Desire, self and ego

Posted: 27/03/2018 by zandtao in Freedom
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There is much that is confusing about Eastern religions, this is not surprising as they can help people find the path that is beyond conditioning

Most significant on this path is desire, the more we desire the more potential there is for control. We want drugs, we need to buy them, we get addicted. We want alcohol, we need to buy drink, we get addicted. We want a house, the more money we need the more work we need to do, we get addicted. However deep the addiction the more we become conditioned, the less control we have.

The key to all of this is desire. Buddhism is distinct from most religious practice in that its primary purpose is to end suffering. To achieve this its two most significant dogmas are the 4 Noble Truths and paticcasamuppada, both of which are concerned with desire. It depends on which branch of Buddhism how much emphasis is placed on these dogmas.

The 4NT put simply say that there is suffering, suffering is caused by desire that leads to clinging. To end suffering we need to end clinging and there is an 8-fold path to achieve this. Paticcasamuppada looks at the situation differently by considering self and conditioning. It says self starts in ignorance. Desire attaches to an event that develops into clinging which becomes part of the conditioned self. Removing ignorance and not attaching to desire ends conditioning, ends self.

Russell’s next talk is with Frankie Boyle. The conversation is personal and professional as they are both comedians, if you like that sort of thing listen. Throughout many of his talks I hear from Russell a continued desire for addiction but a strength that says I will abstain. This abstinence is commendable but is not the solution. The solution is when there is no desire, no desire, no addiction. I don’t know whether the 12 steps contains any consideration of this.

Desire is a biggie.

However it is written down, in dogma whatever, ending desire is just so hard. But abstinence is not an end, it is an end to substance abuse but it still leaves the desire and therefore leads to some form of conditioning.

The phrase that many use is “letting go”. When the desire comes let go of it. Unfortunately the desire comes back so with substance abuse you need an additional abstinence approach. But that still leaves desire. But when desire comes back let it go again; over time the desire reduces.

Now there is additional knowledge that can help. In Russell’s case with substance abuse he has seen what it produces so that is a deterrent. Russell has seen addiction causes suffering, knowing that suffering can return is the deterrent. But desire is also part of addiction (coming before clinging), there is greater peace without desire. And it can begin to happen if when desire comes you let go.

Ayahuasca interests Russell. Buddhism has a precept that says to avoid substances that affects the mind. Russell is interested in ayahuasca because it has apparently helped people on consciousness. I suppose because of my own substance addiction, I don’t want such substances. But I trust in the path and aspects of Buddhism that help. I trust that the path will guide me so I don’t want consciousness-altering substances.

At the same time I have a feeling that such mind alteration has possible repercussions. I do feel that too much acid adversely affected some 60s people.

But I trust enough in the path and its discipline meditation.

I have desires, I am still addicted to self. But I know addiction means conditioning, and I want freedom, control so when desires come I try to let them go. It doesn’t always work but it gets better.

The second issue that distinguishes Buddhism from Hinduism has been touched on already – anatta – no self. Hinduism has a belief in reincarnation, in Buddhism reincarnation has a mixed reception. The teacher I follow, Buddhadasa, does not believe in anything, and because he cannot experience reincarnation he does not believe in it. He explains the Buddha’s teachings as existing in a milieu. The Buddha was teaching Hindus and trying to revise Hindu teaching. As such he used the same words but the concepts at times were different. Samsara can be seen as birth and death of self (paticcasamuppada) without considering reincarnation and transmigration of souls. The Buddha never tried to “explain karma”, the workings of kamma are beyond the understanding of humans. Hinduism sees reincarnation as coming back with a better lot as a reward for a previously exemplary life. This better lot is often associated with wealth and the perceived ease of life for the wealthy, and equally the difficult life of the untouchables. I am not sure of the theory but is the heinous caste system connected to reincarnation? With Buddhadasa only trusting experience and for him there being no reincarnation, kamma becomes something that can be managed. Past life trauma need not weigh us down through this if we look at kamma as something that can be detached from.

Self in Buddhism is distinct from self/Self in Hinduism. Buddhist self is a broader concept than ego but is still temporary, ego is an issue Russell knows he has to deal with, perhaps he could extend ego to self if he considered attachment to khandhas and anatta. But it is very difficult for him because of his career. Even though I like his books Revolution and Recovery, I don’t like his stage persona. My main reason for calling him a dickhead earlier was the Andrew Sachs thing, and whilst he didn’t explain in this podcast apparently it was a misunderstanding. But I still don’t find his stage persona funny. It is narcissism – ego. But that is a stage act, it is his professional career – income.

Teachers have ego leading to “better than me”. Teachers are known for “teaching” in their personal lives – it is their ego. Once I stopped teaching that ego can also disappear – although not completely as I have just alluded to. How much does Russell cling to his ego because it is his professional persona? And here is the big question, does he need the money? Does he need to cling to the ego? Could he become the Russell Brand of Revolution and Recovery? Could Under The Skin podcasts not contain all his ego-rantings, be more considered …. and perhaps Naomi would not have to pause so often? Apologies if there is judgementalism. These are not issues for me to judge, but only for me to ask questions?

But here is the rub. The ego of teaching held me back, of course wage-slavery – the world of work and its impositions – held me back far more. Being freed from that slavery gave me a chance to become who I am as I had sufficient money to survive. It must be hard for Russell to decide on this – with all that goes with it. I wonder whether there would ever be answers for him with this baggage he carries around?

But this ego is not self, self builds up from khandhas. Russell has a self that is beyond his ego that he has attached to through his conditioning. But his ego is so huge because of all the baggage that he carries with his ego, wouldn’t it be too difficult to see self? And then difficult to detach from self? It is worth considering what the khandhas are to see how we can become addicted to self. My worst is sankhara. I have always tended to overthink so was loved in academia. I was attracted back to academia to write an M Ed in my 40s, and now I wake up with a blog in mind that I must write. Yet the natural state of mind is peace, stillness and calmness. There is a place for khandhas, we cannot live without them, but as Buddhadasa promotes “remove the I and mine from the 5 khandhas” – no attachment. Am I paying too much attention to the khandhas:-

Rupa -body
vedana – feelings
sanna – memory and perceptions
sankhara – mental processes and proliferations
vinnana – consciousness (attaching to be I or not attaching to be free to follow the path?)

Do you recognise the possibility of being addicted to self? Addicted to khandhas?

When I retired early I accepted less money because I was so far from the path when working. But Russell has to be attached to far more and the decision is far more difficult. But Russell, the path is always better.

Perhaps I should be selfish, would all the good guests he attracts for Under the Skin be there if it was not the public persona of Russell Brand?

Just a final note on Frankie, my knowledge of whom is far more limited than my limited knowledge of Russell. I remember comedian Bernard Manning whose career might be described as built on racism and sexism. He was unapologetic because he was funny – most people found him funny. Frankie draws back the barriers of comedy by being shocking. I get the feeling that he would say anything if he thought it was funny – though he is correct about racism, sexism and LBGQT. Should that be enough? Especially when teaching I have found myself saying things that I shouldn’t have said because I was trying to be funny. I still do that a bit. Humour is an amazing gift, laughing is an amazing experience, should the boundaries be considered? Personally – although it doesn’t matter – I like most of Frankie’s humour but sometimes it was too much. That is of course a personal view and matters not one iota.

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Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Mandtao, Matriellez.

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