To end our suffering, we are therefore taught to come to understand these truths, say “no” to the ego-mind’s guidance, and instead go deep within ourselves to our heart, our true Buddha nature, for guidance. As a monk once told me, “The choice is yours. You have but to surrender your ego to your true Buddha nature.” Not as simple as he made it seem, but we do have a choice.
When many hear this teaching, they react that they are being told that they are to blame; that it is their fault that they suffer. And that does not sit well with anyone.
But this is not about blame or guilt or fault. What individuals are asked to do to end their suffering is huge. The ego-mind is so deeply rooted within us; it has been our frame of reference regarding ourselves and the world around us for our whole lives. And it is very aggressive and forceful. To free ourselves of its control is extremely difficult.
So if one hasn’t been able to do it, or not do it consistently, there should be no feeling of blame or guilt or fault. Just compassion. Even if one has practiced for decades and knows the truth, it is still hard to consistently be free of the ego’s control.
But what is important, as stated in Emanuel’s Book (Rodegast, Stanton), is that each of us take responsibility for our suffering. It may be, as Geraldine, Flip Wilson’s drag persona, used to say, “The Devil made me do it!” but you still have responsibility … the responsibility to say “no” to your ego-mind, to the Devil; to realize that the causal factor is not some fault of your being or something that happened to you, but the way your ego-mind reacted to the situation.
The important thing to remember is that the goal of Buddhism is to free yourself from suffering; this is why you walk the Buddhist path. And to free oneself, one must realize the role the ego-mind plays and take the responsibility to not submit to its control but to look to your heart for guidance. This is central to the Buddha’s teaching on the Four Noble Truths.
If you aren’t able to, no blame should be felt. Again, just compassion. Just don’t forget the truth and keep trying, keep having the intent to free yourself from the ego-mind’s control. That’s what’s essential.