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A Mosaic of Traditions - One Virtual Sangha => The Dharma Express => Topic started by: overmyhead on January 08, 2010, 11:50:08 am

Title: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead on January 08, 2010, 11:50:08 am
I used to think of the Ego (self, atta, whatever) as this monstrous selfish beast, something that needs to be put down for the greater good.  I have been undergoing a change of thoughts, though.  Read this for its ... entertainment value only.   :cheesy:

Deceived by immediate pleasure/release, the ego is tricked into clinging to its own samsaric wheel of existence.  (The culprit is, perhaps, the biological functions subject to evolutionary selection, for whom survival is the only concern, not suffering, and which create and enslave this ego for their survival.)  Before long, the ego finds itself constantly under immense stress.  It is primary motivated by pleasure or the immediate release of stress (two sides of the same coin).  When pleasure is seeked that is offered through the aggregates, the ego is reinforced, and the stress only comes back stronger.  Pleasure/release that is not dependent on the ego, for example the pleasure of generosity or the pleasure of jhana, is genuine, and will not feed the ego.

The ego doesn't want to live - on the contrary, it wants to end, if anything (ironically, it is scared of death).  But from below, like a spring, the stuff of life is injected into the ego, the stuff that is unconsciously clung to and that allows the ego to cling to itself.  Aggregates, desires, thoughts.

The ego, to me, has undergone a transformation from selfish monster to tragic beast, tortured and enslaved, desiring only reprieve, but tricked into greater suffering.  It's no longer about putting it down, but about letting it end peacefully.  Remove the springs which feed it, and remove the clinging to those springs which remain, and the ego will be put to rest.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: humanitas on January 08, 2010, 12:19:31 pm
I as well, once upon a time perceived ego in this gross broadstroke style.  I've since come to realize it's far more elusive and sophisticated a process of internal decision making.  Ego is nothing more but the tool that we use to decide how we're going to live our life.  The problem I've had is when I let myself grow comfortable in my own me-ness and identity, then it's no longer just a tool that I can constructively use to awaken but a tool for its own sake.  There is something to say for the fact that ego ALWAYS comes to us in the guise of a friendly inner voice reassuring us that we're right, that we didn't do anything wrong, that we are seeing correctly and this is how ego becomes an empire that loses the usefulness of a tool for awakening.

My perceptions are still crass broadstrokes as I've moved from the big beast to the subtle beast.  But beast it is nonetheless most days.  But on some level I know that's an incorrect perception of ego.  At least there's a shred of progress where now and then I get a (maybe-real?) glimpse of how it's just a subtle but pivotal energy in my awareness that organizes and negotiates all my bodily functions, likes/dislikes, feelings about what I'm perceiving, etc.  If I had to picture a "structure of self," ego would be THE tiny screw that holds the whole thing together.  The only problem is sometimes we focus so much on the importance of this screw and act like the screw is the structure itself.  That is self-importance I think, thinking your tiny screw that holds your aggregates in an organized fashion IS the structure, the beginning and the end.  But it's not.   It's JUST a judging tool, the evaluator in us that allows us to benefit the most from our perception.  So if there are two plates and one is better food than the other, our ego energy is what determines our preference to one kind of food over another....  Ego...  It's just a screw in a larger illusory structure.  I'm learning to cherish my ego in a way that is actually compassionate and maternal, that is I acknowledge it daily, but attempt to whittle down the conditions one at a time that inflate that side of me too much... it requires a lot of self-reflection and acceptance.  I'm too judgmental this week, I know this little screw is screwing with me as I'm struggling to keep my cool a lot this week... Ego is also the self-importance when we're able to accomplish something, and we go, I'm so good, I'm so much better than most.  I just want to lash out at certain things, but I fortunately have enough of a speck of self-reflection to not do what it's been yelling at me to do (throw tantrums) and I've been just listening.  Oddly I've been noticing that my ego is like a child,  like it was my 2 year old daughter who has toddler meltdowns daily.   I resonate greatly with her struggle.  EVen though I'm a bit older, hopefully I will teach her to handle those energies of ego properly with practice and kindness to herself.

