bothering to discuss such concepts. 
See above.

All of these and anything else that you could think of or name are impermanent and dependently arisen and therefore insubstantial, not to be relied upon, to be igonored, to be abandoned.
It is simply so: if you are communicating using terms and terminology there arises the need to know what is the intended meaning of words applied in the context of the conversation. If "insubstantial, not to be relied upon, to be igonored, to be abandoned" is all you think is needed to say then there would be no need for a forum like this and there would be no need for all these different sutras.

What you think about such things, and/or how you describe such concepts leads only to pain, suffering, disatisfaction and are not conducive to the development of Right View:  There is suffering, there is a cause to suffering, there is a means to end suffering, The Way is The Noble Eight Fold Path, The Middle Way, the way to nibbana.
You seem to ignore that "Right view" is dependent on concepts.

Kind regards
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2010, 08:50:48 am »
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Posted by: overmyhead: Of course I recognize that, ultimately, all concept of self must be abandoned.  In the meantime I categorize phenomena as well as possible, approximations though they may be, in ways which aid my examination into the nature of reality and cessation.  Chop phenomenal experience into this and that, observe, manipulate, analyze, suppress certain factors, encourage others, rinse, repeat.  Eventually the mind is pure enough to do away with ad hoc categorization, but in the meantime, as long as I don't mistake theory for reality...    Note that the aggregates are just as empty and impermanent as any other phenomena, but they are nonetheless worth thinking about, because categorizing phenomenal experience in this way has practical utility.

In general I agree with you that I must be careful not to overindulge in theorizing, and it's very likely that I do a little too much theorizing myself, but in this particular case, I think discussion is justified. 
   

I think we are saying the same thing.  You clearly have a firm grasp of the topic.

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CAUTION:  When we focus on the problem, the problem gets larger.  When we focus on the solution, the solution gets larger.
Therefore, The Noble Eight Fold Path was given to us by Buddha for it to be the primary focus in our lives.  Right View is the beginning and the end of this process.  Why waste what precious time we have left ( ostensibly me, more so than you ) when the house is literally burning down by arguing and debating the mundane when we have yet to truly discover the supra-mundane nature of The Dhamma.

(Remember this little guy we both liked?)-----> :onfire:

This is all that I am saying.  And yes, I agree that a discussion has educational value.  However, whenever such a discussion begins, it evolves into a debate, which leads to defensive posturing, which leads only to suffering, stress, and disatisfaction.

So, what is the point of even bothering to discuss such concepts.  All of these and anything else that you could think of or name are impermanent and dependently arisen and therefore insubstantial, not to be relied upon, to be igonored, to be abandoned.

Quote
Posted by: overmyhead: Of course I recognize that, ultimately, all concept of self must be abandoned.  In the meantime I categorize phenomena as well as possible, approximations though they may be, in ways which aid my examination into the nature of reality and cessation.  Chop phenomenal experience into this and that, observe, manipulate, analyze, suppress certain factors, encourage others, rinse, repeat.  Eventually the mind is pure enough to do away with ad hoc categorization, but in the meantime, as long as I don't mistake theory for reality...    Note that the aggregates are just as empty and impermanent as any other phenomena, but they are nonetheless worth thinking about, because categorizing phenomenal experience in this way has practical utility.

In general I agree with you that I must be careful not to overindulge in theorizing, and it's very likely that I do a little too much theorizing myself, but in this particular case, I think discussion is justified. 
« Last Edit: January 09, 2010, 02:32:23 pm by 0gyen Chodzom, Reason: incorrect quote source. Quotation not authored by overmyhead, not 0gyen :) »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2010, 09:44:25 am »
Found this during this mornings scan of recent posts:

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  Optimus Prime
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« Reply #4 on: Today at 03:45:38 AM » Quote Modify Remove Split Topic 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Towards the end of his life, Ajahn Chah used to like asking people,  "If you can't go forwards, you can't go backwards and you can't stand still, where do you go?"

Usually, this would bring a perplexed look on the visitor's face and they'd say, "Sideways?"  Nope - can't go there.  "Climb upstairs?" they'd continue.  Nope, can't go there either.  Can't go forward, back, sideways, up or down and you can't stop still either, where do you go?

In Ajahn Chah's very last message to Ajahn Sumedho he sent a letter (bear in mind that Ajahn Chah hardly ever wrote letters to anyone) from Thailand to England:

"Whenever you have feelings of love or hate for anything whatsoever, these will be your aides and partners in building paramita.  The Buddha Dharma is not to be found in moving forwards, nor in moving backwards, nor in standing still.  This, Sumedho, is your place of non-abiding." 

