See through big Ego
Good morning, everyone! Today’s Dharma Espresso is about seeing through the big ego.
Someone asked me: "What does it mean to have a huge ego?"
I said: "Do you have a lot of experience dealing with these people?"
He smiled and said: "Yes, I meet them daily!"
The Buddha never claimed the ego is big -- to say so means the ego is measurable. In Buddhism, there is no measuring the ego. If an ego exists, it doesn't matter how big or small, there is an obstruction. Egocentricity, the self-absorbed consciousness, or selfishness, impoverishes our lives.
However, for our purposes, let's agree that there is such a thing as a big ego. The big ego manifests in the desire to always talk about oneself. We brag about our impressive careers, achievements, or wealth. We also boast about our children, how successful they are due to how we raised them. Any way we can, we will brag, sometimes subtly, sometimes crudely. It is the opposite of being humble, which means to lower ourselves. To act with humility and modesty means to put ourselves behind and never above others. When we boast, we don’t want to allow others to appear better than us. Consequently, we make them feel lower or lesser by belittling them.
Therefore, a person with a big ego never listens to others, never inquires after other people in order to learn more about them and see their goodness and beauty. An egotist only acts to receive praise and impress others. They usually hold high positions and depend on all kinds of thing. That dependency creates insecurities.
So far, we have only touched the surface. Let's look a little deeper.
- First, egotists are people with deep prejudices. Moreover, they never reflect on their biases or ask themselves why they think the way that they do. When things or people change, they never recognize that such changes have taken place. They have fixed and limited views.
- Second, they have a habit of only paying attention to the outside world, never looking inward; therefore, they seldom have a vibrant spiritual life.
- Third, they like to point out flaws in others and make people do things their ways. They think they are the center of the universe, so how can they be wrong? No one likes taking orders without questions or giving their input, but the egotists will command people and point out their problems because they think they are superior.
It is dangerous to operate with a superior attitude; you will create pressure for other people, and they will not be happy.
- The fourth characteristic of the egotists is their tendency to look outward. They lack the ability or training to be introspective, and thus be embarrassed by their uncouth actions in showing themselves off. They never question themselves or feel ashamed of their boorishness. It is not the embarrassment from making mistakes, but of showing off or putting yourself forward, like when you talk loudly or act in such a way that draws attention to yourself in a crowd.
They have no training in self-examination. So, what can we do?
With people who have a big ego, we need to be gentle. Don't argue with them, just create an opportunity for them to learn the Dharma. When the condition is right, the teacher or master will help them, which may involve the following steps to help the egotists to see their ego and to recognize the features that make up an egocentric consciousness:
1- Show them how to relax and close their eyes to look inward. That is the first practice to return to oneself. If you are a boss in a company, before a meeting, you could say: "Everyone close your eyes, relax your eyeballs and gaze towards the tip of your nose." It is an important message from the body to the mind. The tip of the nose is like your face or your ego. When you look towards the tip of the nose, your consciousness turns inward, towards the self.
If you are a teacher or an owner or manager of a company, you can conduct small sessions like that. Before a meeting, let people have a minute to reflect; not only will it help them, but it will also allow you to look back and see yourself.
2- For the people with big egos who are willing to learn the Dharma, we can engage them further in the practice of following their breathing if we have enough time. To look into the breath is to look at life. We can show them how to breathe gently. When we breathe subtly, our lives and speech will become gentle, and we will recognize the crudeness in the way we speak or exhibit our ego.
3- To help them reach a deeper level of consciousness, we should show them how to visualize the seed of light. It is the seed that enables us to see our ego because the light is the True Mind. Humility reflects a degree of egolessness. Hence, by teaching and caring for others, and by visualizing seed syllables or seeds of light, we also unfold modesty or humbleness in our character.
4- Practice seeing everything as dust and ourselves as the light. The dust dances about and then settles, while the light shines throughout. What is dust? It is all of our actions in this lifetime. We should look back and let the dust settle, then disappear. As we reflect on ourselves, we will recognize our uncouth actions, blind spots, and mistakes. We might feel embarrassed, but we should smile at ourselves because we are the light shining upon the dust – that is, ourselves. This step is even more profound than the last.
Let me summarize:
- First, practice closing your eyes, relax and gaze toward the tip of the nose.
- Second, look into your breath, and breathe gently and deeply.
- Third, visualize the seed of light.
- Fourth, look at the dust, but know that we are the light.
So, we begin to look through our ego, or more accurately, we start to see our big ego.
Enjoy this cup of Dharma espresso and have a beautiful, happy and wakeful day.
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)