Apologies for the tangential references.  I'm trying to stay on topic.

 :namaste:
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur on January 08, 2010, 12:29:36 pm
... for example the pleasure of generosity or the pleasure of jhana, is genuine, and will not feed the ego.

This sentence may express very well that buddhism has been undermined by psychologisms. "ego" is an inappropriate concept in the context of buddhism.

Actually it is thus: if the pleasure of jhana feeds anything then it feeds the self and therefore perpetuates samsara. Also we do not need to look exclusively in the direction of the jhanas of the "pali based" traditions. We may find the same danger in Vajrayana.


Kind regards
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: humanitas on January 08, 2010, 12:43:35 pm
I will tend to agree with you here TM.  I as well have often felt that (pop)psych'isms have infiltrated and perhaps distorted the conception as it is in Buddhist canon.  I prefer the term self-importance to ego simply because self-importance is a simple enough feeling to recall.  We know when we feel important.  And we can isolate it easier than this mysterious stranger we call ego... I also don't like singling out this "ego" like it's a separate entity since it is not. 

Quote
Actually it is thus: if the pleasure of jhana feeds anything then it feeds the self and therefore perpetuates samsara.

This is interesting, can you explain it to me a little better?
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur on January 08, 2010, 01:05:19 pm
Quote
Actually it is thus: if the pleasure of jhana feeds anything then it feeds the self and therefore perpetuates samsara.

This is interesting, can you explain it to me a little better?

Really all masters agree that jhana being the goal of one's meditation practice due to clinging to this "pleasure" - or perhaps better "bliss" - first mentally and physically, then only mentally then more and more refined up to the so called 'peak of cyclic existence' - entails birth in the deva realms. "deva realm" is temporary happiness but not liberation. The Buddha in the Pali canon taught again and again that in order to attain liberation one has to drop these states and leave them behind.

Kind regards
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: humanitas on January 08, 2010, 01:25:02 pm
Quote
Actually it is thus: if the pleasure of jhana feeds anything then it feeds the self and therefore perpetuates samsara.

This is interesting, can you explain it to me a little better?

Really all masters agree that jhana being the goal of one's meditation practice due to clinging to this "pleasure" - or perhaps better "bliss" - first mentally and physically, then only mentally then more and more refined up to the so called 'peak of cyclic existence' - entails birth in the deva realms. "deva realm" is temporary happiness but not liberation. The Buddha in the Pali canon taught again and again that in order to attain liberation one has to drop these states and leave them behind.

Kind regards

Ok, so I need to go off topic for a minute for my next question (maybe start a new thread on deva realms if this evolves that way), overmyhead, I apologize for this. 

So when one practices meditation to uncover this clinging and expose it, one accumulates the potentials of a more refined view of self and mind, and this is what eventually gives one rebirth in the deva realms?

On the Deva realms (and I promise I'll split the topic if this is more than three posts long in this thread)...

I have studied a little from Gampopas Jewel Ornament and Patrul Rinpoche's WordsofmyPT.  When I had previously asked about the deva realms I'd gotten an explanation that while there is that happiness there is little incentive to refine further (am I thinking of the right thing deva realm=god realm?) so what potentials are accumulated unless used towards progress in awakening will exhaust and rebirth will occur in again and again.  So what I was told that human rebirth is even more precious than deva rebirth because there is the potential for awakening due to the very nature of the human mind, it has pain and pleasure so mixed and so close that it creates a favorable set of conditions for self-managing one's awakening.  I may have misunderstood this concept altogether and I may be completely butchering it and if I am I apologize.... and please correct me.  Are Devas still subject to samsara even though they might have more happiness?  And are Devas subject to "ego" as it is defined (self-importance, whatever you want to call it)?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Ogyen
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur on January 08, 2010, 01:52:21 pm
Quote
Actually it is thus: if the pleasure of jhana feeds anything then it feeds the self and therefore perpetuates samsara.

This is interesting, can you explain it to me a little better?

