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Is this not an important question? Do not let me make it important to you. Is this not a vital question to each one? If it is, must we not find the true answer? We are nourishing the ego in many ways, and before we condemn or encourage, we must understand its significance, must we not? We use religion and philosophy as a means of self-expansion; our social structure is based on the aggrandizement of the self: the clerk will become the manager and later the owner, the pupil will become the Master and so on. In this process there is ever conflict, antagonism, sorrow. Is this an intelligent and inevitable process? We can discover truth for ourselves only when we do not depend on another; no specialist can give us the right answer. Each one has to find the right answer directly for himself. For this reason it is important to be earnest.~~j. krishnamurti

  • K-ti is right about the infinite importance of self. – Asphir Dom May 1 '14 at 11:53
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As far as I can tell, you're asserting something like: (1) when I think, I am doing something; (2) any time I do something, I strengthen my ego since it is I who am doing something; (3) strengthening my ego is bad, since ego is the ultimate source of all evil; (4) therefore, I shouldn't think.

The problem is that (2) and (3) are obviously false. There's lots of things I do that make me a kinder, less jealous, or self-centered person. Volunteering at a soup kitchen. Offering to stay with a sick friend. Teaching adult literacy classes. These are all actions, but none of them can plausibly be regarded as somehow inherently egoistical. Further, it is also obviously false that ego is the source of all evil. It's false in two ways: there are evils that don't result from the selfish decisions of individuals--flood, pestilence, death itself. Second there are decisions I make from myself and about my own life that aren't plausibly regarded as evil either. I decided to go to college, I decided upon a certain career, I decided to cultivate a taste in classical music. These are all expressions of my individuality and affirmations of my self, and the value I place on my own life, but there's nothing immoral about them.

  • The acts of volition addressed in your point 2 are acts over and above practical, obvious necessity. It's not an easy distinction, but in Buddhism 'black and white' acts are discouraged: Ariyamagga Sutta. E.g. kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma. – Chris Degnen May 1 '14 at 11:09
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    @ChrisDegnen, The question isn't phrased as a question about what Buddhists would say, it's phrased as a question about what we should say. So it isn't sufficient to respond that "this isn't what buddhists would say." – shane May 1 '14 at 11:37
  • You do not go far in points 2 and 3. You have to take them to ABSOLUTE infinity. Then you will see that EGO is the source of all evil, simply because any small evil which arises within you is EXACTLY same (in it's essence) as universal EVIL. Felino is right that EGO is ultimate source of evil, but forgets that EGO is ultimate source of kind bliss too. – Asphir Dom May 1 '14 at 11:46
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    Regarding point 3, ego is regarded as bad when it prioritises itself over everyone else, i.e being selfish. When it is not over-prioritised this is selflessness: egalitarian. Technically the ego - in psychological terms - is still there. The problem is really egoism, rather than ego, literally. – Chris Degnen May 1 '14 at 12:58
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    @shane - re. point 3 again, the idea is a little different to usual. It's not that the ego has no value in 'selflessness'. The label is misleading. Rather the idea is: just 'not selfish'. So equal. So rather than one ego more important that others, each ego rated equally. I do not agree with the zero ego value type of selflessness, and that is something Nietzsche took exception to too. It's a problematic distortion of good sense. – Chris Degnen May 1 '14 at 18:12
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One reply from Buddhism, which Krishnamurti would no doubt have been aware of, is that thought does not need to act.

"For a dispassionate person, there is no need for an act of will, 'May I realize the knowledge & vision of release.' It is in the nature of things that a dispassionate person realizes the knowledge & vision of release.

Anguttara Nikaya 11.2, 'Cetana Sutta: An Act of Will'

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Thought, may have "become the means of self-expansion, to act without giving sustenance to the ego, the cause of conflict and sorrow". However, I do not for a moment think that it is the only designed function or outcome of thought.

Just as a bad act results from thought, so also a good act. In fact, much of the evil that is done by humans results from thoughtless, impulsive reactions learned from childhood. On the other hand, if were to go through the cognitive analysis of what we are about to do, then, our actions will probably be often different .

  • The relevant doctrinal response is given in the Ariyamagga Sutta:- Good thoughts can lead to bad outcomes, or as Samuel Johnson put it: "Hell is paved with good intentions." So how to be practical? Remember to be metaphorical. Acts of necessity should be obvious, and not need busy-body acts, fixing things that aren't broken. Perhaps some modern society is also too fragmented and less socially organic for this sentiment. Nevertheless, outcomes cannot be guaranteed. – Chris Degnen May 1 '14 at 13:43
  • The Ariyamagga Sutta is not as clear as I remember it but the relevant points are "kamma (deed) that is dark & bright with dark & bright result" - could be any deed - can't guarantee the outcome. Buddhism recommends no deed: "kamma (deed) that is neither dark nor bright". Seems to be like Ecclesiates: "What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation." It's odd, I agree. – Chris Degnen May 1 '14 at 13:58
  • I completely agree that good thoughts can lead to bad outcomes. Ultimately, it is the will that ensures good outcomes. Since both are products of the mind and are closely related, I think that thoughts can influence the will and ensure good outcomes. I apologize for the lack of any sources. These are just my beliefs. – Joseph B May 2 '14 at 14:37
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This is a very interesting and relevant question. It seems that its basic assumption is on the emptiness of the 'ego concept', in which roots one can possibly see the Buddhist teachings. (As it is said in the Heart Sutra, "Form does not differ from the void, and the void does not differ from form. form is void and void is form; the same is true for feelings, perceptions, volitions and Consciousness"). Thought which arises from a self-centered activity can't but reinforce the self by any means. Even when one acts altruistically, how cannot the very good feelings arising from that act be seen not as a way of enhancing the self-image?

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