Excerpted from a talk by Pema Chodron

Answering the question of a monastic in a talk at Gampo Abbey.Monastic: I have trouble understanding how Shenpa can be the experience of ego-clinging, and at the same time neutral.

Pema Chodron: Its just my attempt to have this whole thing not be loaded with good-bad thinking. And you know the teachings on ego-clinging. Its not supposed to be seen as a demon. When you look, look, look, look, you can’t even find it. So its like a phantom more than a demon. But it is such a powerful all pervasive phantom that keeps causing us a lot of suffering.

So what Dzigar Kongtrul says is you have to know what ego-clinging feels like. What does it feel like to cling to a self? Then it’s important to be able to identify the feeling, so thats where the teachings on Shenpa come in, which is ego-clinging.

So thats a classic Buddhist approach, which it isn’t that you call it “good” or “bad” or that you are refraining or rejecting it in the sense of “wrong” and “evil”, its just some kind of prajna that sees that its a tendency that continues to make us suffer.

And from the point of view of the study of the brain with meditation, its staying in the same conventional mindset. That’s what’s really interesting. It’s a feeling that keeps you stuck in the box. There’s never any fresh take, cause you are always staying on secure ground and staying stuck.

So I think personally that it is really helpful to don’t think “oh oh, bad, ego clinging or shenpa.”

You just think “moment of truth”, “moment in time”, physical experience, something with a tug and here is this great coemergent moment, to use the vajrayana language, its a coemergent moment, and it can go either way.

Excerpted from a talk by Pema Chodron
titled “Guidelines for Living Dangerously”
recorded at Gampo Abbey
available from Great Path

 

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