Really all masters agree that jhana being the goal of one's meditation practice due to clinging to this "pleasure" - or perhaps better "bliss" - first mentally and physically, then only mentally then more and more refined up to the so called 'peak of cyclic existence' - entails birth in the deva realms. "deva realm" is temporary happiness but not liberation. The Buddha in the Pali canon taught again and again that in order to attain liberation one has to drop these states and leave them behind.

Kind regards

Ok, so I need to go off topic for a minute for my next question (maybe start a new thread on deva realms if this evolves that way), overmyhead, I apologize for this.  

So when one practices meditation to uncover this clinging and expose it, one accumulates the potentials of a more refined view of self and mind, and this is what eventually gives one rebirth in the deva realms?
It is said that one leaves behind the afflictions of the desire realm when one enters the form realm state in meditation. But each realm has its specific remaining afflictions. Of course since we as humans associate our gross experiences in the desire realm with "samsara" the form or even formless state may appear very very elevating in comparison to the desire realm. This is what causes attachment. "Self" and "attachment" are really not separable. When this is that arises. In the form or formless state the "view"/"experience" of "self" may be very refined because the grossness of the desire realm is lacking.


When I had previously asked about the deva realms I'd gotten an explanation that while there is that happiness there is little incentive to refine further (am I thinking of the right thing deva realm=god realm?) so what potentials are accumulated unless used towards progress in awakening will exhaust and rebirth will occur in again and again.  
...
Are Devas still subject to samsara even though they might have more happiness?  And are Devas subject to "ego" as it is defined (self-importance, whatever you want to call it)?
If there is only bliss then that is the result of karma. This karma is also accumulated during  the corresponding meditation. It is said that the life if devas is very very long in comparison to human life which entails that really all positiv karmic accumulations are burned, i.e. consumed during a deva life so that once they die they will necessarily be reborn in hell since there are only bad accumulations left.


So what I was told that human rebirth is even more precious than deva rebirth because there is the potential for awakening due to the very nature of the human mind, it has pain and pleasure so mixed and so close that it creates a favorable set of conditions for self-managing one's awakening.
Exactly. When there is only bliss nothing but bliss why practice? You cannot even concentrate on practice since sweet bliss is so distracting.

Kind regards
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: humanitas on January 08, 2010, 02:07:52 pm
TMingyur, thank you for that explanation, that was very clarifying for me.

 :jinsyx:
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: Ron-the-Elder on January 08, 2010, 02:14:42 pm
Bottom line:  Anything in The 31 Planes of Existence, which includes the Jhana realms is subject to impermanence, dependent origination, kamma, and is therefore samsaric.  I don't think that the initiator of the quote you referenced was aware of this.

reference: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/mendis/wheel322.html#planes

Quote
The fine material sphere (ruupa loka) consists of sixteen planes. Beings take rebirth into these planes as a result of attaining the jhaanas. They have bodies made of fine matter. The sixteen planes correspond to the attainment of the four jhaanas as follows:

1.Three as a result of attaining the first jhaana:
A.brahma parisajjaa — realm of Brahma's retinue (12)
B.brahma purohitaa — realm of Brahma's ministers (13)
C.mahaa brahmaa — realm of great Brahmaa (14).
2.Three as a result of attaining the second jhaana:
A.parittaabhaa — realm of minor luster (15)
B.appamaanaabhaa — realm of infinite luster (16)
C.aabhassaraa — realm of radiant luster (17).
3.Three as a result of attaining the third jhaana:
A.paritta subhaa — realm of minor aura (18)
B.appamaanasubhaa — realm of infinite aura (19)
C.subha ki.nhaa — realm of steady aura (20)
4.Two as a result of attaining the fourth jhaana:
A.vehapphalaa — realm of great reward (21)
B.asaññasattaa — realm of mindless beings who have only bodies without consciousness. Rebirth into this plane results from a meditative practice aimed at the suppression of consciousness. Those who take up this practice assume release from suffering can be achieved by attaining unconsciousness. However, when the life span in this realm ends, the beings pass away and are born in other planes where consciousness returns. (22)
5.Five as a result of attaining the fruit of non-returning (anaagaamiphala), the third level of sanctity:
A.avihaa brahmaa — the durable realm (23)
B.atappaa brahmaa — the serence realm (24)
C.sudassaa brahmaa — the beautiful realm (25)
D.sudassii brahmaa — the clear-sighted realm (26)
E.akani.t.thaa brahmaa — the highest realm (27).
These five realms, called suddhaavaasaa or Pure Abodes, are accessible only to those who have destroyed the lower five fetters — self-view, sceptical doubt, clinging to rites and ceremonies, sense desires, and ill-will. They will destroy their remaining fetters — craving for fine material existence, craving for immaterial existence, conceit, restlessness and ignorance — during their existence in the Pure Abodes. Those who take rebirth here are called "non-returners" because they do not return from that world, but attain final nibbaana there without coming back.

