Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Dalai Lama Gets Lame

File under: Gurubusting

[Ed.note: We understand that the Dalai Lama was using terminology and concepts consistent with his tradition. Nonetheless, these concepts as they filter into the West are plainly deficient in their power to explain the understanding of universal Selfhood. In fact, these concepts actively hinder that understanding's coming in a life. So those who perpetuate them, knowingly or not, will get spanked here.]

Since he was making an appearance alongside Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Ramdev at a peace conference in India, the Dalai Lama probably felt a lot of pressure to be just as stupid as they are. Well, he surely outdid himself on that account:
"Feelings of 'I' and 'me' should go to achieve peace as they are the cause of ego. When the ego is killed, hatred vanishes and ultimately there is peace in society," the Dalai Lama said.
That's sort of like saying: "All our arms [as in the limbs] must go to achieve world peace because then we couldn't shoot guns anymore."

As much as he's trying to make things better in the world, the Dalai Lama was much more the Duhlai Lame-o at this conference.

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35 Comments:

At 1/22/2008 5:00 PM, Anonymous William said...

Hi, Jody.

The statement you quote is, to Buddhists, an uncontroversial one -- for their meaning of ego. I'm not sure if it's a translation issue or if the word is more a technical term to them. E.g.:

The Buddhist doctrine of egolessness seems to be a bit confusing to westerners. I think this is because there is some confusion as to what is meant by ego. Ego, in the Buddhist sense, is quite different from the Freudian ego. The Buddhist ego is a collection of mental events classified into five categories, called skandhas, loosely translated as bundles, or heaps. (from http://dharma.ncf.ca/introduction/overview.html)

As I understand it, the basic notion is that the division between "I" and "not-I" is an illusory one. It's all one thing. It can be a convenient illusion at times, but Buddhists see it as the source of much harm, including hatred and violence. They thus pursue egolessness assiduously.

Perhaps the Dalai Lama needs some ripping on, but I think here you're wide of the mark.

 
At 1/22/2008 5:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No it's not like saying that! Your royal "wee"-ness is the DumDum.

Granted he is ill-advised to take part in lame yoga stunts with parping yogurts but the Dalai Lama is all about publicizing Tibet whenever the opportunity arises.

The kill "I" "me" "ego" thing is a perfectly sensible comment. It's what Sri Ramana Maharishi seems to have said much of the time.

 
At 1/22/2008 5:41 PM, Blogger jody said...

The ego cannot be killed. It's the operating/navigation system of the body. Everything in our lives reinforces the idea that we are individuals. Ego is merely an evolutionary trait that has helped humans succeed as organisms.

Regardless of whichever system he is commenting out of, it is idiotic to say we must kill the sense of ourselves as individuals. For one, it's not possible, and also, entirely unnecessary. Give me any great saint you can think of throughout history, and I'll show you a person who has a sense of themselves as a person. Some of them may have been skilled at hiding it, but if you've got a body and you put food in your mouth, you have at least some sense of yourself as a being who exists along with other beings.

What the D.L. should have said is that we need to look beyond our sense of individuality. That we can do, without being enlightened beings. It's what fuels and funds every social cause on the planet. He stepped in shit as far as I'm concerned, and brought himself right down to the level of a Sri Sri or Ramdev.

 
At 1/22/2008 5:48 PM, Blogger jody said...

It's what Sri Ramana Maharishi seems to have said much of the time.

Wrong. Ramana said to look into the "I-sense," not kill it. He knew better.

 
At 1/22/2008 6:25 PM, Blogger Steven Sashen said...

People often ask the DL, "Are you enlightened?" and he responds, "I am just a simple monk."

Why don't people believe him?

But, instead, people use his answer to inflate their perception of him even more... after all, if someone THAT enlightened sees himself as a simple monk, then he's REALLY awake!

I think his answer may be accurate.

