The other day I was talking with a friend and was explaining how I, like everyone, had to be ever vigilant of the ego arising, and when it did I needed to say, “no,” and return to my heart. He commented that both actions … being vigilant of the ego arising and “I” saying no to it … were manifestations of my ego and I was empowering it. My initial reaction was to disagree. But as I thought about it, I realized that he was correct.
By turning my will and my life over to the care of my true Buddha nature and opening up my heart to embrace all aspects of my being and experience, two things follow. The first is that I identify with my Buddha nature, my heart, rather than with my ego-mind. I have given it/him the responsibility for deciding matters of judgment and as a result a burden has been lifted from me. The second is that nothings offends, and so all internal and external struggle cease to be and I know I have everything I need inside myself to be at peace and happy. And so I nullify the impact of my ego-mind. I no longer am in a struggle with my ego-mind because I have moved to a different plane.
But when the literature speaks about the never-ending struggle between light and darkness, between our heart and our ego-mind, when it says that we have the responsibility to say “no” to our ego-mind, I read that as being “my” responsibility, “my” struggle. I owned it and it became an ego statement, rather than my saying that having turned my will and my life over to the care of my true Buddha nature, there is no struggle and it is my true Buddha nature who will say “no.”
I also became aware that my speech habit continues a heavy use of the word, “I.” And at this point in my practice, when my identification with my true Buddha nature is still in its infancy, every time I use the word, “I,” it is I realize a statement of ego, not one of my true Buddha nature.
So when I have said in the past that I have the responsibility to say “no” to my ego-mind, to reject its guidance, it’s paradoxically a statement that actually burnishes my ego. The problematic use of the word “I” is also shown when I say that something offends me, or I don’t like something; those are ego statements without question. The words of “like” and “offend” are not in the vocabulary of my true Buddha nature. Yet such thoughts flow effortlessly.
The Buddha said that freeing oneself from the conceit of “I am,” is one of the greatest blessings. Yet how to do that when the word “I” is constantly in use?
Meditating on this conundrum, the seemingly inescapable use of the word, “I,” I realized that at least for now, some other word needs to be substituted. I tried several options that didn’t worked. The only one that works, although cumbersome, is to say, “my true Buddha nature.” So for example, “my true Buddha nature opens up my heart and says no to the guidance of the ego-mind.” And if every time I start making a judgmental statement I were to say “my true Buddha nature …,” the invalidity of the statement would be clear on its face and so judgments would cease. I, my true Buddha nature, would be aware of the situation, but there would be no labels, no judgments.
But it also means truly implementing, in a very practical way, turning things over to my Buddha nature. Stop trying to figure out, using my mind, what to do. The mind is there to figure out how to do things, not what to do. Although it wants to be in control. That must come from the heart. So gather my facts, but then, as my friend says, give it over to my heart to provide me with an answer. And when it speaks I will know it because it’s very different from when my mind tells me to do something. I will hear it either while meditating or something as an epiphany out of the blue during the day.
This is but another example of the truth that we are constantly growing, the path never ends, the struggle between light and darkness never ceases.