The immaterial or formless sphere (aruupa loka) includes four planes into which beings are born as a result of attaining the formless meditations:

1.aakaasaanañcaayatana — sphere of infinity of space (28)
2.viññaa.nañcaayatana — sphere of infinity of consciousness (29)
3.aakiñcaññaayatana — sphere of nothingness (30)
4.neva — saññaa — naasaññaayatana — sphere of neither perception or non-perception (31).
Many may doubt the existence of these planes, but this is not surprising. Such doubt was known even in the Buddha's time. The Sa"myutta Nikaa (II, 254; SN 19.1) records that once, when the venerable Lakkhana and the venerable Mahaa Moggallaana were descending Vulture's Peak Hill, the latter smiled at a certain place. The venerable Lakkhana asked the reason for the smile but the venerable Mahaa Moggallaana told him it was not the right time to ask and suggested he repeat the question in the Buddha's presence. Later when they came to the Buddha, the venerable Lakkhana asked again. The venerable Mahaa Moggallaaana said:

"At the time I smiled I saw a skeleton going through the air. Vultures, crows and hawks followed it and plucked at it between the ribs while it uttered cries of pain. It occurred to me: 'How strange and astonishing, that a being can have such a shape, that the individuality can have such a shape!'"

The Buddha then said: "I too had seen that being but I did not speak about it because others would not have believed me. That being used to be a cattle butcher in Rajagaha."
[/quote/
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead on January 08, 2010, 04:35:38 pm
... for example the pleasure of generosity or the pleasure of jhana, is genuine, and will not feed the ego.

This sentence may express very well that buddhism has been undermined by psychologisms. "ego" is an inappropriate concept in the context of buddhism.

Actually it is thus: if the pleasure of jhana feeds anything then it feeds the self and therefore perpetuates samsara. Also we do not need to look exclusively in the direction of the jhanas of the "pali based" traditions. We may find the same danger in Vajrayana.


Kind regards

I made a mistake equating ego to self/atta.  Ego refers to a specific conceptual self, the one concerned with personal desires, not self in general.  My post was about Ego, not about self.

... for example the pleasure of generosity or the pleasure of jhana, is genuine, and will not feed the ego.

In the context of my previous comment, I think this quote makes sense.  The pleasure of jhana does not feed Ego, but it does feed self/atta on a grossly different level, which is why, as you say, it too must be left behind.  But in the meantime, the pleasure of jhana is useful for wrestling us away from that grossest level of self, the Ego.  Do you still take issue, TM?
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur on January 08, 2010, 09:51:55 pm
... for example the pleasure of generosity or the pleasure of jhana, is genuine, and will not feed the ego.

In the context of my previous comment, I think this quote makes sense.  The pleasure of jhana does not feed Ego, but it does feed self/atta on a grossly different level, which is why, as you say, it too must be left behind.  But in the meantime, the pleasure of jhana is useful for wrestling us away from that grossest level of self, the Ego.  Do you still take issue, TM?
We are just comparing perspectives. Perhaps you should explain why you prefer "ego" in this context? What meaning does this term evoke in your mind?

