WHO is Suffering?
All our lives we get the highly confusing mixed message: "You're wonderful, just as you are" - THEN in the same breath: "But, you can do better"! Since a great proportion of us have low self-esteem, mixed messages may confuse or even re-traumatize by reinforcing the conditional love with which we were raised. Many of us would do well with professional help to establish a healthy, well-functioning ego.
Oddly enough, even the world's wisdom traditions provide what on the surface appears to be the same mixed message about inherent perfection (Buddhanature; made in the image & likeness of God) and the need to improve (meditate; repent). What's going on?
Most of us have a fragile sense of self and thus crave & cling to a solid, dependable, permanent sense of self. So in our attempt to fabricate this bigger, better, safer, stronger "self", we obsessively crave & cling to all sorts of "must haves" & "must avoids": http://jglovas.wixsite.com/awarenessnow/single-post/2017/07/07/Nowhere-to-Run
But at some level, we realize that neither our (or anyone else's) "self", nor any of the "must haves" & "must avoids" have solidity or lasting quality. This ineffective scheme to build a "solid self" is referred to in Western psychology as the problematic "noisy ego". The healthy, realistic version is referred to as the "quiet ego". The quiet ego - more like a verb than a noun or "thing" - is actually necessary, but is far from being a solid, unchanging entity. An unhealthy to pathologic perspective is egocentric; the healthier, wiser perspective is allocentric & ecocentric.
Buddhism is primarily concerned with helping people release habits by which completely unnecessary, "discretionary" suffering (dukkha) is created for ourselves & others. We ourselves create most of our suffering by holding onto & constantly propping up a noisy ego.
The more lightly we hold our self-concept,
the less personally we take "insults" that come our way from both people & nature, and
therefore the less we suffer unnecessarily.
"... in the sphere of the Buddhist teachings ... there are the questions, 'Is there dukkha?' and 'How can it be quenched?' Knowing the root cause of dukkha, one will be able to extinguish it. And that root cause of dukkha is the delusion, the wrong understanding, that there is 'I' and 'mine'.
... the 'heartwood,' the pith, the essence of the Buddhist teachings is the practice of non-clinging. It is living with a mind void of the feelings of 'I' and 'mine'.
Sunnata ... means void of atta (self).
Nothing whatsoever should be clung to as 'I' or 'mine'."
Buddhadasa Bhikkhu "Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree - The Buddha's Teachings on Voidness." Wisdom, 1994.
In Matthew 19:24 Jesus says: "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." IMHO, the problem with the "rich" is primarily egoic. The "rich", like most of us if we're being honest, cling addictively to "the story of me", position, power, grudges etc as if it were our true essence. But what's left if we drop the ego? THAT we find out when we have little or no ego remaining!
No wonder the world's wisdom traditions all advise renunciation: stop hanging onto ego, & gradually, let go of absolutely everything.
“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.
And if you let go completely, you will have complete peace.” Ajahn Chah
How solid, reliable & unchanging is anything / anyone?