is better not to begin. Having begun, it is better to go all the way.” (Zen)
Don’t set about dying unless you’re willing to go all the way to become reborn. The Hero’s Journey is not meant to be a one-way trip. After your spiritual adventures, you come back home with your boon for your friends. Consider the ancient Buddhist chant from the Heart Sutra: “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond going beyond; fully awake, so be it.” Notice what follows “going beyond”—“going beyond going beyond.”
One-way trips can put you dangerously out of balance. Deconstructing your life and mind down to zero, seeing that all your meanings and conditionings are ultimately void, continuing in this path but stopping short of liberation is not recommended! Where you encounter intellectuals who have stopped short—at nihilism, meaninglessness, nothingness—you meet some profoundly unhappy characters.
Beware ego-death without rebirth and re-integration. Beware nihilism. You must continue all the way through the process to rebirth and new life.
Reality is not opposed to ego-“I”. It includes ego-“I”. The body-mind personality is not (inherently) problematic, and does not (inherently) need fixing.
“I” is a convention of language and thought; it begins to develop at about two years old (not coincidentally) with the acquisition of speech. “I” is hard-wired, like speech, and develops on its own. “I” is natural and inevitable. “I” (in and of itself) is not a problem, not the cause of suffering. Anyone lacking this self-organizing feature of mind, ego-“I”, would be about as functional as a head of cabbage.
On the other hand, mistaking this organizing faculty of intelligence, “I”, as your very identity IS the central cause of suffering! The chief symptom of this suffering is fear, the sense of separated, encapsulated, limited, threatened existence. The conventional attempts to cure this fear can be seen in endless secular and religious strategies throughout history. NONE OF THEM WORK.
The only effective “cure” for such fear is the awakening of the heart-mind beyond its bondage to the false identification with ego-“I”. Then consciousness is released to trust and love and laugh, to feel the Unqualified Openness of freedom from limitation.
Language, meaning, imaging, abstraction, knowledge, experience—all must be deconstructed (death) and allowed to reappear within the new perspective of wholeness (rebirth). Everyone must die and be reborn. That very theme is one of the oldest and most universal ways of summarizing the spiritual path. But, ego-“I” does not need to be destroyed, or healed, or saved, or changed—only understood for what it is: a natural program evolved through billions of years of life and adaptation to become an excellent conscious agent of Infinity.
Why destroy “I”? Do you want to regress to life as a trilobite? It took billions of years of universal and planetary evolution to build “I”. And now you’re eager to eradicate it? Get real. God, or Reality, is being “I”. Isn’t that obvious?
Why not live as the “I” of Life? Be the “I” of Love (as in, “I love you.”). It’s easier than suffering, more fun and takes less energy.