The True Self and the Path of Virtue
“In holding the soul and embracing the oneness
Can one be steadfast and not straying?”
The chapter on Ego begins with the question “who are you?”
And many people will answer “I am ‘ME’.
The next question is “who is me” ?
This is where many will have to pause and consider. In that chapter on Ego, the discussion centered the me-ism. The thinking me.
This chapter is about guiding you, the reader, towards a deeper more profound identity.
The “me” inside us finds this identity by summarizing the life story, the story of ‘me’ and then goes on to define this ‘me’ with descriptions, roles and labels. The ego ‘me’ is the agent for experiencing the physical realm. Often this is all we know of our self. Yet we can learn to look deeper and realize more.
Me begins to define itself by descriptions such as:
– I am a man or a woman
– I am so many years old
– I belong in this ethnic or racial catagory
– work catagory (I am a doctor, attorney, teacher, plumber sanitation worker etc)
These are all roles, labels and description of the material world. There is a deeper aspect of self and that is the spiritual self. The spiritual self is also known as the authentic self, … the true self.
How do we arrive at this self identifying? We think about it. As we begin to think about this or anything else our identity usually becomes absorbed in the thinking process. The thinking process is a great tool yet too often we dwell in thinking so much that we become distracted. The thinking can and often does become the initiator of suffering. We cannot seem to turn the thinking off and it will drive us crazy. That voice in the head can become a recurring loop which defines reality and perception. When thinking is under complete dominance of the emotional mind, the ego, we begin to experience problems. Problems initiate reaction. Reaction can create more problems.
The alternative is to realize we are not our thoughts. In mindfulness meditation one learns to observe the thinking. Observing is not thinking. It is … well … observing. This begins to help us realize subject (the observer) and object (the observed). By becoming an observer, one can observe thinking. Thus when we become the observer, we are not our thoughts. In this way one can also realize that thinking is a function or mental process.
So who is this observer ? It is not the ego self. It is not that part of “me” that dwells only in the material or physical domain. The ego believes it to be the sole identity because it is the thinking. Philosophers of western thought, such as Descartes, belong in this area of rationalism. What I am describing is Eastern philosophy and spiritual determination that is the source of the material realm. My intent here is not to change your mind if you are dead set in the material realm nor to supercede materialism.
What I would have you understand is that we are in essence, spiritual beings having a physical experience. Just as Quantum Science is a deeper realization than Newtonian Mechanics spirituality or spiritual realization is a transcendence of the physical thinking me. This state of consciousness that is the observer, the knower is the true self. It is consciousness that give order to the undifferentiated chaos to the Tao. (See Chapters on Nature of the Tao).
So rather than to define the self as physical realm and ego identifiers, the true self just is. I is a realization of “I am”. This is just being. Being is consciousness experiencing life in the physical realm
So the question that we might begin to contemplate could be “how do we realize this spiritual beingness”?.
This realization is meditation, that infinite continuum whose doorway stands in the gap between the thoughts. The technique or practice in bringing the attention to this point between thoughts is lesson unto itself and discussed in other chapters. Meditation training is best learned by working with a teacher who can guide you gently, slowly and surely to this state of consciousness.
In this timeless place of stillness we remember or awaken unto the realization that we are spirit and are at one with spirit. This aspect of your-self is the true self. This part of us is that which is unified with The Tao. Through virtue we follow the path of the the Tao. This is The Way.
In holding to our realization as the true self we can embrace the oneness, we can become one with the Tao. Lao Tzu is asking us can we hold to this oneness or will will give over to the ego and thinking? Can we learn to reside in the eternal place between thoughts or will be fall back into desire, materialism and ego self serving. As spiritual entities, the true self is our true nature. Nature is the manifestation of the Tao. The Tao is both emptiness and source. (see nature of the Tao)
We have this temporary experience as a physical being in a realm of material form and we call it life. When we are awake and self aware we experience life. When we are distracted, that is when we are lost to our true self and our spiritual source we live in the world of ego. Yet since we are physical beings, we have our place in the physical realm. Thus we are spiritual beings (conciousness) experiencing (life) in this physical realm. The way (the path of the Tao) is bring balance between the two. Balance brings a very special harmony that is called “mystic virtue”.
Those who understand others are intelligent
Those who understand themselves are enlightened
Those who overcome others have strength
Those who overcome themselves are powerful
Those who know contentment are wealthy
Those who proceed vigorously have willpower
Those who do not lose their base endure
Those who die but do not perish have longevity
Those who understand their identity as the true self are enlightened. This is clarity of being. The ego seeks intelligence and power, the true self seeks wisdom through virtue and unity with source. We are called to let go of the singular view that we are only a physical being and realize there is more than sensation seeking and fulfilling physical desires. We must apply the wisdom at the spiritual level which requires that we let go of serving the ego (self serving). By orienting your perspective internal, we can be released from the external.
Moment by moment, experience by experience the Tao cultivator brings harmony and balance to life. On the path of enlightenment, we make our mistakes and return to self realization over and over, gaining wisdom and willpower and true contentment. In meditation we cultivate our base as the true self, the spiritual being we are. Mindful of ego, we learn to free ourselves from the chains of desire and material form. In each moment, we can seek unity through virtue or surrender to ego and the path of suffering.
The true self seeks balance and harmony, the ego seeks to feed desire.
The true self practices meditation to strengthen unity with the Tao, the ego seeks distraction.
The true self is grounded in the Three Treasures, the ego is grounded in sensation seeking.
The true self realizes the power of choice, the ego is imprisoned to emotional reaction.
The true self chooses wisdom in awareness, the ego is lost in ignorance only to repeat the same coping and creating suffering.
The true self embraces the Tao, the ego embraces distraction and is lost to source.
The Tao cultivator is the true self awakening and strengthening its awareness, learning how to avoid the pitfalls of ignorance. Self discipline is the true self in charge and guiding the spirit to balance, harmony and enlightenment. Self control is the true self staying above the egoic temptations enjoying life in moderation and wisdom.
The true self uses the unity with the unlimited ultimate source as their base, enduring in the living experience with longevity and well being.