A student once asked His Holiness the Dalai Lama, how does he handle his ego. The Dalai Lama asked him to explain what the ego is. After the student explained that it was a level of consciousness that we must be special. That we must survive no matter what. That we must make ourselves better, especially better than others. This ego—tendency is hard-wired into the human mind. It causes unrest, unease, discomfort, and a lot of anxiety about the past and the future.
The Dalai Lama’s response was they didn’t have that concept in his practice. He really didn’t know what the ego was because he never felt he was someone special. He didn’t feel the overpowering need for his physical presence to survive. He said in The Book of Joy:
“I always consider myself personally one of seven billion human beings. Nothing special. So, on that level, I have tried to make people aware that the ultimate source of happiness is simply a healthy body and a warm heart.”
When he said this, the statistics were at seven billion. But now it is more like 8.5 billion people on the planet—all thinking they are special, with their dreams, ambitions, and goals to make something out of themselves and make the world a better place. The Dalai Lama doesn’t have such lofty aspirations. He’s very simple. Alleviate suffering in yourself and others as much as you can. That’s it. You don’t have the be the holiest, most self-sacrificing monk in the world either. Or come here to fix the world that was doing fine before we meddled in it.
Imagine that you are a cat curled up by the fire, or a fish swimming smoothly through water. Do you have the kind of mind to create worry and upset? No. All animals are without the ego mind. So if you want to know what it feels like not to have an ego-mind, picture yourself as any animal, plant, or rock in nature—living harmoniously, dying or dissolving when the time has come, with no struggle involved.
The azalea isn’t saying, “I hate that yellow daisy over there. Yellow should be banned in nature. And look at how fresh and young that daisy is too, while I’m on my way out. It’s not fair. I should live forever. Because I’m special and above all others. Maybe, in my next life, I’ll reincarnate as an orchid.”
The deer isn’t saying, “When will I get married? I don’t want to be the one deer left behind in the thousands of herds.” The street mutt isn’t envying the pampered lapdog and planning a rebellion against the forces of nature that landed her in the streets. The snake isn’t protesting about not having legs and demanding compensation.
Imagine yourself as part of nature (which you actually are), with forces acting on you beyond your control, and you will know what it feels like to be without an ego mind. It is the only time, as a human, that you will feel free.