By commentating on reality, we create the ego. What advantage is there then, we might ask, in creating this ego? What are we gaining by this exercise? The answer here of course is that there is no advantage, except for that self-same ego. ‘The ego gains itself’, which is a doubtful advantage, even at the best of times. It’s only the ego that cares about itself, after all.
What we gain, when we gain the separate viewpoint which is the ego, is the possibility of commentating on reality from the outside without really knowing what we are commentating about. What we are actually commenting on is ‘what reality looks like from the perspective of this hypothetical external viewpoint’, which doesn’t really exist). Certainly it doesn’t exist independently of this viewpoint. Any value that the comments in question might have exist strictly in relation to this hypothetical viewpoint, which itself doesn’t exist, as we have just said. The type of value that we talking about here is therefore very ‘provisional’ (which is to say, our comments are meaningful only insofar as the point of view that were taken for granted is a ‘necessary’ kind of thing, which it isn’t at all).
Why doesn’t the ‘external separate viewpoint’ exist? This really is the sticking point in the argument – the point beyond which we find it so hard to move. We find it impossibly hard to move beyond it because it feels so much as if there really is an external, separate viewpoint operating. That abstracted viewpoint is ‘me’ – it is the experience that I’m working with (or perhaps working through) every single day of my life. It’s my constant preoccupation! Being a separate self is such an intimate and consistent experience – it is pretty much the only experience which we will ever have and since it is pretty much ‘the only experience which we will ever have’ we find it practically impossible to challenge it. How can anyone come up and say that the ‘me’ isn’t real? It’s the key feature of my existence!
The ‘me’ isn’t real because it’s a purely arbitrary point of view – if something is an arbitrary point of view (i.e. if we could just as well look at things in a totally different way) then how on earth can we say that it is ‘real’? It is a misuse of the word. We can say that is ‘familiar’ or ‘persuasive’ (or that is the only thing we know) but we can’t it is real. That – as we have just said – is a blatant misuse of the word. If something’s true it’s true whether I want it to be or not; it’s not a function of my preference.
We know that the ‘me’ is only an arbitrary point of view because we can completely drop it in an instant (in meditation for example) and when we do this we discover that we aren’t at all separate from or external to the world. People have been discovering this for tens of thousands of years. As the Buddha says,
In the sky, there is no distinction between East and West, people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.
The very notion of a distinct self or ego is absurd. The question ‘why doesn’t the external separate viewpoint exist’ is ridiculous: how can anything be ‘separate from’ or ‘external to’ reality? If we are ‘outside reality’ (‘outside reality looking in’, as it were) then clearly we’re not real. We have created an unreal or abstract POV and all the comments we make on this basis of this unreal or abstract POV are equally unreal. It’s a closed circuit of illusion. My comments (i.e. my thoughts) are only ‘real with respect where I am coming from’, which is in itself an unreal place.
If we wanted to say that something genuinely is real (as opposed to the thinking mind, as opposed to the mind-created self) then we could say that consciousness is real. Consciousness is real because it’s not arbitrary, because it’s not an engineered or constructed thing. If no one set it up, arranged for it to be there, arranged for it to be the way that it is, then that’s got to make it real! It’s ‘real all by itself’, not ‘real just because that we say it is’. Before we say anything, do anything, think anything, we are conscious. Before we commentate we are conscious. That’s where everything comes from therefore. If we wanted to be unconscious, then we’d have to arrange that for ourselves. The ‘conditioned mode of existence’ is a special case – it needs to be set up, it needs to programmed, it needs to be engineered in some way.
We are likely to dispute to dispute this, of course. ‘If I do nothing’, I say, ‘then nothing happens – I just carry on just the same as I always do, I carry on being asleep. I carry on in my conditioned mode of existence. I carry on perceiving myself to be a separate ego observer’. ‘That’s a fact’, I say, ‘if I’m unconscious and I do nothing about it then I’m going stay unconscious. Isn’t this what we all do all the time anyway – ‘doing nothing’. This way of thinking would have us ‘straining to be conscious’, as if consciousness were the ‘special state’ or ‘special case’ that has to be brought about in some way.
The truth is however that we are ‘doing something’ the whole time – we just don’t notice ourselves doing it. What we’re doing is ‘commentating on reality’ – from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we fall asleep at night we are commentating on reality and ‘commentating on reality’ (as we started off this discussion by saying) is how we create the ego. If we took the trouble to notice our own mental activity we’d see this – we’d see that we’re expressing opinions about reality the whole time, we’d see that we’re making judgements about the way things are, and saying that they are ‘good or bad’. There’s nothing that can happen, that we’re aware of, without us making some sort of comment or judgement about it and the reason for this ceaseless activity is simply to maintain the illusion of a ‘separate viewpoint’ that is so important to us…
It’s not really important that we maintain the illusion of the separate viewpoint though, as we have said. That’s only ‘important’ to the illusion of the separate viewpoint – the illusion is hanging onto itself, for no good reason at all! The commentator is commentating in order that the perception that there is a commentator can carry on being there. A tautology is feeding upon itself – the whole thing is just a ‘closed circuit of illusion’, going around and around and around forever….