(© RKP, 1960)
`I was free from the idea of an ego-entity, a personality, a being, and a separated individuality'.
- THE BUDDHA (Diamond Sutra, XIV)
All Western life is based on the reality of an ego. Commerce, culture, science and religion have this reality of the individual entity as a basic principle, which itself is an element of the belief that phenomena are real and that noumenon is unreal. In the East, so we are told, this is not so, at least has not been so hitherto and is not so yet to any serious extent, for the oriental religions, in their purer manifestations, Vedanta as Advaita and Buddhism uncorrupted, have inculcated the contrary since before our civilisations were born.
Increasingly in the West we are coming to understand that the oriental understanding is correct, and that Noumenon alone is real. This understanding once existed in our civilisation, for the Greek sages knew it, and it is implicit in Gnostic Christianity.
We need not be surprised, therefore, nor disheartened, by the apparent inability of the Western mind to overcome its inhibition, which is the probable explanation of the rarity or absence of enlightenment among us, for the Western intellect comprehends the truth readily enough, but resistance to the total assimilation of that truth is too great. The company of those who comprehend intellectually is still a small one, though it may be rising from a few hundreds to a few thousands in each country, but the percentage or per mil-age of those who have really understood seems to remain at zero. Do we, in fact, know anybody, famous or obscure, who in thought, in speech, and in writing does not refer to 'the ego', 'the self', as though such an entity really existed? That seems to be conclusive evidence, betraying the state of mind that has not understood. The Buddha and the Sages, when they found it necessary to refer to the concept, used - in translation at least - the indefinite article, 'a' self, thereby implying that they spoke of a notion and not of a real entity.
Intellectual comprehension that no such entity could exist is insufficient. It does not in fact even loosen the stranglehold of the concept, and an 'act of faith' does not affect it either. On the contrary, each time the existence of the notion as an entity is referred to as a 'fact', even tacitly assumed, its imaginary power is thereby affirmed and the possibility of liberation - for liberation is liberation from that - is rendered more remote.
Why should this be so? I think that can be explained in simple words. A non-existent entity cannot be supposed to be capable of experiencing anything real - and reality is presumably just that! Such a proceeding would imply the dualistic perception of reality as an object by another object which itself is unreal.
The I is real, as long as it remains unconditioned. It exists in its own state because it IS its own state of enlightenment, bliss, satori. No experience is called-for, no experience can be had, there is nothing to be attained. If the illusion, the concept that We are phenomena can be dissipated, we are just real, that which we are, all that we are; and that is the so-called 'state' of enlightenment, of being 'awake'.
The Lord Buddha said it, the Lord Krishna said it, it seems evident that the Lord Jesus knew it, and among the awakened Masters, Hui Neng said it, Huang Po said it, Padma Sambhava said it, the Maharshi said it - and, all things considered, relatively little else. Is there much else to say? How slim are the books devoted to the ultimate words of the Awakened - the 'Diamond Sutra', the 'Wei Lang Sutra'*, the 'Baghavad Gita', even the 'Upanishads', the 'Seeing of Reality', 'Who am I?'!** And if the superfluous, which even these books have managed to acquire, were eliminated, including oriental repetition, only a few pages would remain to each. That is all we need. That should be enough. But we should need to persuade ourselves once and for all and at last - that they meant what they said and, once and for all and at last - to believe them!
*(Ed. note: i.e. the 'Hui Neng Sutra'; 'Wei Lang' is the same name rendered in the Southern dialect of T'ang Dynasty Chinese.)
**(WWW is here referring to the replies given by Sri Ramana Maharshi to certain questions posed by Sivaprakasam Pillai, subsequently compiled and published under the title 'Who Am I?')