Dogen Sangha Blog

  by Gudo NISHIJIMA

Japanese / German

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Freud, "The Ego" and Dogen Zenji.

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

It is clear (as mentioned in an earlier message) that many Buddhists often view the Ego negatively, that this Ego (promoted by some to almost "Evil Deity" status) is something to be cured of, or something to reject through proper conduct and practices.

It is understandable to an extent given the popular meaning of "Ego" in the West: People generally use it to denote an excess in an individual's sense of self, if someone is percieved as being 'overly egoistical'.

Yet, the man credited with popularising the term came to see the Ego in a different light:

"In modern-day society, ego has many meanings. It could mean one’s self-esteem; an inflated sense of self-worth; or in philosophical terms, one’s self. However, according to the psychologist Sigmund Freud, the ego is the part of the mind which contains the consciousness. Originally, Freud had associated the word ego to meaning a sense of self; however, he later revised it to mean a set of psychic functions such as judgement, tolerance, reality-testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory."(Wikipedia article on "Ego")

It is clear that we need some sense of self to be able to function in this world, to be able to be kind to our bodies and to attend to the needs of those dependant on us; this could be a healthy, helpful sense of self in keeping with the precepts for example... the healthy Ego?

My questions: In your understanding of Buddhism, are there similar concepts to this idea of Ego?

In Buddhist thought, are the harmful aspects of our sense of self distinguished from the helpful aspects of our sense of self within any conceptual model?

What is your view of "Ego" as a concept; does Buddhism offer better, or alternative, models to represent the functions of the human mind?

Isn't there the danger of overstating the role of the Ego concept in Buddhism, by giving it a sort of validation or unrealistic substance through discussing it as if it was an object, as if it were something tangible?

Best Wishes,

Harry,
Dublin, Ieland.

6 Comments:

Blogger Mysterion said...

Id is Latin for "it."
In the original German it was es. (primary process thinking)

Ego is Latin for "I"
In the original German it was ich.
It's self-identification.
"I" is also the center point of balance or the balance point in the scales between amoral behavior and compulsive obsessive behavior (or compulsive addictive bahavior in Freud's case).

The Superego or 'over I' (überich in German) counteracted the Id with moral and ethical thoughts. Call it a 'Guilty Conscience' in a culture that burdens citizens with guilt.

A healthy ego (I, self) provides ability to adapt to reality and interact with the world in accommodation with Id and Superego.

FREUD

Dogen Zen-ji said, "To know yourself is to forget yourself."

11:59 AM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Freud, "The Ego" and Dogen Zenji.

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

It is clear (as mentioned in an earlier message) that many Buddhists often vie
w the Ego negatively, that this Ego (promoted by some to almost "Evil Deity" status) is something to be cured of, or something to reject through proper cond
uct and practices.

It is understandable to an extent given the popular meaning of "Ego" in the We
st: People generally use it to denote an excess in an individual's sense of se
lf, if someone is percieved as being 'overly egoistical'.

Yet, the man credited with popularising the term came to see the Ego in a diff
erent light:

"In modern-day society, ego has many meanings. It could mean one’s self-esteem; an inflated sense of self-worth; or in philosophical terms, one’s self. However, according to the psychologist Sigmund Freud, the ego is the part of the mind which contains the consciousness. Originally, Freud had associated the word ego to meaning a sense of self; however, he later revised it to mean a set of psychic functions such as judgement, tolerance, reality-testing, control, planning, defense, synthesis of information, intellectual functioning, and memory."(Wikipedia article on "Ego")


(Gudo) Dear Mr Daniel Robins,

Thank you very much for your very sincere and exact questions on Ego. I perfectly agree with your criticism on vulgar interpretations of Ego, and at the same time I accept your affirmative opinion on Sigmund Freud's interpretations of Ego.

Therefore I would like to express my own opinion, which is related with Ego, as follows.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima


(Dublin San) It is clear that we need some sense of self to be able to function in this world, to be able to be kind to our bodies and to attend to the needs of those dependant on us; this could be a healthy, helpful sense of self in keeping with the precepts for example... the healthy Ego?

(Gudo) I agree with Dublin San's affirmative opinion of Ego totally.

(Dublin San) My questions: In your understanding of Buddhism, are there similar concepts to this idea of Ego?

(Gudo) Ego is a common word in scientific knowledge, and so even in Buddhist discussion, we should revere the word of Ego fundamentally.

(Dublin San) In Buddhist thought, are the harmful aspects of our sense of self distinguished from the helpful aspects of our sense of self within any conceptual model?

(Gudo) Ego is just a schientific word, and so it can never be distiguished separately in Euro-American Civilization and Oriental Civilization.

(Dublin San) What is your view of "Ego" as a concept; does Buddhism offer better, or alternative, models to represent the functions of the human mind?

(Gudo) I interpret that "Ego" has much relations with physical and mental functions of human authentic nervous system, and as you know well, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) are vivided into two parts, that is, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
And Ego appears when ANS is not balanced. When PNS is stronger, people are usually relaxed, dull, not to work hard, rather optimistic, having strong appetite, like to sleep, and so forth.
But when SNS is stronger, people are prone to be spiritual, intellectual, criticizing others, easy to become angry, loving sweet, and so forth.
Therefore when we think about Ego, we should know the two kinds of different Ego, the one is physical Ego, and the other is spiritual Ego.
And in Buddhism those two kinds of unbalanced ANS are both wrong, therefore
we Buddhists are very diligent to have our ANS balanced so sincerely.

(Dublin San) Isn't there the danger of overstating the role of the Ego concept in Buddhism, by giving it a sort of validation or unrealistic substance through discussing it as if it was an object, as if it were something tangible?

(Gudo) Of course my opinion about ANS, PNS, SNS, are my hypothesis when I was young, but I have got my such a kind of hypothesis when I was a teenager. And since then I have kept such a hypothesis for more than 70 years, but I haven't met any kind of real fact, which is contradictory to my hypothsis at all. Therefore in my case it is completely impossible for me to doubt the hypothesis at all.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima


(Dublin San) Best Wishes,

Harry,
Dublin, Ieland.

posted by HezB | 6:58 AM | 0 Questions & Answers

4:00 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger Zushi said...

Some thoughts...

If the subconscious can't distinguish between positive and negative in the sens of "there is sun" "there is no sun" only "the sun" remains, how can it distinguish between I (=self), eye (=the one in your face) and ai (= japanese for love)? What remains?

Isn't it: seeing the world with love?

6:18 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger HezB said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Thank-you for taking the time to consider and answer my questions.

Regards,

Harry.

7:35 PM, September 05, 2007  
Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

(zushi San's opinion)
Some thoughts...

If the subconscious can't distinguish between positive and negative in the sens of "there is sun" "there is no sun" only "the sun" remains, how can it distinguish between I (=self), eye (=the one in your face) and ai (= japanese for love)? What remains?

Isn't it: seeing the world with love?
6:18 PM, September 05, 2007

(Gudo) I can never think that Buddhism is such a illogical thought at all.

1:13 PM, September 08, 2007  
Blogger Zushi said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Do you agree to: Once a speck of dust arises, the whole great earth is embraced in it.
(Book of Equanimity, case 4)

Friendly regards
Regina

7:05 PM, September 08, 2007  

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