The elephant of self

In an IDP discussion, someone brought up the anger caused by disagreeing with other people. As a response, I mentioned that whenever anyone makes a statement, he makes the statement because he experienced something and thus there must be some truth in his statement. So it is important to find that experience of truth and experience it. Sometimes the statement is overstated, or overgeneralized because the person was too caught up. Anyhow, there is a truth in it and it is important to recognize it and experience it yourself.

Here I want to elaborate more on this. We know the Indian parable that six blind men try to figure out what an elephant looks like. Each one of them experienced part of the truth, made statement based on that part of the truth and disagree with others’ statements. None of them is able to put all the truth together and find out what an elephant really is like.

In Buddhism practice, we are trying to figure out the elephant of self, which is very elusive. Some people strongly experience the self as an individual unique self and thus they insist it to be so. Some people experience the self as part of the whole and they deny its unique individuality. How should we see the elephant of self? Experience all the experiences and hold them altogether in your hand. I like how Whitman put it: I contain multitudes.

In the grassroots movement (which is becoming more global and massive), a lot of focus is on altruism, as many people believe it so. But really, it is not about altruism.


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Filed under Chan/Zen, Grassroots

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