Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Chögyam.1 I’m a ngakpa – and an inconsequential eccentric Nyingma yogi. A ngakpa is a person who has taken Tantric ordination rather than the monastic ordination of the Sutras. That is why I wear a white shamthab and have uncut hair. These are part of the vows that ngakpas take and they concern transformation.
Beyond that … the only good thing I can say of myself is that I enjoy acknowledging appreciation of my Lamas: Kyabjé Düd’jom Rinpoche,2 Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoche,3 Kyabjé Künzang Dorje Rinpoche4 and Jomo Sam’phel Déchen;5 Khordong gTérchen Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche6, Lama Yeshé Dorje Rinpoche7 and Khandro Ten’dzin Drölkar.8
Without their direct inspiration, I would have nothing of any interest to say to anyone—anytime—anywhere, concerning anything.
I would like to say a few words about ‘ego’. It is a word that people use a lot in Buddhist circles and I tend to feel that it causes problems. Ego is a term which has different meanings for different people.
It has its psychological Freudian implications – and also it seems to have a plethora of general usage implications. Before I say any more, I would like you all—for this evening at least—to forget about both the common implications and the Freudian meaning. I do not think that either is going to be a great deal of use to us because we are exploring Buddhism. The word in Tibetan is kun-tag kyi-dag,9 which means imputed identity.
Many people confuse the idea of imputed identity with selfishness. At Art School ‘egotist’ was quite a popular term of abuse – and an egotist was a person who was arrogant, self-important, self-obsessed and concerned only with themselves. This is obviously true of many dualised beings, but this egotism is the result of kun-tag kyi-dag—of imputed identity—rather than the mere imputed identity.
It was interesting—having been an art student—to hear people talking about ‘having an ego’ and wanting to get rid of their ego. It was an odd use of language for me – both as an art student and as a person who has studied Buddhism in India and Nepal. I never heard the word ego used to mean imputed identity until I came back to Britain. Many people seem to think of ego as something they are attempting to get rid of – as if dharma were some form of psychic-surgery, by means of which a disagreeable organ could be avulsed. This unlikely concept has rather repulsive ramifications.
Imagine it: were all beings to attain realisation there would be a festering morass of accumulated, post-operative egos with which to contend. Somehow this concept is ever-so-slightly ludicrous. It is also dualistic, so—as Buddhists—I think we would do better to forget ego. Realising the nondual state is not concomitant with attaining the status of a spiritual amputee.
1. chos dByings rGya mTsho
2. sKyab rJe bDud joms rin po che
3. sKyabs rJe lDil mGo mKhyen brTse rin po che
4. sKyabs rJe kun bZang rDo rJe rin po che
5. jo mo sam ’phel
6. Khor dong gTér chen sPrul sKu chhi ’med rig ’dzin rin po che
7. bLa ma ye shes rDo rJe rin po che
8. mKha’ ’gro bsTan ’dzin sgrol dKar
9. kun bTags kyi bDag