We in the western tradition are fully committed to individuality: individual rights, individual responsibilities, individual choice. What this amounts to on a psychological level is ego cultivation. It’s competitive. While many believe that competition promotes personal excellence and economic prosperity, it has disastrous affects on our shared earth environment and our close interpersonal relationships. For this reason, a self-centered focus is decried in all spiritual traditions. On a personal level, it’s exhausting.

Transcending our individuality will not make us inactive. It will transform selfish activity. What is destructive within us will become creative. Our sensitivity will grow so that we become incapable of thinking of our own needs in isolation from the rest of life. As our joy expands, the perceived need to exploit others will shrink. —Diane Mariechild in Open Mind

One of the most interesting, and somewhat shocking, conclusions currently emerging from cognitive research is scientists’ apparent inability to find a ‘self’ or director in the brain who runs our personal drama…. With few exceptions, cognitive scientists have come to understand the egolessness of self. What is surprising, however, is how little their scientific conclusion is taken personally, or really applied to the individual’s life (p. 7). One possible reaction is to say, ‘Oh, my God, I don’t exist.’ But from a dharmic perspective you might say, ‘What a relief! I don’t have to hold onto the illusion of self.’ One of the things you realize in meditation practice is that once you let go of the belief in self, there are no terrible consequences. You do not cease to function or even thrive (p.8) –Excerpts from “What a Relief! I Don’t Exist: Buddhism and the Brain,” an interview with cognitive scientist Francisco Varela.

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