 
At 1/23/2008 2:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Teachings of Ramana maharshi in his own words, p.164;
"There are only two ways to conquer destiny or to be independent of it. One is to enquire whose this destiny is and to discover that only the ego is bound by it and not the Self, and that the ego is non-existent. The other way is to kill the ego by completely surrendering to the Lord, realising one’s helplessness and saying all the time: ‘Not I, but Thou, oh Lord!’, giving up all sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ and leaving it to the Lord to do what he likes with you. Surrender can never be regarded as complete so long as the devotee wants this or that from the Lord."

"This false identification is due to ignorance, and ignorance disappears together with the ego. Killing the ego is the only thing to be done." p.185

and in various other places too many to mention.

No doubt in true egoistic style you will be able to twist this to show that he never meant what was written.

 
At 1/23/2008 2:14 AM, Anonymous panda said...

Dalai lama is a poster boy of the western media created to irritate the chinese. I have seen him speak on Buddhism and on most occassions he has mumbled utterly rubbish and inconsistent things. He has a very basic understanding of the teachings of his own tradition and knows next to nothing on other traditions. Most of his books are ghost authored by Buddhist scholars like Robert Thurman. Dalai lama did com down to the level of She She and Ramdev - he was always on par with them.

 
At 1/23/2008 2:41 AM, Blogger eWraith said...

Dear Jodie,

In many of Maharshi's conversations "killing the ego" is mentioned.

There may be semantic nuance at play but he clearly uses this linguistic device.

For example, in Talk 174,
"Even now you are the Self. But you are confounding this consciousness (or ego) with the absolute consciousness. This false identification is due to ignorance. Ignorance disappears along with the ego. Killing the ego is the only thing to accomplish. Realisation is already there. No attempt is needed to attain realisation. For it is nothing external, nothing new. It is always and everywhere here and now too."

Of course, Maharshi also explains that ego has no independent existence.

Upadesa Saram [v.20] is clear "When the "I" sense (ego) is destroyed, the Heart, as the supreme complete being (totality), spontaneously bursts forth (appears clearly), by itself, as I, I." [my translation]

and verse 22, "This sole existent 'I' is not the delusion of (separation into) body, senses, breath, and mind. That (delusion) is insentient, non-existent (untrue). [my translation again]

I suppose one might say it is the wrong notion which must be destroyed [killed].

Kind Regards,
M.

 
At 1/23/2008 9:06 AM, Blogger jody said...

No doubt in true egoistic style you will be able to twist this to show that he never meant what was written.

In many of Maharshi's conversations "killing the ego" is mentioned.

What Ramana did not mean is "ego" in the sense we use it in the West. The word is synonymous with "personality" here, and so when hapless Westerners (and many Asians) read "kill the ego," they embark upon a journey of attempted personality slaughter. This will never be successful. Ramana would say: "Who is the one who wants to kill the ego?" Anybody who decides to kill their ego is deciding so from being an ego. It's like an arm trying to kill itself. It won't happen without the help of the other arm.

When Ramana (and probably Buddha) say "ego", what they really mean is the ahamkara, that essential attachment to identity that holds one in the state of bondage. But that's all moot, because when we (as in most everyone in the world today) hear "ego," we are hearing "ourselves."

So while the issue is symantic, the results are severe, a legion of hapless seekers trying to damage themselves toward enlightenment. It needs to stop, and regardless of from whose mouth the words have come, we have to stop trying to "kill the ego" and start to understand that what we seek is always right here, closer than our heart, regardless of and despite the fact that we remain people with a sense of individual self.

 
At 1/23/2008 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dalai lama is a poster boy of the western media created to irritate the chinese."

Absolutely true. In fact, he has worked with CIA for decades. Always cracks me up to see all the "lefty, hippie" types cozying up to a guy who's CIA-backed, just like the loons in Falun Gong. Also, it is true: his books are ghost-written. In the East, he pushes all kinds of weird, superstitious, elitist notions, but to his audiences in the West, it's a mostly secularized, progressive message. A very skilled PR operator!

http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html

 
At 1/23/2008 10:52 AM, Blogger nahor said...

