Although less than before, the word “ego” is still used in some teachings, often talked about as something substantial, something that resists change, something that functions as a straitjacket. Even – sometimes – as something that is implicitly or explicitly bad, evil, holding us back, to be overcome, and so on.
Belief in the idea of I
When I look at it, all I find is just a belief in an idea. A belief in the idea of “I”, and placed on something finite – usually part of our human self, or placed on something that is not really finite, but certainly just a segment of what is, the seeing, the witness.
And from this belief comes all the things we associate with “ego”: sense of separation, sense of being an object in the world, resistance, narrowness, self-centeredness, protectiveness, rigidity, stuckness, blind attractions and repulsions, and so on.
There is just an innocent and temporary mistake, resulting in a wide range of phenomena in our human lives – most of which creates a sense of drama, and of suffering.
It all comes from an unexamined belief. A core belief, which forms our whole outlook on life and the world, and how we live our lives. I does have dramatic consequences. But it is still an innocent mistake. And not even a mistake, it just is. It is part of being human today, and has been for generations.
As soon as we see through this belief, as soon as we realize that no phenomena – no segment of what is, has any inherent “I” in it, then we drop it as a hot coal as some say. There is no struggle. Nothing to resist. Nothing to fight. Only the seeing of it. Then the rest happens on its own.
Before this happens, here is a habitual sense of self, and it is unexamined. It seems very real, very substantial. I believe in the idea of “I” and place it on some parts of this human self. I am an object in the world. I am here, everything else is out there. From this, the whole human drama is created and plays itself out.
Then, there is an intuition of selflessness, a hunch, a glimpse, a taste of it. And we cannot really believe in it any longer, although the vague habitual sense of self may still hang around for a while. It is a habitual pattern, after all. Here, when I look I find myself as that in which the whole world of phenomena plays itself out, including my human self.
Finally, after more exploring, more glimpses, more tastes, it shifts and comes into the foreground. Now, there is no doubt, no question, nothing more to explore. It is clear. There is no “I” inherent in any forms, no “I” in any phenomena, no “I” to be placed anywhere. There is just what is, with no “I” anywhere. Just the field of what is. Just the groundless ground, forming itself into these myriads of temporary forms – this human self, these sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, focus, awareness, and this world, these trees, buildings, cars, people, plants, clouds, stars, galaxies.