I think that there are contexts where the term "ego" is appropriate. I may be a bit biased here but to me it seems as if the term "ego" originates from psychology and/or psychoanalysis. It is not that "psychology and psychoanalysis" cannot ease the suffering of people but the way they do this and the phenomena they take as "given" to base their approach on are imo not compatible with the buddhist approach. E.g. sometimes it seems as if actually psychoanalysis wants to reinforce the "I" or a type of "I" considered to be more wholesome.

Kind regards
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead on January 08, 2010, 10:10:08 pm
When I think of self, I see it on many different levels.  Self as personal identity, self as consciousness, self as mind, self as god, self as whatever is given identity.  When I say Ego, I simply mean the personal self which appears to exist due to attachment to sensuality (including the attachment to sensuality in and of itself).  I am not giving it any psychoanalytic connotations.  Perhaps it is a poor choice of words if it is commonly inferred in the psychoanalytic sense.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur on January 08, 2010, 10:25:53 pm
When I think of self, I see it on many different levels.  Self as personal identity, self as consciousness, self as mind, self as god, self as whatever is given identity.  When I say Ego, I simply mean the personal self which appears to exist due to attachment to sensuality (including the attachment to sensuality in and of itself).
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".
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.
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.

Kind regards
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: Ron-the-Elder on January 08, 2010, 11:00:05 pm
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.

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.

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.

Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur on January 09, 2010, 12:08:47 am
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
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead 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.

Quote
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.

Quote
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.  
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: humanitas 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:
Ogyen.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur on January 09, 2010, 12:36:22 am
Quote
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:
Quote
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


Quote
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
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: Ron-the-Elder 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
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: Ron-the-Elder on January 09, 2010, 08:50:48 am
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. 
   

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.

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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. 
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: Ron-the-Elder 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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Posts: 60


    Re: Meaningful Quotes
« Reply #4 on: Today at 03:45:38 AM » Quote Modify Remove Split Topic 

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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
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: Ron-the-Elder 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:
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur 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
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: Ron-the-Elder 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur 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
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead 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.

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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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: humanitas 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.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: TMingyur on January 10, 2010, 01:56:57 pm
For example, it was through logical analysis that I discovered that all dualistic modes of thinking lead to intractable paradoxes, ...
:)
Actually this is the basis on which all of Nagarjuna's reasonings and Prasangika Madhyamaka reasonings take place. Their reasoning is aimed at disarming any (philosophically) realistic affirming assertion. Therefore usually they do not apply autonomous syllogisms (prove statements) but reasonings that inevitably entail  "unwanted" (by the opponent) consequences.

Kind regards
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: overmyhead on January 10, 2010, 02:34:26 pm
Quote
to me this sounds like the cultivation of both patience and faith.

This path definitely requires patience and restraint.  During dry stretches when no progress is made, it can be tempting to return to the comforting arms of sensuality and pride.  And on the other side, it can be tempting to spin out of control obsessing about this or that idea or paradox.  There is a thin line, and I suppose it can only be faith that motivates me to walk it.

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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", that loss resulting methodically taking down one's own weaker falser notions, that which is are not ultimately or relativeley(?) true, the gradual exposure of what is indestructible truth and what "can hold up in clear daylight."  Just an observation, nothing more.

Mostly right.  Ideally, the beliefs are not mine or not-mine, they just do their own thing, and the "winner" gets noted.  In practice though, the self clings to this or that belief.  And as far as I'm aware, there is not going to be any "indestructible truth".  All truths are empty, etc.  However, certain truths are much "better" than others in that they influence intentions and insight in a way that helps us along the path.
Title: Re: Thoughts on Ego
Post by: humanitas on January 10, 2010, 02:39:36 pm
And as far as I'm aware, there is not going to be any "indestructible truth".  All truths are empty, etc.  However, certain truths are much "better" than others in that they influence intentions and insight in a way that helps us along the path.

Apologies for my inaccurate point.  What I meant by indestructible was relatively indestructible.  As you progress you uncover the nonsense from the gems, the indestructible would be the gems of truth that carry throughout your whole life.  I could even go so far as to say that the gem is the essence of your experience of emptiness, that which continues to stay true in your life, in essence compassion at its finest skill.
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