So that was Ajahn Chah's final instructions to Ajahn Sumedho. 

So to the thinking mind, that's tied to the conditioned world and our senses - then we sort of splutter and fume and whimper, "What was he talking about?  This is all totally stupid, what am I doing wasting my time with these people?"  But what he's saying is that as long as we are identified with the body, the feeling of self, with time, with place, then there's no answer - it's a completely confusing conundrum. 

But if there's the letting go of self, a letting go of time, a letting go of place, then there's no problem.  Forwards, backwards, stillness - those are all to do with past and future, to do with 3-Dimensional location, to do with a "me" who is some "where" based on this "body".  But if that's let go of, if there's a letting go of identification with the body, a letting go of time, we see that Dhamma is akhaliko, it's timeless.  Let go of location, of place, then we find ourself in a place of deathlessness.

- Ajahn Amaro's audio dhamma talk "Dhamma Reflection within the Still Mind" from www.abhayagiri.org
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

overmyhead

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2010, 05:40:24 pm »
Well then this is an un-conventional re-naming of "I" or "self" as "ego". The convention referred to here being the buddhist convention.

Indeed.  I started this thread whimsically without understanding what I meant by "ego", and only after the ensuing discussion did I figure out what I meant.  I probably won't use the term any more.

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Clinging and apprehension of "self" re-inforce each other. This is the aspect of inter-dependency. However I think that initially there is an distinct very brief instant of self-"impulse" before clinging to an object can occur because clinging is based on the dichotomy "self and other" and without apprehension of "self" there cannot be apprehension of "other" to cling to.

You may be right.  This is deeper than I am able to penetrate.

overmyhead

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2010, 05:53:21 pm »
Ron, I appreciate your concern.  When I first started posting here I used to get sucked into debates, and get emotionally involved in the "outcome" (as if one could be agreed on).  I now get involved in such discourse sparingly - only when I think I have something to learn, no longer to prove I'm right or such nonsense.  TMingyur and I in particular have a dry style of conversing, which can seem like debating, but it's not really.  It's good having people to talk to who can (and are willing to) point out my logical errors.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #23 on: January 09, 2010, 05:58:29 pm »
Ron, I appreciate your concern.  When I first started posting here I used to get sucked into debates, and get emotionally involved in the "outcome" (as if one could be agreed on).  I now get involved in such discourse sparingly - only when I think I have something to learn, no longer to prove I'm right or such nonsense.  TMingyur and I in particular have a dry style of conversing, which can seem like debating, but it's not really.  It's good having people to talk to who can (and are willing to) point out my logical errors.

Enjoy!   :hug:

Let me know how your data collection is going in forty years or so.   :wink1:
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

overmyhead

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #24 on: January 09, 2010, 11:52:47 pm »
What data collection?  There is no library of debates or theoretical knowledge.  Logical analysis is applied in the context of the present, and helps form understanding of the present.  Then it is discarded with the present.  Clinging to old logical conclusions, in the face of a rapidly changing context, would be outright foolish.

TMingyur

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2010, 12:05:52 am »
Clinging to old logical conclusions, in the face of a rapidly changing context, would be outright foolish.

That depends on the object of knowledge concerned. E.g. mindfulness can be seen as remembrance of valid former conclusions.

Kind regards

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2010, 03:17:25 am »
What data collection?  There is no library of debates or theoretical knowledge.  Logical analysis is applied in the context of the present, and helps form understanding of the present.  Then it is discarded with the present.  Clinging to old logical conclusions, in the face of a rapidly changing context, would be outright foolish.

My suggestion, since you are sceptical regarding Buddha's advice to avoid debates and arguments regarding views and perspectives, and that attachment to them will cause suffering, stress, and disatisfaction, was to collect data regarding your feelings and emotions after each one of your episodes of participation in such ventures and thereby know for yourself if you are experiencing pleasure and happiness as a result or not.  This is a standard behavior modification techniques, which you may find helpful should you decide to give it a try.

