Our last discussion dealt with the development of the ego. We look at the process we go through in order to establish some idea of who and what we are. We saw that in order to establish this understanding of self we look to solidify it's opposite, other. We first create the division or separation, the I and the other than I. Then we enter into relationship with the other, and here we experience interaction or sensation. Next we judge that sensation as good, bad ,or indifferent, and react accordingly. At the fourth stage we really solidify other by labeling it. We apply some concept such as friend, girlfriend, enemy, or whatever to it which defines not only it's role but ours as well. For example once we call someone girlfriend we have labeled ourselves boyfriend, etc. Finally we occupy and maintain our newly acquired territory, and that is what tonight's discussion is all about.Tonight we will be discussing the different methods we employ in order to maintain & advance our solid ground, the empire of ego. There are ton's of different techniques we may utilize in order to achieve this end, but all of them can be categorized into 6 realms or themes of existence.
The six realms should not be seen as a teaching that deals only with our situation at physical death. Rather they should be understood as realms or themes of existence we are continually cycling through right here & now. This teaching is connected with the concepts of death & birth. However we must expand our ideas of birth & death in order to develop some practical understanding of these teachings. Death here implies the end of a life cycle for the ego. Re-birth here is meant to describe the reestablishment of ego's position in relation to other. This is something that occurs at the time of our physical death, but is not limited to that paticular experience. In fact we go through this process of birth, old age, sickness, and death constantly. It is this whole process that constitutes the cycle of life. The six realms include the 3 lower realms; the hell realms, ghost realms, and animal realms. They also include the higher realms of human, demi-god, and god realms. While each individual will experience each of these realms, most tend to have a certain level of preference with one realm in particular. In each realm there is some object of obsession, and it is this object that provides us with the security we are looking for.
We use the object of obsession; aggression, fantasy, goals, intellect, competition, or pleasure as the technique for maintaing the reference point. In the hell realms we are trying to maintain our distance, which at this point is relatively confined. We are like a dog on a short leash, we have little space to defend so when something gets to close we lash out or completely withdraw. The hell realms are characterized by aggression, but this aggression can manifest in different ways which is why we speak of the hot and cold hell realms. In the hot hell realms it seems to manifest in the form of rage, lashing out at others in order to force them into submission. In the cold hell realms this same aggression manifest in the form of complete isolation, depression. We withdraw from others in order to protect ourselves, kind of like playing possum. Here the aggression is directed towards ourselves, rather than at others. We really see ourselves as inferior or inadequate, and incapable of handling any situation, so we curl up and hide in isolation. There is also mixtures of the two where there is a passive-aggressive tendency, a kind of hit and run mentality. At some point someone confined to the chambers of the hell realms will wish for something else, and eventually they will become preoccupied with this wishing.
This preoccupation with fantasy is the hungry ghost realm.In the hungry ghost realm there is a fascination with fantasy and consumption. We continually chase some fantasy, whether it be some ideal chick-flick movie relationship, a dream job, the best food, whatever. The point is we fantasize, obsess, and consume, but without fail we are disappointed. The actual experience seldom meets our lofty expectations that have been thoroughly cultivated through the processes of the imagination. We imagine some ideal thing, and then we obsess on it magnifying all of it's good qualities. As a result of this the actual experience and our preconceived ideas seldom agree. Therefore the whole process has little to do with quenching our thirst, rather it has more to do with obsessing about our thirst. As this disappointment starts to build we begin to develop goals for dealing with it, and eventually we become obsessed with these goals, this is the animal realm.
The animal realm is characterized by ignorance. We become obsessed with our goals, which is another way of saying the future. We never pay any mind to what is going on here and now, because our eyes are always focused way down the road looking at our goals. Therefore the type of ignorance we are talking about here is a kind of ignoring the present circumstances. We just bull forward in a very stubborn way looking to complete our goals. Here happiness seems to be dependent upon completing some task. However our goals seem to always remain just out of reach, and we seem to remain discontented. Eventually we begin to wonder why we are discontented, and what we can do about this which brings us to the human realm.
The human realm is characterized by the intellect, and by intellect we mean this questioning or investigation. Here we are constantly trying to figure out the game, how can I increase pleasure and decrease pain? Because of this preoccupation with pleasure it is also strongly connected with desire. We seem to relate to life as though it is a chemistry experiment, looking for the right mixtures of this & that to produce the perfect situation, or the right mixtures of this & that to deaden the pain. We are totally taken up by trying to figure out the right combination, we become obsessed trying to figure it out. The final say so in the human realm rest in the intellect, if it doesn't vibe with our reasoning it must be wrong. Eventually we begin to develop theories & ideas about the right mixtures, and sooner or later we begin to apply & test these theories. In order to determine the success of our theories we compare how we feel to the way others look, and this is the demi-god realm.
