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Lecture 6

NEW232Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 6: Arhat, Mind, Ego Ideal

New College
Course Code
Tony Toneatto

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Lecture 6
Examination of Self in Psychoanalysis and Buddhism (Engler)
Benefiting from meditation requires certain ego capacities, such as observing moment-by-moment
experiences. This is why children or mentally ill people have trouble with it.
Meditation can:
strengthen self-observation and affect tolerance
strengthen the synthetic capacity of the ego
(the part of you that is a coherent whole for e.g. )f you suddenly dont like a food you usually
do, you dont consider it to be a different you which gives psychic space to very painful and
destabilizing insights, which might conflict with our normal view of ourselves
increase awareness of aspects of oneself that may be threatening to be too aware
uncover personal issues, by holding up a mirror to the mind.
The benefits are gradual and cumulative.
Meditation doesnt lead to the transcendence of the ego.
Ego = what regulates and integrates our mental functions (the capacity to think, plan, remember,
self-reflect, distinguish reality from fantasy, exercise voluntary control over impulses, love)
Westerns are attracted to meditation because they want:
- A shortcut to health
- A way to avoid difficult life issues
- The idea of higher self to become perfect, powerful or feel superior
As the result, many of the insights of B are misunderstood or abused.
These ideas can lead to misunderstandings when East meet West. Our western ideas, for example,
may not understand that awareness in one area of functioning may not always generalize to other
areas (eg. intellectually advanced but behaviorally stunted; insightful but not compassionate).
The 3 marks of existence can be misinterpreted (no-self, impermanence, conditional happiness):
I. No-self can be misunderstood as not existing, meaninglessness, nihilism;
often reflects ones own feeling that one is incomplete, fragmented – damaged.
II. impermanence can be misinterpreted as not worth enjoying anything;
III. conditional happiness can be misinterpreted means that nothing is worth achieving; can be
attractive to some people since it can help cope with ones unhappiness.
Thus, one can become confused between (psychological) emptiness [pathological] with authentic
(ontological) emptiness [wisdom].
Idealization of the Buddha: when a meditator has a teacher whom they idealize (who becomes
part of their own ego ideal or superego) and identify with, they may feel unique or special.
This opens up the possibility of being abused or exploited by bad, narcissistic teachers.
People can mask their feelings of unworthiness, guilt and shame through unexamined attachment
to perfect teachers.
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