All the disagreement here is indeed over the definition of 'ego'.

In the east, the ego was intended to mean 'identification with your personality', whereas in the west it has come to simply mean 'your personality'.

In the eastern sense, it can indeed come to an end. That identification with your personal traits ends for all of us in moments here and there. Perhaps it can even end permanently. But in the western sense, your traits will always be there.

I have felt an ending of identification during glorious moments of my life, even though 'me' still murmurs through. Until you have felt that matter-of-fact and effortless identification with the backdrop -- while still being 'you' -- you will not fully understand the subtle difference in the eastern/western definitions of the ego.

Ramana did advocate self-enquiry as a means to a specific end: an awakening to a permanent realization that the personality is inseparable from the totality, and that you are that totality and not the individual (even if the personality remains). In effect, he advocated an ending to the ego in the eastern sense, a true ending of the belief of your personality is you.

The DL (and may other gurus nowadays) are very guilty of being lazy with their language, and not trying to dispel the western myth of 'ending the ego' as a way to enlightenment, personal peace and world peace.

So while I agree with the DL's statement on one level, I admit that that statement, and many of his other statements and language, could be chosen much better. But the DL serves his purpose. He does great work to increase awareness of the Tibet issue, make orange look cool, and put a twinkle in Richard Gere's eye.

 
At 1/23/2008 11:16 AM, Blogger yomamma said...

Killing, destroying, these are unfortunate words, they presume some kind of act that can be committed that will get rid of ego in one fell swoop, but i don't think it's like that, i think ego and false-identity is something you can shed, to reveal the underlying self and hopefully it's not a crime scene.

 
At 1/23/2008 11:21 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

A finger points at the moon. Don't get upset about the warts on the finger, just turn and look at the moon.

 
At 1/23/2008 11:27 AM, Anonymous hard at work in the lab said...

I would say that H.H. D.L. should change his language, but then again, I think he's just doing the usual "pimpin' for Tibet" routine. In my mind it's not his intention to be a Space Daddy, but if that schtick wins support, so be it.

"In the East, he pushes all kinds of weird, superstitious, elitist notions"

Yes, it's worth remembering just how fond Julius Evola and his buddies in the SS were of Tibetan Buddhism. The D.L. is, let's not forget, trained in all sorts of "unenlightened" nonsense like summoning demons, etc.; not that there's anything wrong with that, it just isn't good PR.

"Ego, in the Buddhist sense, is quite different from the Freudian ego."

I'm not totally sure I agree that there is that great a difference between a Buddhist "ego" and a Freudian "ego". It's a complicated term.

"The ego cannot be killed. It's the operating/navigation system of the body"

"a journey of attempted personality slaughter."

I think arguably "personality slaughter" as a type of restraint can be a form of Niyama and Pratyahara or morality training, so long as it doesn't become fuel for inflating the ego. (E.g., "*I* have *so little ego* *I* can hold *my* hand in a boiling kettle for minutes! *I* am truly *powerful*!")

Part of this nonsense, in my opinion, comes from the confusion of the difficult-to-describe sensations from drugs or concentration states ("I took 20 hits of acid and totally killed my ego!") with the language being used to describe something else.

I do wish there were more elucidation of what "ego" means. I think the term has gotten conflated with a poor misunderstanding the doctrine of not-self, and been passed through some Hindu, Christian, and Theosophist "True Self" teachings that others understand more readily. It's not that you need to "kill" your ego, it's that the sensations that you believe make up a permanent, separate self are not permanent, are stressful, and are not self. Does that have an effect on the ego? Sure, it can even make you freak out pretty rough. Also, having some experience of not-self can seriously ruin your ability to participate in some cocktail party conversations. Does it kill the "ego"? No.

