Zen Buddhist Practices – Egolessness
In our practice we often inquire, and sometimes experience, the no-self and/or egolessness. What is egolessness? Who and what do we think we are? Some say that when we die the essence but not the ego lives on into new experiences. Karma and re-birth are givens in this spiritual view. Our tissue and bones, all our atoms and molecules of body-mind decompose. Eventually we return to the earth as elements, carbon dioxide, and water. The mind is purely a biologically (bio-chemical) function of existence, of being in this world. It cannot be permanent, so neither can we. The mind is a n integration and response to experiences coming into us from our sense-doors. And the ego, well that goes away along with the rest of us. The confusion that sometimes exists about being alive in this contemporary world versus living on an another or other form/s is challenging to many people. The Buddha did not deny that we exist in this samsaric world; he placed greater emphasis, however, on our spiritual, moral, and ethical development. On his death-bed he reportedly noted to his followers that everything is transient, so personal attachment to anything (people, places, things, experiences) is not recommended. This is not nihilism, nor is it some form of adverse nothingness. He called to his followers to know their own true self, and to follow the dharma in all life’s experiences. If all things are impermanent, then so is our pain and suffering. And yes, so is our joy and happiness. When unhelpful thoughts and emotions dominate, take refuge in The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha. So what does this imply in day-to-day challenges of living? Below I have noted a few Zen Buddhist practices that may be helpful to you – Buddhist or not.
- Stay in the present, breathe calmly, and prepare yourself to be present – to do what is required of you.
- Use RAIN – Recognize it is happening; Accept it; Investigate why now; and, be as close to no-self and/or egolessness as possible.
- Realize that your acceptance is not a passive form of being. It has energy. Energy of your mind, heart, mudra, and hara.
- Do your best to let go of I/Me/Mine and exist in the non-duality of it all. You are not alone! You are part of the great universe.
- Note to yourself that this moment of crisis or upheaval is simply another great opportunity to practice skillful living here, now.
- Once the anguish has passed, rest in and with yourself. Contemplate how these skillful means have helped you. Practice more!
- For more information refer to Okawa, R. (2007). The Challenge of Enlightenment. London, UK: Little Brown.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness