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Harada Roshi

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Roshi you are really focused on the ego and how this is the fundamental problem societys problems and our problem its all this ego. So the ego must be killed and the ego Im not sure if you agree with this must kill the ego. Anyway somehow or another the ego is the problem. But theres the one the small ones like my dog Butler. Butler is magnificently manifesting this small one. Isnt that important too? I mean hes doing it and hes doing it so well just being that small one. Isnt that important in being this magnificent small one? For example take a person who can paint. They try really hard and work really hard to be a painter and paint beautiful paintings they work very hard to become a painter. And then finally because they are focused on this one of their particular one they paint a beautiful painting. So in a word do you Roshi have anything good to say about the ego?

Absolutely, we should deeply respect the nature of the one, including Butler.  The Buddha taught us again and again to forget ourselves, to let go of ourselves.  He taught that there are four versions of a personal self.  One of them is that we think of ourselves as a separated personality.  Another one is that we think of ourselves as an individual egoistical being.  A third is that we think of ourselves as a version of a being that is, after all, only an animal self. A fourth is that we think of ourselves as someone, without thinking in terms of being an existence which goes through many lives, thinking that in this life it is impossible that we could be awaken or that we are going to put off what we are doing because we are going to work on getting into heaven or on breaking through in a future life, but anyway, not grasping the point of it being this one moment that we are alive.  These four versions of a personal self are mistaken ways of our taking our individuated personalities, such as ego.

For example, we have in Hakuin’s song of Zazen that all sentient beings are from the origin Buddhas, which is because this whole universe is looked at as one life.  This way of seeing the whole universe as one life and therefore all sentient beings – all 6.9 billion individual human beings – as all parts of and also the whole of this one life, is the way of looking at it from the Buddha’s point of view.  

The Buddha said to forget yourself and not to be caught on these four directions of egoistic attachment, but an important point is that, while the Buddha was teaching us to forget ourselves, he was not saying that the ego doesn’t exist.  He was saying that we need to know how to let go of the ego, not that we should try to kill it completely and get rid of it, but that we should know how to be freed from it.  

We should not attach to the ego and be a slave to it.  This is a big difference; we should recognize the ego, acknowledge it, and even respect it, but not be caught on and ruled by it.  For example, in the case of how an artist is, or of someone who has a very strong clear way of creating because their ego is strong, is not a bad thing.  But if our ego is so strong that we are mistaken in how we see the larger whole, then we have to be aware of that strong possibility.  We also have to be aware that most of us are taking our idea or view of our ego as being the main center version of who we are – putting that in a place of prominence – rather than seeing the larger picture of how all of it – the whole picture – is ego, and how we are pieces of that – parts of that – which are also ego, but also that whole.

We tend to think, for example, that human beings are the highest things in evolution.  And from this way of thinking, we are destroying the planet because we think that we can do all the things that are now causing great ecological disasters.  This kind of mistaken view, which is caused by ego, is what we have to be freed from, but it doesn’t mean that the ego, as such, is only doing negative things.  

In each individual ego, there is very positive and great capability, which comes forth from being alive as in the way that ego leads us to be.  Dr Schweitzer was in Africa and going up the ----river, he came upon a huge hippopotamus that was just standing in the deep mud. Dr Schweitzer was just astonished by this amazing expression of life energy as a huge hippopotamus.  For Dr. Schweitzer, this one – this huge hippopotamus – was saying it all, in the same way that Butler, or other parts which are also that one expressing, says it all.  This one expressing is just as important as the whole, but, our being stuck on that and thinking that that’s all there is to it, is the problem.


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