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An Elderly Buddhist and the End of Pride

By: Simon Heathcote

‘The differences are the result of the sense of doership. The fruits will be destroyed if the root is destroyed. So, relinquish the sense of doership.’ Ramana Maharshi

Why does pride head the list of the Seven Deadly Sins?

Perhaps one obvious answer is that it blocks us from our fellows, from the healing grace of humility, and blinds us to our ‘wrongs’, our defects of character.

We point the finger at the other and fail to notice the three pointing back at us.

Yet the deeper reason is that it cleaves us from God or consciousness, as we take credit for our actions in this world, thus harvesting the fruits of our success and failures.

And so, our pride grows, taking us further from the source of being and outwards to garner more and more attachments – people, places and things.

Without knowing it, we all face the wrong way.

This is the pride of ‘I’, which has obliterated awareness of the divine and occupies the throne as an impostor, turfing out the legitimate ruler, who simply waits patiently for the inevitable return.

Yet because this is largely an unconscious process initiated most often by early trauma (in this life or another), it is almost impossible to see.

What is needed is a fresh perspective where we get out of our own way, a window of opportunity to peer through and reframe the lens of our life.

But letting go of the sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ is not easy; in fact, it may seem entirely illogical and unfounded and certainly cannot be achieved without a hefty dollop of grace.

We have of course mistaken the body and mind for the Self and become entangled in memory and imagination, fear and desire, all of which are illusory yet masquerade as real, quite convincingly.

Without grace and the help of the spiritual master, it is nigh on impossible to find our way back through the maze to our original face before we were born.

When walloped by traumatic events, particularly when young, we lose what Eckhart Tolle calls ‘our felt sense of oneness with the rest of the universe’.

A void is created, a deep and painful emptiness, where demons rush in, while we live alienated from both Self and body, entirely in the mind, the roots that connect us with our unconscious ripped asunder.

It is impossible to feel whole under such circumstances, yet because life relentlessly drives towards wholeness, or oneness, we desperately attach to people, places and things.

Thus, we live without any permanent foundation, blown around on the winds of change, determined to tie down that which comes and goes.

While early childhood trauma is devastating, for those whose souls are ready, it provides a high-risk strategy to eventually rediscover the sense of permanence once lost.

As I look back on my life, I can see how stubborn I was and how many times I tried to build my house on quicksand, just as I had witnessed in early childhood.

Relationships, alcohol, food, romance, success – all the usual suspects – came knocking at my door and I would spend decades separating wheat from chaff.

I toyed on the edge of annihilation countless times – all this by 25 – until at a small council flat at the foot of the Malvern Hills, I met the woman who would change, even save, my life.

She had been an aristocrat, owning tea plantations in India, and a spy for the Special Operations Executive in World War Two.

She was the most remarkable person I have ever encountered, and the most contented, although she had to lose all to find that peace.

Decades earlier, her life had crash landed, as had mine, and she had embarked upon the perilous journey of not just putting herself back together, but understanding the deepest spiritual truths.

And although Pamela was more than 40 years older than I and our friendship platonic, we were, without any shadow of doubt, soul mates in the truest sense.

When I arrived at her door, one fateful day in the summer of 1988, she later reported seeing me wreathed in barb wire, which we would spend the next six months beginning to unpick.

She would read to me from the Christian mystics, the Sutras, Alan Watts and the Tao Te Ching. We spent out days discussing philosophy, and drinking Lapsang Souchong, while I received massages and healing.

In long type-written letters, she diagnosed me quoting Kierkegaard, as suffering from ‘alienation from Self’. In doing so, she was both spot on and pointing out the task ahead.

I would go on to explore numerous spiritual paths, make many more dire mistakes and walk voluminous dead ends, before my life as a seeker would finally start to wind down. Eventually I had the chance to come home.

Her diagnosis, of course, applies to most of us.

But which self are we looking for? Would that be the doer who claims responsibility, both credit and debit on the karmic account, as well as success and failure?

Or could it be the Self that is the consciousness in which all objects and experiences appear and which is our own true nature; before the arising of the ‘I’ thought and all that accompanying pride and drama?

Without the first concept ‘I’, the concept ‘God’ and ‘World’ also don’t exist, so when clients tell me they don’t believe in God, I am able to point out that yes, they don’t belief in the concept of God as given.

But real God is prior to all concepts and lives as their own essence and the essence of all things, while the real ‘I’ waits patiently to be rediscovered when the mind returns to its source in the heart.

This discovery is the greatest freedom a human being can enjoy, although identification with the human self has faded.

I have an elderly Zen Buddhist to thank for the reminder that concepts are not reality and I Am That.

“Love says ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two, my life flows.”
― Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

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