The Vantage Point: killing the usurper


“The attainment of enlightenment from ego’s point of view is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment. Treading the spiritual path is painful. It is a constant unmasking, peeling off of layer after layer of masks. It involves insult after insult.

Such a series of disappointment inspires us to give up ambitions.”

Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoché; The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation. p. 9

I feel that out of so many “quotables” by my beloved CTR, this one will remain a classic. I also think it is to be taken literally, the saving grace being that the whole process is done from a vantage point, a functional self more closely aligned to the inherent plasticity and responsiveness of the Buddha-nature. It’s only the long-sustained self-image and self-will that gets upset and panicked, proving it had a life of its own, as a confused network of reactive interpretations and emotions.

As long as we remain conscious, compassionate with ourselves, and detached, the suffering is not ours – it’s just a movie. And a bad script at that.

But then… there are relapses of identification with the constructed self, our second nature. Dwindling from a stabilized equanimity and awareness back to grasping and resisting can be so suffering as to give us the sufficient shock to prompt us back to sanity… Then the qualities of, let’s call it Presence, are reinforced and enhanced.

Otherwise, even if we get lost in mindlessness for a while, we should realize how normal that is considering how long we have lived unwittingly in the zone – that fallback on autopilot. Consider that judging yourself for erring and straying – whether it’s self-pity or self-reproach – well… their names say it, these are yet again the deeds of the infamous ego, to be reined in.

Now, I want to insist that there is a functional and relational self that needs to be attended to, that is not the fictitious self-image and rogue self-will. The technical self simply corresponds to our autonomous (nonindependent) being-in-the-world. That is to be explained and explored in a further post. 

Also I have mentioned our second nature in passing; it is not to be disdained or disavowed as, again, it’s an essential functionality of our individuality. Our second nature is coupled to our  “standard” awareness and deeper yet to our first nature, that is Buddha-nature or natural intelligence. (Well, that seems to make three natures…)

In a word the second nature, although promiscuous with our ego, is a network of preprocessed responses and useful habits, that is a very quick “first respondent” and that also relieves the rational mind of the burden of reassessing every situations – reinventing the wheel.

Our immediate spiritual  goal – our departure point – is to see ourselves as we are, through mindfulness and authentic self-compassion, in order to extricate and sever our mostly contradictory self-image, from our second nature.

In a further post I shall explain, expand and refine the basic no nonsense psychological topology I use, for your benefit and mine.

– Namaste – I bow to the divine in you.