Buddhist-Christian Studies 21.1 (2001) 95-99
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The Distinction between ego (e) and ego-Self (e/S): Notes on Religious Practice Based upon Buddhist-Christian Dialogue
The Goal of Religious Practice
We cannot see the transcendent as an object. Nor is it the case that the transcendent and the human are two separated realities that are united afterwards. When the Self (Christ in me--Gal. 2:19-20) reveals itself to and in the ego (Gal. 1:16), the ego becomes aware of the Self, which is divine--human or transcendent--immanent. This is called enlightenment.
In enlightenment, the ego (hereafter: e) does not vanish.When the Self (hereafter: S) appears to and in the ego, the ego (now a relatively independent part of S) becomes the function of S. The ego, understanding itself as the knot of inner and outer reality, plays the role of the reason of the whole body, the center of which is S. In this case we represent such a person as e/S. e/S is the subjectivity of the religious life. D.T.Suzuki and one of his disciples, Ryomin Akizuki called e/S the "individual qua trans-individual." 1 In enlightenment, e/S as the authentic subject, which remains potential before enlightenment, is actualized or realized so that it understands itself as e/S, no more as the mere ego. In order for e/S to be realized and understand itself as e/S, egocentricity, egoism and the confusion of the verbalized reality with "reality as it is" must be overcome. This is the goal of religious practice.
From the point of view of interreligious dialogue,"Christ who lives in me" corresponds to "actualized Buddha-nature" or "the Formless Self" in Buddhist language, that is, the Self as we call it. 2 In the case of Paul,"Christ who lives in me" is the ultimate subject of him on the one hand, and "Christ the Son of God" is the object of his faith on the other (Gal. 2:19-20). That means: the ego of Paul that believes in the Son of God is borne by "Christ in me"; as Paul says, "Christ was revealed to and [End Page 95] in me" (Gal. 1:16). In this way, the subjectivity of Paul consists of e/S. Of S, namely, Paul is aware as e/S--neither as e, which is ignorant of S, nor as S. It is impossible for S to exist alone.
Egocentricity and Egoism
The distinction between e and e/S is of fundamental importance to our theme.
e means in this essay the mere ego that is ignorant of S.When it becomes aware of S we represent it as the ego of e/S. e is egocentric and egoistic. It goes without saying that the ego-centered "I" driven by desires produces immorality and social anomies. The biblical word for this is sin, the transgression of the Law.
But there is another problematic concerning e, namely egoism, which can be at work even in the effort to attain a high level of morality. We understand the egoistic ego as follows: the ego is to itself the only reality that concerns and moves it. It posits itself solely on itself apart from the relation to others and to S. By itself it projects itself and strives to realize itself. It can, among others, set up its own ideals and pursue their realization. It can, for example, conceive the moralistic ideal that seems to be the reverse of immorality and social anomie. Indeed, it can succeed in controlling egocentricity so that it seems to have attained perfect morality. In reality, it is interested only in its own moral perfection, not in the person encountered (moralistic egoism). Such e is illustrated in Luke 18:9-14 and described in Romans 7:7-24. Egoistic ego must die to itself and must be freed from egoism. (In Romans 6, for example, Paul does...