Misidentification

According to Buddhist texts and most of the wisdom teachings, misidentification is the sole cause of human psychological misery. Those teachings tell us that all personal identification whatsoever is misidentification, and they therefore advise us to seek a state that is clear of all limiting ideas about our true nature.

This is a perfectly understandable misunderstanding of reality, and no cause for blame. Truthfully, those who presented us with these teachings were courageous pioneers in the continuing effort to understand human being and human misery.

But it turns out that it is not identification per se that is the problem. It is the identification with a diseased personality that is the true cause of all the trouble. And that problem turns out to be hard to understand, but really easy to fix.

We can begin with the recognition of what we really are. We are animals who have evolved an extraordinarily large, active, and extremely complex brain capable of almost infinite arrangements of consciousness which taken together comprise our minds.

It is certainly true that these minds are not the true kernel of our being, but the true kernel of our being is as profoundly simple our minds are complicated.

You can see this for yourself by the simple act of moving the beam of your attention to look for the actual, irreducible feel of you. Try it and see. Close your eyes for a moment and with your inner eye look about quietly for that simple taste of your bare nature. There is not much to it, and your attention will lose interest quickly, but if you try to do this, you cannot fail whether you know you succeeded or not.

What you have done with this act of attention is that you have tasted the experience of yourself, with no characteristics other than presence. And if that were all there was to you, there would be nothing about you to develop, love, hate, struggle with, or anything else. The pure essence of you is bare consciousness, having no attribute other than presence, and pure presence is no kind of life.

On the other hand, your experience of your personality – the content of your mind – is deeply complex and always moving and changing in relationship to the unfolding of your life.

Personality is the only thing about you that can change, love, hate. It’s the only aspect of you with which you can have any relationship whatsoever. Personality is a natural aspect of you and it holds your sense of identity through all the wildness of human life. So, of course we identify ourselves with our personalities. And that misidentification is entirely able to include in its nature the understanding that personality is not the essence of you, and might even find interest in the search for the direct experience of that essence.

Personality is what is ruined by the fear of life. Human psychology is filled with ignorance and pain from trying to satisfy the demands of the fear, and personal psychology, and its face as personality, are what recovers when the fear is gone.

The ancient humans who wrestled with the pain and pleasure of life came to see that all misery and pleasure reside in what we call “personality,” which they deemed to be the “false self.” They were quite adamant in their belief that since personality/false self was the location of the misery, true equanimity required all connection with the false self to be destroyed. So the goal of spiritual practice became a total, silent withdrawal from all interest or connection with the mind and its content whatsoever.

If you are at all familiar with the ancient spiritual teachings, you should be able to understand what I am suggesting here. If you are not, be thankful.

But once the fear of life is gone, the personality heals and becomes worthy of being your avatar in the world, even though it is in some sense more of a mask than the pure presence of your actual nature. And your actual nature has never been harmed by any mental activity.

Then your mind/personality, which may well be a false-face, reveals itself nevertheless to be your eyes and ears, and the home of all that makes human life so strangely magnificent and deeply complex in a being that is pure simplicity.




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