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fallacy of self

Probably the biggest discovery in human history was Siddhartha's
realization that the self does not exist independently, that it is a
mere label, and therefore that clinging to it is ignorance. However, as
unsound as the label self may be, destroying it is no small task. This
label called "self" is the most stubborn of all concepts to break.

Siddhartha's discovery of the fallacy of self is symbolized in the
story of the destruction of Mara. Referred to traditionally as the evil
lord of the desire realm, Mara is none other than Siddhartha's clinging
to the self. It is fitting that Mara is depicted as a handsome and
powerful warrior who has never been defeated. Like Mara, the self is
powerful and insatiable, egocentric and deceptive, greedy for attention,
clever, and vain, It's hard to remember that, like illusion of the fire
ring, the self is assembled, doesn't exist independently, and is
susceptible to change.

Habit makes us weak against the self. Even simple habits die hard. You
may be aware of how bad smoking is for your health, but that doesn't
necessarily convince you to stop smoking, especially when you enjoy the
ritual, the slender shape of the cigarette, the way the tobacco
smolders, the fragrant smoke curling around your fingers. But the habit
of self is not just a simple addiction like smoking cigarettes. From
time immemorial we have been addicted to the self. It is how we identify
ourselves. It is what we love most dearly. It is also what we hate most
fiercely at times. Its existence is also the thing that we work hardest
to try to validate. Almost everything that we do or think or have,
including our spiritual path, is a means to confirm its existence. It is
the self that fears failure and longs for success, fears hell and longs
for heaven. The self loathes suffering and loves the causes of
suffering. It stupidly wages war in the name of peace. It wishes for
enlightenment but detests the path to enlightenment. It wishes to work
as a socialist but live as a capitalist. When the self feels lonely, it
desires friendship. Its possessiveness of those it loves manifests in
passion that can lead to aggression. Its supposed enemies-such as
spiritual paths designed to conquer the ego-are often corrupted and
recruited as the self's ally. Its skill in playing the game of deception
is nearly perfect. It weaves a cocoon around itself like a silkworm; but
unlike a silkworm, it doesn't know how to find the way out.

-Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

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