I used to tell students of meditation, “Everything is fine unless you wish something to be a certain way.” Easy to say, but this was simply my way of framing the mind to point out how all this discomfort originates. But most of the time, we DO want things to be a certain way (and not another), and the a better question is... have we examined this process fully or not? So where do we live, where does our awareness sit in this stream of past to present to future? When we wish for something, how are we wishing? From what seat? In the Buddhist sense, monlam, (the Tibetan word for the path of aspiration), is not the same as we think of a wish in western culture. Aspiration prayers are made from a powerful charged place of compassion, openness, and from more of a causal level. When we live in the present we are simultaneous witness to both the ripened fruit of past actions (causes) and the sowing of causes for future arisings of situations and experiences. Too much struggle with the phenomenon already in front of oneself is a bit like wrestling with a mirror image, we’re always too late.
In some sense it is better to learn to accept what is in front of us.
But how do we cope with our wishes and our dreams? To say, “let it all go” feel and expect nothing, is a very reductionist conclusion to arrive at and I personally don’t believe it is a true Buddhist conclusion either. It doesn’t fit with anything my teachers have taught me, no matter how much they may have spoken about decreasing the grip or illusion of ego. For example, as a Bodhisattva, when we see suffering we can have two very different ways of viewing it. We can see it from a more relative sympathetic angle and feel compelled to try to reduce the suffering and we could also see that the suffering has meaning or good reason. A perfect maturation of previous actions designed to help beings learn. We could also have both reactions at once. A Bodhisattva may make prayers of aspiration in order to set in motion a stream of blessings that ripen in a certain way. For example, the Medicine Buddha (Sangye Menlha), made the aspiration that may everything we see, arise as medicine to cure the illnesses, suffering of all sentient beings. To this day, the entire plant kingdom, food, medicine or even poison, can be used as medicine in the Tibetan tradition.
So what to do with this troublesome sense of “I”? Today I see many Buddhists trying to get rid of the “I”. But I think that is silly. That’s right, “I”. “I” go for refuge, and “I” want to attend my own funeral. There is just too much “I” in wanting the “I” to go away. Why should it? First of all, it’s not truly there to begin with. Not continually anyway (although it tries). But it does a damned good job of perpetually “frankenstiening” itself into existence every minute until we get exhausted, black out into deep sleep and go into another bardo.
My feeling about all this? Good practitioners don’t go on witch hunts to find and assassinate their egos. That would be something like throwing gasoline on a fire to put it out. If meditation is going well, awareness will expand and the ego-weed will be framed nicely, gently and even cooperatively in the space. We can then eventually use the ego to help beings in this relative world. As flawed as we insist that it is, ego is not an enemy unless we allow it to rule over us. But it can be equally problematic if we see it as an enemy. My suggestion? have your cake and eat it too. Ride the car of ego all you want but dont let it be your GPS.