Why? Because when we are engaged in a conversation or project, we become distracted from our awareness and our breathing. Even though we may be present in the moment, we are not aware. And it is at such moments that our ego will arise ... while I may have surrendered my ego to my true Buddha nature and it may not play an active role in my life anymore, it is still there. It will always be a part of me, waiting for an unguarded moment when it can arise and gain a foothold.
And so, to give you an example, when I was talking on the phone with a friend today, the “fixer” habit-energy of my ego came to the fore. I saw a potential problem in what my friend was relating to me and so I wanted to fix it, to protect him from having the problem. That is pure ego. It is not an example of listening deeply and speaking with loving kindness because such advice does more harm than good. It communicates to the other person that you don’t feel they have the competence to figure things out, and that harms their self-esteem, whether it’s your child, a student, a friend, or an adult. People have to find things out for themselves.
This is yet another example of what happens when one is not aware that ones ego is arising. Immediately after this episode, I was aware of what had happened, but by then it was too late. It may make a good teaching episode, but the question is, how to prevent such things from happening again.
I think the answer lies in being aware that this is a habit-energy of my ego and that it is not helpful or consistent with the Five Precepts. In the past I’ve always told myself that I’m just trying to help someone, and how can that be bad? Well it can be harmful. And so just as in other “problem” areas of mine where I have achieved consistent awareness and if my ego arises, I am usually aware of it and can say, “no,” to it and allow it to subside, I must see this fixer habit-energy clearly for what it is. I have been aware of this habit-energy for quite some time, but I have never been willing to call it for what it is. I do so now. I will meditate on this and strengthen my practice.
Another lesson in practical Buddhism.