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Is Self an Illusion ?

Is Self an Illusion ?

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Published by cabralyc
by Prof. P. Krishna,
Ex-Rector, Rajghat Education Centre, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Varanasi 221001, India
by Prof. P. Krishna,
Ex-Rector, Rajghat Education Centre, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Varanasi 221001, India

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Published by: cabralyc on May 10, 2009
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Is Self an Illusion?
by Prof. P. Krishna
Ex-Rector, Rajghat Education Centre, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Varanasi221001, India We have seen that the conflict and violence in society arise from the conflict andviolence that is there in our consciousness. And the conflict and violence that is inour consciousness arises from the ego process in our consciousness. So the nextquestion that we must explore is what is this ego? Does it actually exist as areality in nature, or is it an illusion in the sense that it is merely a creation of ourown imagination? That is an important question, because if it exists in nature, thenyou cannot eliminate it. Then it is something like the tree, or your body; youcannot eliminate it. But if it is based on some assumptions, which don't have anyexistence except in our own imagination, then it has no existence in nature, it hasan existence only in the imagination. Just as fairy tales are created only out of ourimagination. They may be in a book, but they are not real, they are not actualstories. And when we know that it is only imaginary, it doesn't create illusion. Butwhen it is created in imagination, and I take it to be real, then it becomes anillusion. If the ego is something that actually exists in nature, then we can onlylearn to cope with it and the problems it creates. Then we need to study DaleCarnegie's books, which teach us how to manage the ego: How to Win Friendsand Influence People.It teaches us how to oil our way through society in order tobe successful.But what we are exploring here is something quite different. We are exploringwhether it is possible to dissolve the ego, through understanding the process bywhich it forms, so that you do not have to manage it. So freedom is somethingtotally different from management of the ego, or the refinement of the ego. Thehighly sophisticated, highly educated person expresses his ego in a refined way, amore sophisticated way than the uneducated person. But inwardly there is not atremendous difference between the two individuals. On the other hand there is atremendous difference between the person who is free from the ego and the onewho is trapped in it.So I want to explore with you this afternoon whether the ego is an illusion createdby our own mind. First of all one can observe for oneself that there is no egoanywhere in nature other than in human consciousness. Animals may be violent tosome extent but animals don't have an ego. They are not intentionally anddeliberately violent. And the human child,when it is born, is like an animal,it hasno ego since it doesn't have the capacity for thinking and imagining. So we mustexamine: when does the ego come into existence as the child grows and how doesit arise? Because, after all, we have all been children, so we have gone throughthat process. If I examine that, I find that after a few years of its birth the childacquires a language and acquires the capacity to think and to imagine. Thesecapacities in themselves are not the ego. They have come to us in the process of biological evolution, which is a part of the order of nature. When we couple thesecapacities with the instinct of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, which is therealso in the animal, then that produces the recipe for the formation of the ego,because with the human consciousness there is not only physical pain andphysical pleasure, but there is also psychological pain and psychological pleasure.I not only remember factually what happened, but I also record in my memory thepleasure and pain of that experience. I remember it and I can desire repetition of that pleasure in the future. And I also remember an insult, and feel enmicaltowards the person who insulted me. The memory of that insult can create apermanent enmity. I remember the person who ill-treated me and therefore infuture I avoid him. The memory produces fear, because I am afraid he willill-treat me again. But you must have noticed that when you ill-treat a dog, itcomes wagging its tail again the next day, it has forgotten that ill-treatment andnot felt insulted! But we have the capacity, not only to remember the event butalso to nurse this psychological grievance within us. That is what brings in fearand suspicion in our relationships. Children are also capable of getting hurt, but
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you must have noticed that after a few days, they have forgotten the hurt andquickly make friends with the same person. But as we grow older, it becomesincreasingly difficult to do this. And that is the beginning of the ego processwithin us.So the question arises whether it is possible not to record anythingpsychologically; to record only facts, but not to record insults and flattery. One isnot objecting to all memory, because factual memory is necessary and it does notcreate illusion or the ego. But the psychological memory interferes with thequality of my relationships in the present. That means you may have fought withyour husband or wife ten years ago and you may factually remember that you hada fight, but if you are not carrying the residue of it in terms of hurt then it does notaffect your relationship today. It is the memory of the hurt, that constitutespsychological memory. And that is what creates a difficulty in the relationship.We often observe that we have friends, both of whom are very good humanbeings, but something goes wrong between them; they can't manage to livepeacefully together. It is not that they don't want to but they just can't. And that'show relationships harden and break down.So that is the next thing to look at in our life, why do we record flattery andinsult? They are non-facts. If somebody comes and says to me," Oh, your lecturewas divine, it was wonderful, you are a great man ", it's an exaggeration, it's a lie.Why do I find that so pleasant, why do I record it? Or he comes and says,"Youare a stupid fool, you're wasting your time, you don't understand anything" and Ifeel insulted and I keep that insult in my mind and I feel enmical towards thisperson. We looked at that this morning. We said if you're carrying a begging bowl,and if somebody puts something in it, you treat him as a friend and if he takessomething out of it then you treat him as an enemy. So is there some kind of animage I am forming, a reputation I am seeking, for which I find that flattery usefuland the insult painful?So I must ask myself why I have this image, why I seek this reputation for myself?You will find that it comes from the fact that we would like the community tothink us better than we actually are. I don't want people to know me exactly as Iam, I pretend, and I like to create an image of a superior human being and letthem carry that image about me. Of course that creates a conflict in me because Ihave to be constantly living up to this image and acting different