The Trickster of the Self: Naropa 4

Ah, we get to the crux of it: the trickster, sense of self.

Naropa’s first two encounters have been tests of behavior and relatedness. But behavior and interactions with others has a source: ego, personal identity. Thus with the third encounter we are given the simple truth of it: we/Naropa have tricked ourselves, and have done so well as to have built a mountain of illusion that now we/he have to surmount. In doing so, we will gain a different vision of Reality and ourself. The trickster is the mind, and in collecting ages of reactions and responses it has fabricated a sense of personal identity. This ego is the ultimate facade, shell, and armor. It is this that, in Naropa’s case, is the source of his pride and better than thou attitude that has been expressed three times.

For some people the shell of the ego is the source of shame, of being blamed, or of escapism through addictions, sports or media, or denial. For others the armor of the ego is carried around as mental arrogance – they’re just smarter than others, or so they tell themselves. Armor creates violence in the psyche, an embattled human being, a drive to be right and anger when one is not viewed as such. The facade of the self is the drama queen or king that turns just about any situation to be about one’s self. It also produces gossip, manipulation, and takes the eye off the important and larger factors in life and directs the attention to the drama of the small “I.”

Naropa encounters a man who says he wants to “turn his parents head.” It is a saying that means to trick someone, to dupe. At least three responses were possible to a learned Buddhist monk and scholar in that moment: a) to quote the Dharma regarding kindness and ethics to the man, b) to ask him why he is doing such things; inquiry also being a Buddhist practice, or c) to walk away chanting goodness to all involved. Naropa does none of these but responds to himself out of pride and egoity thinking himself  above and better than such things. No wisdom or compassion, no ethical act or consideration. Nor did he inquire of himself what this encounter actually might mean since his experience has taught him that all are potential teachers with teachings, all are his parents energetically or are parenting the future from the interaction of now, and nothing is what it seems. Instead of any of these possibilities, Naropa responds with pride.

Everything turns to rainbow light and Wisdom’s voice rings.
“How will you find the Guru, if
In this doctrine of Great Compassion
You do not crack the skull of egotism
With the mallet of non-Pure-Egoness and nothingness?”

In other words, he is to turn his head around and see how inflated his sense of self is. First, Naropa needs to examine his profession of faith. What actually is the Doctrine of Great Compassion that he learned and taught as a monk and then abbot of Nalanda? We can hear the echo of the old woman’s comment that sent him on his journey. “You think you know but you do not understand.”  Yet Compassion is only the beginning, like the surface layers of self-reflection. He is to ‘crack the skull of egotism” with a mallet. Crack it so it can no longer hold its contents, smash it so that it is unrecognizable. Why “skull?’ Because it is the hardest boney structure of our body, as ego is a hard nut to crack. Because the skull holds the brain which is related to the mind, though mind is not  the brain.  Because the three chakras of the head (ajna at the brow, alta major at the medulla, and the crown chakra at the fontanel, all play a role in the creation and sustaining of the ego as well as its spiritualization. * So for obvious and metaphysical-spiritual reasons the mallet, like a 2X4, is to crack Naropa’s skull.

non-Pure-Egoness. Is this an oxymoron, a string of words that make no sense together?  Non is a translation of the Sanskrit “a.” It negates as is vidya and avidya. Vidya means knowledge; avidya means ignorance: a lack or negative or void state regarding knowledge; there is none; it is lacking. The person is void of certain knowledge hence ignorant. The phrase means each word as an entirety and the phrase is an attempt to describe a state of Being.

  • non: there is none.
  • Pure: uncontaminated, untouched, non-adjusted
  • Egoness: one identifiable whole

As a phrase: the mallet of non-Pure-Egoness is the shattering reality that Pure Identity is void. Pure Egoness has nothing particular about it, nothing that we normally associate with egoity. This is the shattering blow that Naropa is admonished to apply.

We cannot say that Pure Identity is “the” void because that would be to “thing” void. Instead we must stretch beyond concepts of void, pure, and identity to something that is not a negation but an intrinsic lack, such as sky lacks a need to hold clouds yet clouds require sky for existence. Ultimate reality has no need, has no particular identity. In truth we cannot say anything about ultimate reality. Why? because it is untouched but not untouchable, uncontained but is the supreme container, is perfect thus is perpetually perfect – no adjustment necessary. Yet all in expression eventually adjusts to ultimate reality, just as we adjust to the nature of sky. non-Pure-Egoness is not stained nor separated from stains like the sky is not marred by clouds nor is it unmarred. If Naropa didn’t put such emphasis on his sense of personal egoity, it wouldn’t be a problem for him, but he does. And we do too.

If that weren’t enough of a “head turner,” nothingness is also part of this mallet. Let’s leave nothingness in its relation to egoity for now. In other words, ego is nothing. There is nothing actually there. It has no location (brain, eye, toe, bone, where is this ego located?). It has no constitution (three parts water, two parts fire, one part mud). It has no constancy (it is always smart, always stupid, always creative, always introverted, always ….). Egoity is nothing, not a something. No-thing-ness describes our sense of self. Prideful Naropa is asked how will he find the Guru with his egoity so intact that it adjusts the Doctrine of Compassion as it suits his pride and convenience?

* Ajna is related to the the person’s view, directedness, and sense of perspective and relativity among many things. Alta major is related to karma, cause and result that we are responsible for, and the Wheel of Time that is reincarnation all because of our lack of responsible living according to the Law of Cause and Result. Crown chakra is related to a higher will. This can speak of one’s inherent sense of greater good and aligning with that or a transcendent source that one aligns with. Much more can be said about chakras as we know.

About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

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3 Responses to The Trickster of the Self: Naropa 4

  1. Thank you, when you write “At least three responses were possible to a learned Buddhist monk and scholar in that moment:” everyday I can see I have these choices and can now use them.

  2. Pingback: More choices and the trickster of self | Karma Rinchen Tashi

    • Yes, I’m using the book The Life and Teachings of Naropa by Herbert Guenther, particularly the section where he is trying to find the Guru, Tilopa, who IS each encounter teaching and testing him. Our lives are the same. My hope is that by writing on these vignettes we come to see how archetypal Naropa’s journey is and that we are being taught and tested by the teacher, Wholeness-Goodness, all the time.

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