 
At 1/23/2008 11:31 AM, Blogger jody said...

A finger points at the moon.

Actually, in this case it's more like a finger pointing to a dirty white plate someone chucked into the sky.

 
At 1/23/2008 11:49 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

'Ego' refers to a particular psychological model. It's a concept and concepts never correspond exactly with reality.

A net catches fish, but once the fish are caught, one forgets about the net. A snare catches rabbits, but once the rabbits are caught, one forgets about the snare. The words catch ideas (or meanings), but once the meanings are caught, one forgets about the words. I wish I met the one who forgot words [the one who captured the meaning, who grasped the image of things] and talked to him - Zhuangzi

Ego doesn't exist in and of itself so we can deny it or affirm it, what's the difference?

 
At 1/23/2008 12:02 PM, Blogger jody said...

Ego doesn't exist in and of itself so we can deny it or affirm it, what's the difference?

The difference is that people create these psychological gauntlets to run through in an attempt to kill their "egos." All they are doing is reinforcing the notion by splitting into a hunter and hunted. It's one of the most effective ignorance extenders we have, and it all goes on in the name of spiritual practice and so-called "higher consciousness."

 
At 1/23/2008 12:16 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

No-ego is one bank of the river, ego the other. If everybody is on the ego bank and we want to help them reach the island in the middle, what should we say to them? Do you have words to describe that island?

 
At 1/23/2008 12:47 PM, Blogger yomamma said...

Nisargadatta said that Ego is your concept of who you are rather than who you really are, should you kill something just because you have concepts? or just recognize the unreal as the unreal.

 
At 1/23/2008 12:59 PM, Blogger jody said...

No-ego is one bank of the river, ego the other.

Ego is the house, no-ego the foundation. The house only knows itself as house, as it became conscious while under construction. Foundation is the basis for House's being a house, but since Foundation has no content other than itself, House has no basis of comparison, so it's as if Foundation is invisible.

Then one day there's an earthquake, and House suddenly sees in a very real way that it has a foundation. In fact, House realizes that it's nothing without its foundation.

The moral? Every house has a foundation, whether or not the house is aware of this directly. So, rather than House attempting to tear itself down in the search for Foundation, House can rest assured that no matter what it is thinking or feeling, its truth is Foundation itself, regardless of what House believes about its spiritual understanding.

 
At 1/23/2008 5:36 PM, Blogger Stuart said...

The thought we call "I" appears, and we tend to cling to it tightly, considering it not only substantial, but of supreme importance. In this world of constant change, clinging to anything causes suffering.

If someone is suffering, and really wants to see the root of it... it's often good medicine to examine this "I" thought. To deeply question whatever ideas we cling to regarding what this "I" is.

"Ego" means "I." Saying "Kill the 'I'" may point someone towards examining whatever idea of "I" he's cultivating or believing in or clinging to.

Like any teaching, it's just a pointer. Its effect depends on the intention behind its use, and the context within which it's understood.

Saying "Question what this 'I' is" might be clearer than "Kill the ego." I personally would lean towards the former phrasing. But it's possible that a the teaching "Kill the ego" might, under some circumstances, lead someone to question the idea of "I."

The word "I" is simple and direct enough. The more jargony word "ego" generally complicates and confuses the matter.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

 
At 1/23/2008 7:51 PM, Anonymous William said...

Jody, when somebody says something that is impossible, it can mean one of two things. One, they are idiots. Or two, they don't mean it literally, and don't expect you to take it that way, either.

It seems like your complaint here is that some people could misinterpret what the Dalai Lama said, and that you've seen that misinterpretation lead to harm. That's a real problem, sure. But the other problem is that if he tries to explain all the nuances in one go, his audience will be asleep, and journalists won't quote him. Bold, dynamic statements create interest.