from what Iactually am. But I am willing to tolerate that conflict because I want theadvantages of what this good image in society gets me, which means that I am notcompletely honest. And we are dishonest because we are seeking some profit outof it. That itself is the ego-process.So the next question that I must ask is, is it possible to live without a single image?Be completely honest, be myself, irrespective of what people may think about me.Let your wife or your friend know you exactly as you are, with all yourweaknesses and faults and so-called virtues and accomplishments and let themdecide whether they want to stay with you or not. I don't want to pretend in orderthat that person remains friendly with me, because I have seen the complicationthat results from such pretence. It lowers the quality of our life. It creates theconflict between what I am and what I want others to think I am. That image is just an imaginary thing, that is not the actuality of me, so it is based on illusion.The ego, that division, comes from the image, not from the fact. The ego arisesfrom the manner in which I approach life.It is easy to see that my house doesn't create the ego in me, but I create the ego inrelation to my house. It arises if I feel attached to it and become very possessiveof it. And that seems to be true of everything. I can approach everythingnon-egotistically or I can approach it egotistically. I can do my work non-egotistically and I can do the same work egotistically. So the ego is not in theactivity. It lies in the manner in which I look at that activity and involve myself inthat activity. Which means, I need to watch my motive. With what motive am Irelating, with what motive am I doing the work? A scientist may be working 16hours a day in his laboratory, because he wants to learn about space, he wants tolearn how the sun shines and why the sky is blue. That is his interest, that is hispassion, that is what he wants to learn about. In that, there is no ego. But themoment he starts feeling that he should be the first to discover that, that he wantsto do this in order to get the Nobel Prize, the same activity becomes an egoactivity, because then he is not doing it for the joy of learning, he is doing it for aresult, a reward.So the ego is very subtle and nobody else can really know what my motives are.There is an interesting dialogue between Arjuna and Lord Krishna in theBhagavad Gita. Arjuna asks Krishna, what is the liberated man like? How does he
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sleep, how does he work, how does he live? And Krishna says, he lives like theordinary man, he works like the ordinary man and he sleeps like the ordinary man,but it is not the same thing because he does not do it for the same reasons.It just the inward difference of motive which distinguishes if it is an ego-processor it is not an ego- process. So it is not a matter of what you are doing or what youare not doing, but how you approach what you are doing and how you approachthe not-doing.This is not something that is highly philosophical and difficult to understand. Afterall, we teach students in school to play a game for the joy of playing and to excelat the game for the love of excellence and not give too much importance to theresult, as to who wins and who loses.If you give too much importance to the resultit becomes egotistical activity. So you can play the game egotistically and you canplay the same game non-egotistically. If you are not egoistic then it doesn't mattereven if you lose, there is the joy of having played and it gives you joy tocompliment your friend on having played better and having won the game. Thereis no frustration. That is what we mean by the sportsman spirit. Now, ife is alsolike a game. And if a game can be play non-egotistically, why can't life be livednon-egotistically? Of course it can be. We have somehow accepted that it can't beand that assumption may be an illusion.The ego is born out of the illusion that we think that if we work out of self-interest, we will benefit. Actually if you work with self-interest,which meansin order to receive rewards, to have more power, more money,a better reputation,it lowers the quality of your life. We want all that in order to be happy buthappiness is destroyed by the egotistic approach and therefore the quality of yourlife is lowered. So it is an illusion to think that to approach life with self-interest isin our self-interest! Normally we think that it is bad to be selfish, because otherpeople will suffer and I will benefit by my selfishness. We are saying, you aredefining benefit too narrowly, too unintelligently. You are not separate from theother person and what you consider to be a benefit is really, deeply, not a benefit.If we see the truth of that and we really perceive the danger of the ego process,not through an explanation, not merely as a rational conclusion with which weagree, then that perception of danger will act on consciousness and eliminate theego process. Your wanting to do it doesn't act. Your agreement also doesn't act,because knowledge and ideas don't change consciousness. But a deep perceptionof the truth changes consciousness. And we have this capacity for insight.Let me give you an example. Let's consider addiction to smoking. The humanbeing, before he took to smoking, was not addicted to smoking, which means hecould look at a cigarette and it did not create an irresistible desire in him to havethat cigarette. But for various social reasons he starts smoking and that gives asensation of pleasure. That pleasure is recorded and he wants to repeat thatpleasure. He wants to have more and more of it, and that sets up a chemistry, andnow, when he looks at a cigarette it produces an irresistible desire to have acigarette and he has got addicted. So something has changed in his brain, in thecomputer we talked about this morning. Earlier, the computer was not creatingthe desire when it saw a cigarette but now it creates an irresistible desire when itsees a cigarette. And the question we are asking is, can that habit break? Or musthe constantly struggle with this, can he only control the urge but never be free of it again? I have watched my friends. They keep struggling with this. They have toavoid all places where people are smoking or where cigarettes are kept; otherwisethey are tempted back to the cigarette. But, occasionally, you do come across aperson who felt a pang of pain in his chest and he realizes that the cigarette iskilling him. When that happens and the danger is actually perceived the desiredisappears! Something deeply changes in his brain and breaks the neural circuitwhich was creating that irresistible desire. Krishnamurti called it a mutation in thebrain. If that happens you are free, you don't have to cope with that problemagain. The habitual cycle is broken.
Can it be that we need some illusions to begin with for our growth andhave to outgrow them later on? Could the illusions be stages in which the mindgoes to the truth?
The questioner is asking if it is necessary to have some illusion in order todiscover what is true. No illusion is necessary for the discovery of truth. Differentreligions promulgate different illusions in the form of beliefs. Why do I have to gothrough them in order to discover what is true? There are no stages to truth.Socially the consequence of one illusion may be less bad than another, but from
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