And I sensed this is not just culture-fostered competition or attempting to please parents. Something far more elemental is going on … their actions are a function of the primal force of survival. Children know instinctively that their survival depends upon their gaining certain skills and bettering their peers. This is not learned.
I remembered then a post I wrote a few years ago, “It’s All About Survival - Or Is It?” That post posited that the reason why feelings of insecurity have such power over us is that it connects with the primal force of survival. If we are insecure, we fear we will not survive. Which is also why fear is such a powerful force. Everything we fear ultimately threatens our need to survive in a broad sense.
Even though our insecurity or fear does not usually involve a life or death situation, it still evokes this primal force. As I have written previously, our ego-mind has taken the biological/evolutionary forces that are an inherent part of us and has morphed those forces into a perverse mental straightjacket that threatens us rather than protects us.
There is only one antidote to this exaggerated survival instinct … to know that your true self is your heart, your true Buddha nature, and to have faith that regardless what life throws your way all will be well because you will always return home to your unborn Buddha mind and so be at peace and happy.
This even applies, or perhaps I should say “especially” applies, to our eventual death. If there is one thing certain, it is that we will all die. The ultimate immovable barrier faced by the survival force.
Sogyal Rinpoche said in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying that we don’t know how to live because we don’t know how to die. Because we fear death, because we fear our impermanence, our ultimate inability to survive, we cannot live in peace and happiness because our every action and thought is impacted by this fear.
The Buddha taught the truth of the impermanence of all things, that all things that rise eventually fall. Death is a natural part of life. Regardless that we have been taught to fear death, death is not to be feared because it is a natural part of life. And you will be prepared for death if, beyond accepting its inevitability, you know that you have lived your life well … you have brought others joy, you have made a difference in other people’s life. And so even when death approaches, you will return home to your true Buddha nature, have compassion for yourself, and be at peace and happy.
The overwhelming majority of mankind has no knowledge of or even exposure to the lessons of spirituality, as opposed to religion, and so is hopelessly lost in their samsara. Even for those who are walking the path, whether of Buddhism or the various mystical traditions, the hold of our ego-mind on us is very strong; breaking free of its control requires great discipline, perseverance, and faith.
But the lesson of Buddhism is that it is possible to free oneself of the control of the ego-mind, to be free of the quest for survival, to be free of suffering. It’s within one’s power; it is within one’s choice. The choice is not an easy one, but it is there, waiting for us.