Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Ending of Ego-Addiction: "A Pathless Land"

". . .. (T)he annihilation, cessation, and overcoming of bodily form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness, this is the extinction of suffering, the end of disease, the overcoming of old age and death."

"This, truly, is the Peace, this is the Highest, namely the end of all formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving, detachment, extinction, Nibbana."

("A Buddhist Bible," Dwight Goddard ed., page 32.)
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"Perceptions, mental formations and consciousness." Over 2,500 years ago, the Buddha identified these three mental phenomena - or, perhaps, noumena, to be more precise - as the root cause of suffering. In growing up we are conditioned by the people in our lives and our culture to regard so-called "normal" perceptions, mental formations and consciousness as being our "reality."

Few even think about these concepts, much less question whether our "reality" is so "real" after all. In a very literal sense, it could be said that we are "addicted" to our thinking, and the perceptions, ideas, inner narratives and identities that we take to be who we "are."

But is that so? And what can "we" do about it?

A modern enlightened master, Jiddu Krishhnamurti would ask us to question these propositions for ourselves; yet, his life's work points us to the truth that there is a near universal addiction to the ordinary  human consciousness. We are, he would likely say, overwhelmingly ego-addicted.

"When one makes an abstraction in thought, one moves away from 'what is,'" Krishnamurti writes in his book, "The Wholeness of Life." And that, he observes, has both ethical as well as psychological implications for the individual, suggesting that our propensity to think without an awareness of what we are thinking, is a life-long 'habit.' A 'habit' we should probably quit, as it interferes with our deepest psychological functioning, the ability to love.

"That movement of abstraction," he notes, "becomes a condition according to which one lives, therefore one no longer lives according to facts. This is what one has done all one's life; but one will never know what love is through abstraction, will not know the enormous beauty, depth and significance of love."

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
". . . Truth is a pathless land . . . "
"Why does man put up with this suffering," Krishnamurti asks, utilizing his customary method of inquiry:
Why does man put up with this suffering? . . . What is it that suffers? When one says "I suffer," who is it that suffers? What is the center that says "I am in agony of jealousy, of fear of loss"? Is it the movement of thought, as time, which creates the center? How does that I come into being, which, having come into being says, "I suffer, I am anxious, I am frightened, I am jealous, I am lonely". That I is never stationary, it is always moving: "I desire this, I desire that and then I desire something else", it is in constant movement. That movement is time, that movement is thought.
["The Wholeness of Life," p.  152.]
Such 'desire,' along with 'anger' and 'ignorance' is, of course, one of the "Three Poisons" that the Buddha identified as the root of our human suffering, our addiction to self, our ego-addiction. End desire, end anger, end ignorance and one will end suffering is the essence of the Buddha's "Third Noble Truth," the noble truth of the end of suffering.

The Buddha suggests a comprehensive eight point methodology to end this addiction to ego-centric thinking (his "Fourth Noble Truth," the noble truth of the eight-fold path to the end of suffering), all of which is set out to stop the 'thinking without awareness' that is the root of ego-addiction. Krishnamurti, for his part, suggests rigorous self-examination and inquiry to overcome theses thought processes
"Thought identifies itself with the name and with the form and is the I in all the content of consciousness," Krishnamurti observes. "(It) is the essence of fear hurt, despair, anxiety, guilt, the pursuit of pleasure, the sense of loneliness, all the content of consciousness. . . . If one runs away from it, one has not solved it; but if one remains with it, not identifying oneself with it  - because one is that suffering - then all your energy is present to meet this extraordinary thing that happens. . . . (W)hen one observes suffering in oneself, not escaping from it, but remaining with it totally, completely, without any movement of thought, without any alleviation, comfort, but just completely holding to it, then one will see a strange psychological transformation take place."
And that transformation? Is it the end of "self," or ego death? One will, of course, have to find the answer to that on one's own? It was the Buddha who said, in effect, "do not take my word for it, do not worship me, find out for yourself if these truths are not real." Or, as Krishnamurti famously said to a crowd of his "followers" before setting out on his radical course of lonely self-inquiry:
"I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. . . . Because I am free, unconditioned, whole -- not the part, not the relative, but the whole Truth that is eternal -- I desire those, who seek to understand me to be free; not to follow me . . . Rather they should be free from all fears -- from the fear of religion, from the fear of salvation, from the fear of spirituality, from the fear of love, from the fear of death, from the fear of life itself."
["The Wholeness of Life," p.  153. Emphasis added.]
To end this addiction to thought, to end 'ego-addiction,' therefore, one must follow one's own inner path of self-inquiry and self-examination as one travels through this inner, "pathless land."

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