I attended a talk given by a man who’d converted to Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta. He’d been a Buddhist, and then found a remarkable Advaita teacher, and taken that path. He is a student of a man named Mooji. Maybe that name sounds a little funny to you, but actually Mooji is a teacher I’m fond of (having seen a number of his video taped talks).
Anyway, getting somehow to my point, this student of Mooji’s asked for some advice, some instructions on how to live. He was told “Don’t identify.” This was the instruction, the “pith instruction.” “Don’t identify.”
I take this to mean don’t identify as your personality, or your self. Don’t think you are your ego, your emotions, or your thoughts.
I think this is interesting. What if you do identify? Is it possible to identify with something bigger and better, like a “Self”?
I think one reason that Buddhists emphasize contemplating death so much is that the ego dies. The painful process of practicing and studying and having complications and annoyances come up in your life, the famous mishaps, is a process of ego dissolving away, even dying. I think we’re being told (Buddhists, not using the royal we) that death is acceptable largely because the kind of death you experience if you practice is not pleasant but it’s very very useful. That would involve getting over identifying.
I think I said this already (I’m always saying this) but here goes again: there’s a gap often between ideas and actions, especially “aspirations” or hopes or high concepts and ordinary solid earth action. This is a thought I had while doing a practice called the “four reminders,” or the “four thoughts that turn the mind to the dharma.”
The dharma means the Buddhist teachings, or the “situation” as it is, or more generally, teachings themselves, of any stripe.
The thing seems to be that I can contemplate an idea or phrase, this is a form of meditation, to contemplate and focus on one phrase or sentence and see what comes up, and I can come up with “good ideas” very quickly, most times.
To me it feels like the instinct that you get instilled in you through being in school. Maybe that’s just part of it. What I mean is that you get trained in a way to think of intelligent answers to questions, quickly. I feel like I developed this in school, but there’s a glibness to it, a facility. What ends up surfacing is usually interesting or clever ideas, with no “meat.” It’s too much heaven, too little earth.
Is this enough of an insight?
Is it enough to notice that you can have good ideas about how to live, and then constantly fall short? I’m not talking about unnecessary guilt, per se. I’m talking about having the experience of thinking something like
“Life is short, so we should appreciate it.”
“Life and death happen all the time in your psychological state.”
Not completely profound, but somewhat meaningful. But then not only do I forget these insights, when I remember them, it seems impossible to realize them, to really appreciate, or to really see life and death. It could be that real insights are totally ordinary in life, and that I expect their appearance in my day to have some kind of feeling of surprise, shock, fireworks, etc.
As happens a lot, language seems to drag me off course. I get intoxicated by it. That’s something interesting in itself, in terms of contemplation. Maybe the intoxication of words is something to work with in contemplation.
At the same time, it seems like the initial problem stays unresolved. What I wanted to get to, earlier was a quote, or a phrase really, from Fabrice Midal, a student of Trungpa Rinpoche, and the author of an excellent book about him and his life.
“The basic hypocrisy of ego”
is the phrase. Somehow, the way ego works, it is basically hypocritical. It’s constantly posturing, constantly on stage, constantly off the mark. There’s a gap between seeming insight and actual growth, or whatever you’d like to call it. That seems like another intoxication- the drunkenness of insight, or egoic insight. “I really get it now!” with a feeling of breakthrough, and then somehow things just go back to normal, which is very comforting.