As for discarding "the present", If you would care to share,  how do you go about doing that?  Just curious.
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

TMingyur

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #27 on: January 10, 2010, 03:26:58 am »
I think Ron's approach is certainly a valid one, however not the only valid one.
It appears to me as if indicating where he is coming from: a certain type of "renunciation". That means: If one has not the capacity to deal with certain situations and potential emotions arising when being exposed to such situations one simply avoids these situations. IMO this is a somehow "narrower" interpretation of "renunciation" practiced (not exclusively) in pali based traditions. This approach is not wrong at all, but it is one of several approaches and may be an appropriate approach at least in the beginning and/or intermittently. Later one may see that there is no need at all for disturbing emotions to arise or recognize the nature of these emotions or remain continously in a meditative state which then renders avoidance unnecessary. It is simply a choice each individual has how to deal with certain potentially "dangerous" situations and one should accept the individual choice and not try to dictate modes of behaviours. And of course if one chooses one approach and later finds out that it is beyond one's current capacity one may simply revise and turn to "avoidance". Also there may be different times when the one and then the other approach is more appropriate since circumstances are impermanent.
I would recommend not to fear disturbances arising from not-knowing and totally avoid them but to learn to deal with them ... sometimes through seeking potentially "dangerous"  situations and e.g. introspetively observing one's own "state".


Kind regards
« Last Edit: January 10, 2010, 04:09:54 am by TMingyur »

overmyhead

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2010, 01:40:55 pm »
My suggestion, since you are sceptical regarding Buddha's advice to avoid debates and arguments regarding views and perspectives, and that attachment to them will cause suffering, stress, and disatisfaction, was to collect data regarding your feelings and emotions after each one of your episodes of participation in such ventures and thereby know for yourself if you are experiencing pleasure and happiness as a result or not.  This is a standard behavior modification techniques, which you may find helpful should you decide to give it a try.

Ah okay, I misunderstood what you meant.  I admit that engaging in analytical thinking/debating (with oneself or others) does cause stress in the here and now, and sometimes causes a lot of stress.  The fruits of these endeavors are delayed.  And the fact is that I just don't care about happiness or pleasure - I'm okay with the fact that most sessions yield no benefit and just cause frustration in the here and now.  A precious few, however, yield earth-shattering insights.  For example, it was through logical analysis that I discovered that all dualistic modes of thinking lead to intractable paradoxes, and led me to accept non-dualism.  I would not be on this path were it not for that insight.

We all have beliefs, and we all cling to them.  Debating (with oneself or others) allows one to expose certain beliefs as untenable, contradictory, or counter-productive, and so to give them up without requiring that one gets lucky with direct insight.  I have found that almost all of my logical insights have been in the form of negations of beliefs - "this can not be so!"  Debate for me is a method of strategical renunciation.

Quote
As for discarding "the present", If you would care to share,  how do you go about doing that?  Just curious.

I wrote, "[logical analysis] is discarded with the present".  The present discards itself.  I just refrain from clinging to conclusions or thoughts, and they therefore discard themselves along with the present.

Offline humanitas

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Re: Thoughts on Ego
« Reply #29 on: January 10, 2010, 01:51:20 pm »
Ah okay, I misunderstood what you meant.  I admit that engaging in analytical thinking/debating (with oneself or others) does cause stress in the here and now, and sometimes causes a lot of stress.  The fruits of these endeavors are delayed.  And the fact is that I just don't care about happiness or pleasure - I'm okay with the fact that most sessions yield no benefit and just cause frustration in the here and now.  A precious few, however, yield earth-shattering insights.  For example, it was through logical analysis that I discovered that all dualistic modes of thinking lead to intractable paradoxes, and led me to accept non-dualism.  I would not be on this path were it not for that insight.

to me this sounds like the cultivation of both patience and faith.

We all have beliefs, and we all cling to them.  Debating (with oneself or others) allows one to expose certain beliefs as untenable, contradictory, or counter-productive, and so to give them up without requiring that one gets lucky with direct insight.  I have found that almost all of my logical insights have been in the form of negations of beliefs - "this can not be so!"  Debate for me is a method of strategical renunciation.

If I may interject in this exchange, what you are describing as "strategical renunciation" strikes me as the annhilation of delusion -- that is the meeting what is perceived by the dualistic mind as "other from self" and clashing it head on with one's notions into the battlefield of one's pride, and losing against the "other from self perception" or the mountain we perceive as "that which cannot be annihilated by one mind."  The continual losses on that battlefield of pride result in methodically letting go of one's own weaker falser notions, that which is are not ultimately or relatively(?) true, the gradual exposure of what is indestructible truth and what "can hold up in clear daylight."  Just an observation, nothing more.  As usual, apologies if very jumbled..

 :headbow:
Ogyen.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2010, 01:56:44 pm by 0gyen Chodzom »
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