“We can only tell the truth when we cease to identify with the part of ourselves we think we have to protect. ... I can never be straight with you if I need something from you.”
I have returned to these words again and again in the last few weeks, tumbling them about in my mind like socks in the dryer, trying to wring every bit of meaning from them. I think my vent is plugged.
In the dharma we come to understand the nature of desire and attachment, the truth of no-self, and the myth of need. I recognize that I have attachments and desires and strong habitual patterns, but intellectually I tell myself I do not have needs. I do not need these things I am attached to, these habits I have developed, even the food and drink and air I breath. I do not need these things, no matter how I desire them. I can even say I do not need other people. I do not need attention or affection.
But do I mean it? I can talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. I act in whatever way seems most acceptable to the people around me. In this, I become many people. I am different with my family than my friends than my classmates than my coworkers. I can kid myself and say this is for their benefit, but it is for myself. I want them to like me. I want to fit in. I want affection and attention. I cannot practice truth because I need these things.
It seems a silly thing sometimes. If I were to act honestly, would I harm people? Probably not because that is not my nature. Yet in reality I do no posses a ‘nature.’ People spend years searching for their identity and I admit that lately I have done the same. I am wrapped up trying to be the person I want to be, the person I think I should be. Yet that is not ‘me’ either because ‘me’ does not truly exist. There is nothing to protect, nothing to harm. No-self.
But what about the ‘self’ that exists in the minds of others? That is the crux of the matter. What I believe my identity to be is a small thing compared to what others believe I am. I can revise my identity at my will, ever changing, ever reinventing itself by each choice I make. I cannot revise the person I am in the minds of others. Which makes it all the more important because of that very lack of control. I can influence their conceptions of me, but ultimately cannot change them.
We all see the world through a set of conceptual filters were have spent our entire lives constructing, our self imposed rose colored glasses. We all believe what we see to be the truth, reality. It’s just a dream. When a person’s conception of me is as I want it to be, I protect that without ever realizing it. When a person’s conception of me is not as I would have it, I feel anger or fear. Anger at being judged unfairly, treated too harshly, maligned. Fear that the pedestal is too high.
Fear is born of a need to escape the anger of others. It is the anger of others which can so easily shatter the conception of myself, my identity. “I need me” is the greatest lie ever told because we told it to ourselves.
I need truth.