On Zen & The Ego

A Lotus Mandala

Being an “atheist”, can one also be spiritual? What does spiritual mean? Believing in Spirits? What is a spirit? A zest? A power force? An energy? Something undefinable that just is?

From my perspective there are two sides of us. There is the ego; the analytical voice inside your head, that is constantly chattering away, trying to make sense of “things”. But what is a “thing”? A thing is a concept, an idea, a construct of the ego. In reality, there are no single things, but one single thing; everything. A single thing which is everything and everyone. A single energy which flows and manifests itself in various guises, but which is essentially, all one and the same.

The ego, the thinking mind tries to grasp this as a concept, but the limitations of language, measuring, defining, make it impossible to grasp or to possess with/by thoughts alone. Like a scientist in a lab inspecting something through a microscope we only see a tiny detail at any one time, the thinking mind, the ego, works in a linear way, in a micro sense rather than a macro. To experience the macro level of all things, you must stop thinking, ignore the ego and see it for what it is, simply another manifestation of the single energy. You must see it as another sound just like the rustling of the leaves or the birds singing. The point is to experience the energy that not only surrounds you, but is you. You are a part of it all. What you see is what you are.

I am no Zen master. If I were I would not be using words in this fashion to try to define the undefinable. The whole point of Zen, is to show one the limitations of thinking, language, measuring, analysing. How can you describe the macro in micro terms? You’d be here forever. The many manifestations of this single energy force are infinite; this leads to this leads to this leads to this, and so on, forever. Our egos are all specialists specialising in a particular field, a particular micro at any one time. Everything is simply a part, a component, a happening, of the single expanding mandala or fractal, and as we know, a fractal is an infinite complexity.

There is only the now. The Now is infinity. Trying to capture that with the finite mind/ego is futile. The past is merely a memory, the future an expectation. There has only ever been “now”.

I’m not saying that there is no place for the ego. The ego after all is as much a part of all this as anything else. You can’t have the macro without the micro, just as you can’t have white without black or cold without hot, smooth without rough, something without nothing, they are all sides to the same coin. They cannot exist separately without one-another. You can’t have a front without a back. What I am saying is that there is a time for the ego and a time for the non-ego. Also, it is good to see the ego for what it is, once you realise that you are not only your ego, but everything else, when you truly see this it comes as a great relief.

Alan Watts is the person I have to thank for putting what I felt at my core, a fundamental truth into words and “thoughts”. He really did have a talent for defining the undefinable. To me he speaks/spoke an ultimate logic.

I’ll leave you with some words from my personal guru and favourite entertainer, Alan Watts.