“Since all is empty from the beginning, where can the dust alight?” – Hui Neng
All effort of the separate self to become liberated or enlightened is futile. Actually, all effort to become anything, ‘become’ being the key word, is futile. The act of becoming is a never-ending uphill battle that cannot be won. Yes, you might meditate, chant mantras, go on a spiritual retreat, take a self-help course, improve your self-image, your position in life, your relationships, even your mental outlook, but none of these have any lasting effect or enduring qualities. To paraphrase Wei Wu Wei, the ‘action which is not action’ man, we are unhappy because everything we do is for our self, and there isn’t one.
The separate self, or Little Me, or ego, can’t become something else because it’s nothing to begin with. It’s like a shadow trying to become the phantom that created it.
If you look closely, all qualities of the separate self are temporary. Any substances that they appear to be made out of are ultimately no more real than a shadow.
Your true self, essential being, needs no help. It already is and always will be. It is inherently liberated and enlightened, peaceful, happy, and loving. It is untouchable, unmoving, unchanging.
In the act of becoming, the separate self will endlessly create new obstacles to overcome, new goals to achieve, and will forever be chasing the carrot dangling just out of reach. That’s what the separate self, the ego, does. This is what gives it life. And this is what causes all of our psychological suffering – trying to cure our problems with that which caused them.
The phantom and the shadow, the seeker and the sought, all vanish in the brilliant light of awareness, of simply being, and all effort ceases. And in this effortlessness there is a resting, an abiding in that which is nameless, can never be found, and yet is everywhere. And you, I, we are that.