Sunday, January 19, 2003
This afternoon I took a call in the heat of a USENET debate. I related to my friend what I was doing and why I was so excited about it. I explained that the guy was playing right into my hands with his expectation-laden beliefs about vedanta and Self realization. My friend was amused and offered that I was excited because it was boosting my ego. That caught me by surprise, mostly because she was pretty much right.
But before you judge me for having an ego, let me explain.
I've always enjoyed a good USENET discussion. The practice has been efficiently edifying, especially when I encounter someone who ends up schooling me. I've learned the most when I've been shown just how much I didn't know, and the more humiliated I got, the greater the lesson was.
But in truth I sort of did it for the ego boost too. I guess it's an Aries thing. Some (many) might say it's an asshole thing, because I practiced real hard at being a self-righteous juggernaut of what I liked to believe was crushing rhetoric, spiced with wit.
But then at some point, something shifted. The thing that I was talking and debating, but not really knowing about, this far off ideal that I believed very few were pure enough to be blessed with, this understanding that I never ever expected to occur in my life... suddenly made a home there, and in a somewhat impure home at that. That was a shocker. The next shocker was discovering that I (and everyone else) had always possessed this understanding, even when I (or they) didn't see it. Another shocker was knowing that it didn't make "me" any different, even though this simple perceptual shift changes everything in a way. The final shocker was seeing how much of an idiot I had been (and maybe still am) on USENET.
If the "me" that was me in 1995 encountered the "me" that is writing this blog, 1995 would have made it his mission to present this writer as a grandiose and sadly deluded fraud. I was unable to see what Self realization was or how it might be expressed, but I was quite sure my ideas and expectations about it were as accurate as any could be. Never in the history of all time and space could I have been more wrong.
Every expectation about Self realization is dead wrong. Whatever you believe Self realization to be, it is guaranteed to not be that way. There is just no possible way for the mind to render something that is not a thought, feeling, belief, memory, or any combination of these.
But the fact is that we are always the Self and we've always known it. Self realization is the experiential understanding of this fact. But it would seem that for this recognition to occur, something has to go. People usually call that the ego, but Ramakrishna had another term. The "idea of me" is just what you would think it is, the idea that we are individuals. That is all that really keeps us from knowing ourselves as we really are, this idea that we are limited to the form of our body and the contents of our mind.
But losing this idea of me doesn't change how we've been as a me. That's been set by a lifetime's experience. It's a pattern that exists as some kind of code in the brain. We are the Self at all times, whether we know it or not. Why should coming to know ourselves as we really are change the things that we've been all along? The patterns of behavior known as the personality operate independently of being, allowing us to remain the one that we've always been in the full and complete knowledge that we were never that one.
So you may still get an ego boost every now and then, but only in the full and complete understanding that you were never the one who got boosted.