And really, the metaphor works fine for me. To run with your metaphor of houses, I think of my ego like the Winchester Mystery House: continually building on more pointless crap that gets in the way of living, completely obscuring the foundation. For me, much of my advancement comes through pruning all that ego-generated bullshit back. Is that killing the ego, exactly? Maybe not, but that is close enough that I think he's talking about the same thing.

 
At 1/23/2008 8:01 PM, Blogger jody said...

that is close enough that I think he's talking about the same thing.

For a more astute listener, sure. But the audience is less astute about these matters, and so it does matter how he expresses these things.

 
At 1/24/2008 10:04 PM, Blogger gregory said...

dang, this is a great thread, cut it out and put it in the highlight reel.

and just now a thought popped into my mind, there is a book here for you to write/edit, bcause something essential to the current zeitgeist is being discussed

 
At 1/25/2008 10:10 AM, Anonymous Dud Jom said...

I do not think this is a great thread. I think this thread is a total waste of time. The current zeitgeist can just cluck off imhp. Unless genocidal fanaticism is where we ought to be going. Humanity and her values have to get the upper hand. If you're running with Mao (aka Parenti), you're plugging for the biggest atrocity in human history and setting up the conditions for more of the same. If you listen to the Dalai Lama, you may very well get what he's saying wrong, as all of you seem to have done here, but there's a possibility we'll turn out for the better. For Christians, I'd say dust off your copy of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers if Buddhism makes you uncomfortable. Pride is the basic failing, after all. I've seen plenty of that here. Not much insight of any kind.

 
At 1/25/2008 10:13 AM, Blogger jody said...

Not much insight of any kind.

Yeah, I know. It takes it to see it, so you don't.

 
At 1/25/2008 12:37 PM, Anonymous Dude Jom said...

Cluck, cluck. Get over your self. There's something bigger than you going on here.

 
At 1/25/2008 1:10 PM, Blogger jody said...

There's something bigger than you going on here.

Right. And you can't see it.

 
At 1/25/2008 1:31 PM, Anonymous hard at work in the lab said...

"'There's something bigger than you going on here.'

'Right. And you can't see it.'"

Jody, have you thought about becoming a teacher? New Agers and "social justice" types are due for an ontological curb-stomping.

 
At 1/25/2008 1:39 PM, Blogger jody said...

have you thought about becoming a teacher?

I'm just some jerk who thinks he knows better about some things. If you want to fly me out somewhere to hear me spout the way I do here, I wouldn't turn you down without thinking on it some.

 
At 1/26/2008 5:15 AM, Anonymous Dude Jom said...

Can't say but what I had some fun with the ego-stomping (given and received), but I'm off to play somewhere else where the kids are nicer. Somewhere where the gods don't get made into demons, and the demons into gods.

Yours,
bDud 'Joms

 
At 1/27/2008 5:30 AM, Anonymous Ashwin said...

Ok... for all of you those who think you can "kill" ego... did it ever cross your mind that you need to add a "false" in front of the word "ego"?

"false ego"? anyone?

Makes much more sense to me then.

 
At 1/28/2008 2:22 PM, Anonymous meanMrMommyMan said...

I don't see any problem with that statement, it fits in line with Buddhist teaching. Maybe I'm an idiot too, that's OK, I don't have an ego to be wounded anyway, so call me an idiot.

 
At 1/28/2008 3:38 PM, Blogger jody said...

I don't have an ego to be wounded

Oh yeah? Who was it who just provided the comment?

 
At 10/01/2009 1:47 AM, Anonymous gurubasher said...

Everyone who loves this kind of wool removing, please watch the movie

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama

One example of his utter stupidity I found particularly hilarious was when the guy asks him about how far the nonviolence doctrine goes, specifically do you allow evil to happen to yourself or your family in the name of nonviolence, DL gives a long, does this guy have downs syndrome answer, and when talking about violence, without talking about the spiritual implications or buddhist doctrines, he says, "You know, you kill someone, you gonna have to go to jail."

thats just the beginning.......

thanks again jody and everyone at GP

 

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