Tonight we will do a recap of the past three lectures and begin to paint a picture of this whole situation, and of course everything will revolve around ego. Three weeks ago I spoke of the three different aspects of suffering that we experience. This is connected with the first noble truth, the truth of suffering. First, we saw that suffering comes in the form of being defective, like we need something else to complete us. So we constantly wander around looking for some external solution. This form of suffering is connected with our poverty mentality, and is known as pervasive suffering. Next we find something that gives us some form of temporary comfort or relief, and we cling to it for dear life. Our sanity is totally dependent upon our relationship with whatever reference point we attach ourselves to. One problem with this formula for sanity is that all things with out exception are in continual motion. At some point we realize things have changed, and then we find ourselves thrown right back into the midst of dissatisfaction. Our sanity is gone, and we feel like an emotional roller-coaster. This is known as the suffering of change, constantly going back and forth between happiness and pain. Finally, we experience the suffering of suffering, the pain of disappointment or shame that arises when we find ourselves right back at square one, feeling defective and having to find something to fix us. Thus we are caught in this cycle of discontentment, constantly being reborn over and over again from moment to the next.
Tonight we are going to talk a little bit about what is being reborn, the ego. In order to do this we need to have some idea of why the ego is created or born. The second noble truth, the cause of suffering, starts with ignorance & confusion. Not ignorance like uneducated or stupid, rather like ignoring the obvious, a type of stubbornness. What are we ignoring? We are ignoring the space, the total openness. In order to have some idea of self we must have some idea of other. The same is true with hot and cold, up and down, etc. Left gives rise to right. Without some idea of left you could not begin to define right, and without some idea of other you could not begin to understand self. Not having an understanding of who we are and how we relate to our environment we find ourselves in a very spacious situation, and this is connected with the first skandha. Skandha is a Sanskrit concept that literally means, “heap”. These heaps come together and establish ego by solidifying experience. This type of spacious situation has infinite possibilities, and this scares the hell out of us. This is also where the confusion comes into play. We are confused because we have no idea who we are or how to relate with our environment. It is very similar to being lost in some thick forest we have never been in with no idea of where to go or what to do. The endless possibilities freak us out, and we start to lose our grip on reality, we become extremely confused. At this point our mind starts churning trying to make some kind of sense out of the whole thing. Will some native pop out from behind a tree, will a wild puma cat attack us, will we be lost by ourselves out here forever? In order to have some understanding some idea of what the hell is going on ego is established. We find some reference point, and establish our position based on it. So we develop an understanding of ourselves based on something other than ourselves. The type of understanding I am referring to here doesn’t have to make any sense, often it does not. Understanding here is concerned more with comfort. This point is perfectly illustrated in the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks. In the movie Tom Hanks character derives comfort and understanding from his friendship with Wilson, which is played by a volleyball. In our example earlier we were lost in the woods. It is like we just make up a map, and even though it doesn’t necessarily take us to safety it does give us some idea of where we are going, some false sense of comfort. We establish a goal, some purpose to identify with. So the point of establishing ego is not to make sense or be accurate. The point is to provide us with comfort and understanding, with some kind of map for life, some defined role.