The Urge to be Great doesn’t have to be about Ego.

Via on Jun 13, 2011

Make your Life Sublime; or, why Buddhists are Cowards.

Growing up in a Buddhist community, I was told to shut up allll the time. It hurt, for years. Only a few years back, complaining to my best friend Dave about folks hating on me in my role as elephant editor, did I finally get it: haters gonna hate. Do your thing. Be your own judge. Listen to yourself, and others’ criticism. Then do your best, be true to yourself. That’s all you can do.

But when I was a child, I didn’t get all that. When I was told to be quiet in every room I ever went into, it seemed, it hurt. And, yah, I was asking for it: I ran instead of walking, I jumped instead of running, I hollered and talked and sang…you know, I was a boy.

I was the only child around, usually. All the rest of the good folks in my Buddhist community were there to meditate. I wasn’t. I was, understandably, an irritant. I had yet to be humbled, really. Sure, I suffered. I was insecure, I was a nerd, I was sensitive, I was lonely, I was insufficient. Still, I was happy! I was me! I liked nature, and basketball and baseball and David Winfield and Magic Johnson and girls, though I was shy as we all are. I liked life.

We’ve all heard this quote.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I appreciate the above feel-good talk not only because it reaffirms something we all know in our spiritual DNA to be true: our Blue Sky human nature (wherein neuroses and suffering, however insistent, are viewed as clouds passing over the sky of our awakened mind/hearts rather than who we are).

Growing up in my Buddhist community, I went to a remarkable Buddhist school (open to all). I remember, in those pre-Wikipedia days, how precious and impressive it was to see someone listed in the Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s what I wanted: not fame, but to be of merit. To be of the sort of value or worth to humanity that I’d be remembered with three or four lines in a lineage of human history, to be glanced over by future children.

And so it is that when I read the below I’m reminded, I’m heartened, that the urge to be great can be about an enthusiasm for being of service, for being useful. It doesn’t have to be about ego. Buddhists are so afraid of ego: a fear which is, in itself, rather egotistical. Ego is like kryptonite, to us. But, still, how many of us work and play so that we may be of use to a suffering, yet brilliant blue sky humanity? How many of us take our meditation practice off the cushion, and try to earn our place in human history?

The poem that inspired the above contemplation:

~

55. A Psalm of Life

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

~

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,

Life is but an empty dream!—

For the soul is dead that slumbers,

And things are not what they seem.

 

Life is real! Life is earnest!

And the grave is not its goal;

Dust thou art, to dust returnest,

Was not spoken of the soul.

 

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,

Is our destined end or way;

But to act, that each to-morrow

Find us farther than to-day.

 

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,

And our hearts, though stout and brave,

Still, like muffled drums, are beating

Funeral marches to the grave.

 

In the world’s broad field of battle,

In the bivouac of Life,

Be not like dumb, driven cattle!

Be a hero in the strife!

 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!

Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act,—act in the living Present!

Heart within, and God o’erhead!

 

Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time;

 

Footprints, that perhaps another,

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

 

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.


~

For more: watch the bottom video here.

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive. Questions? info elephantjournal com

1,549 views

5 Responses to “The Urge to be Great doesn’t have to be about Ego.”

  1. Ben Ralston Ben_Ralston says:

    Yes, thank you Way it's beautiful.
    "We can make our lives sublime" – love it.
    And the poem reminds me entirely of the Gita – Bob, you agree?
    "Let us, then, be up and doing,
    With a heart for any fate"

  2. Dace says:

    Ego is a piece of humanity, it can serve and it can destroy. We are the ones to choose.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    Buddhist…buddhist….buddhist….not familiar with that style of "Tibetan Buddhism" where children and anyone for that matter are asked to be silent. Maybe while a formal teaching is taking place quiet is important but certainly not during meditation, puja, or just living. There were individuals who, not knowing Chagdud Tulku, would complain about the kids running through the middle of a puja. When their complaining persisted because the children's behavior was not being addressed he would repeat again and again that when we die and enter the Bardo we will experience enormous noise and visual distraction and because of this we "practice" or meditate now in order to be prepared for that moment when we can liberate ourselves at that crucial time.

  4. elephantjournal says:

    http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Lisa Lambert Can I 'like' this about a bajillion times? To be of service. Simple. No apologies.

  5. Brian Culkin Brian Culkin says:

    Very cool piece. Thank you for sharing. I have similar experiences myself.

Leave a Reply