Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fool that I am.

The fools prison

There’s a really curious matter regarding our self-understanding. For the most part our unenlightened way of thinking about our self is governed by a mythical illusion, which we take to be wise and compassionate. We imagine this being covered in lots of different clothing and we call that person our ego. The term ego in Latin means “I,” cognate with the Greek “Εγώ (Ego)” meaning “I,” often used in English to mean the self, identity or other related concepts.

When we express this in descriptive words we say things like, “I am an American, a Black man, a Christian, a democrat, or any other handle.” We identify with such definitions, as we would clothing. So long as we conform to that way of defining our selves we are trapped within a prison without even realizing it. We thus live in delusion and always consider ourselves to be wise and compassionate. But are we really? Or are we deluding ourselves?

There is a test that nearly always works to reveal the truth. Can you give an unconditional gift, expecting nothing in return? Or perhaps a trade is taking place: “I’ll give you this IF you give me something in return. And if you won’t return my favor, then I’ll stop giving you mine.” This latter is being launched by our ego because an ego is only interested in conditions. Our ego says to us, “What’s in this for me?” An ego lives within the delusion of separation, alienation and greed since that is the nature of an egos house. In that house we are fools believing that we’re not. A fool never knows they are a fool. And a Buddha never knows he/she is a Buddha. No one ever truly knows who he or she is that way. The measure of that arises by actions rather than words.

Nobody is an idea or a concept. Instead we are indefinable, and undetectable, real people whom the Buddha said can’t be found. He said that we don’t have real, separate identities. Instead he said we know ourselves by what we produce. Jesus said the same thing, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” An ego is a thornbush. Our real personhood shares unconditional wine.

We can talk a good game all day long but none of it means a thing. Show me your measure with your life and never mind the words. St. Francis of Assisi said it this way, “Preach the gospel. And if necessary, use words.”
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