In the demi-god realm we are always comparing ourselves to others in order to determine our success or failure. Therefore there is a real sense of competition. In the human realm we begin to develop ideas about the perfect mixture to create happiness. Here in the demi-god realm we put our theories to the test through comparison & competition. Maybe we determine we need to be the president of our company, have a beautiful wife or husband, two kids, a nice house, and car. This is our theory, just the right mixture or ingredients. If we take all of these ingredients and put them together we will be happy according to the theory we developed in the human realm. Well as we start to implement this plan we test it by comparing it to other situations. In the demi-god realm we aren't really concerned as much with the goal, like in the animal realm, we are more concerned with the results. Our whole situation is dependent upon us producing the needed results for happiness. How does my situation measure up? Maybe our partner is perfect but the house isn't in tip top shape so we do some remodeling or buy a new one. Maybe someone at work just got a new sports car, so we trade in the mini-van for something a little more daring. Through comparison we find where we fall short, and we tweak our plans as needed. Over time we have tweaked our original plan to perfection. We have a beautiful wife, two beautiful kids, a huge house, an SUV & a sports car. Not to mention we are the youngest person to ever have become president of our company. As an added bonus we got the membership to the right country club. Eventually we will wake up and notice that we have in fact made it, and then we become totally wrapped up in that.Here we have entered the world of the god's.
We have managed to create the perfect situation for ourselves. We have ton's of people working for us, friends, family, and financial security. We can have anything we want, and seldom feel threatened. Life becomes somewhat carefree and easy. We have only the best food and drink, the nicest clothes, so on and so forth. We begin to enjoy life's pleasures. Now we become obsessed with this pleasure. Our own self contained happiness has become our reference point. Here we have achieved the supreme level of ego. We managed to do this working through this whole situation until we were able to acquire pleasure as a reference point, and not just pleasure but a type of self perpetuating pleasure that last for some time. However the situation was created over a period of time, and therefore is subject to decay over a period of time.Fast forward 20 years and that same person finds their partner to be old and far less attractive, and on top of that less interested in romance. Their kids have grown up and gone to college so they seldom even see them. Not to mention that the company they were working for forced them into early retirement so that they could take the company in a different direction, bring in a much younger face to run things. At some point they realize how much things have changed and start to feel as though they are falling. They fall back into the demi-god realm and start comparing themselves to others and tweaking their plan accordingly. They decide they need some other partner, an affair to spice things up. This doesn't seems to work, as a matter of fact their significant other decides to leave them once they learn of their affair. So we can now add divorce to their previous list of troubles. They begin to slip back into the human realm, trying to figure out what is going on, what they can do to fix this situation. The problem is they can't stay here, because that would force them to look at themselves in a way they are uncomfortable with. It would force them to accept responsibility for their situation. They would see through that sort of analysis that they in fact are the problem. That is why it is said that the human realm is the only realm where enlightenment is possible, because it is here in the human realm that the intellect, that inquiry, can be turned towards ourselves and we can begin to figure out the true causes of our suffering. However for this example they do not do such, instead they fall back to the animal realm. Then they come up with some goal. They start bulling forward destroying not only themselves but others as well. They seem like a tornado just plowing through everything, leaving a path of destruction behind them. Next this destruction becomes to much for them to handle so they seek some type of distraction. They are back in the hungry ghost realm. Now they are once again preoccupied with their imagination. They begin drinking, doing drugs, going to bars to meet people, or whatever. They become consumers. However none of this satisfies them, because their expectations exceed reality. They become even more disappointed with each attempt. Eventually this disappointment turns into frustration. Now they find themselves right back where they started in the hell realms. They begin to act crazy in order to maintain what little bit of space they have left. Their territory has become smaller and smaller over time, and now they feel like that dog on the short leash again. They franticly defend their small amount of territory, and the smaller it gets the more aggressive or isolated they become. Until eventually their territory evaporates, the whole situation becomes so compacted that everything collapses in on itself. This seems to be when people say things like, "My life has fallen apart!" It seems as though everything collapsed into the center right on top of you.At this point we are right back at the beginning where there is nothing but space. In order to understand all of this it is important to realize that this is just the mechanics of the six realms. We employ these techniques at varying levels of subtlety. The examples here are grosser and exaggerated in order to get the point across. We go through these realms far quicker than one might imagine as well. It is absolutely essential to recognize the working base of these realms, how they function in your life. They can serve much like a flag stick on a golf course, to identify the self created & established through the five skandhas.