Understanding ego

WHAT, now, is Right Understanding? It is understanding the Four Truths. To understand suffering; to understand the origin of suffering; to understand the extinction of suffering; to understand the path that leads to the extinction of suffering: This is called Right Understanding Or, when the noble disciple understands what is karmically wholesome, and the root of wholesome karma; what is karmically unwholesome, and the root of unwholesome karma, then he has Right Understanding. ["Karmically unwholesome" is every volitional act of body, speech, or mind which is rooted in greed, hatred, or delusion, and produces evil and painful results in this or any future form of existence.] What, now, is "karmically unwholesome?" In Bodily Action it is destruction of living beings; stealing; and unlawful sexual intercourse. In Verbal Action it is lying; tale-bearing; harsh language; and frivolous talk. In Mental Action it is covetousness; ill-will; and wrong views. And what is the root of unwholesome karma? Greed is a root of unwholesome karma; Anger is a root of unwholesome karma; Delusion is a root of unwholesome karma. [The state of greed, as well as that of anger, is always accompanied by delusion; and delusion, ignorance, is the primary root of all evil.] Therefore, I say, these demeritorious actions are of three kinds: either due to greed, or due to anger, or due to delusion. What, now, is "karmically wholesome?" In Bodily Action it is to abstain from killing; to abstain from stealing; and to abstain from unlawful sexual intercourse. In Verbal Action it is to abstain from lying; to abstain from tale-bearing; to abstain from harsh language; and to abstain from frivolous talk. In Mental Action it is absence of covetousness; absence of ill-will; and right understanding. And what is the root of wholesome karma? Absence of greed (unselfishness) is a root of wholesome karma; absence of anger (benevolence) is a root of wholesome karma; absence of delusion (wisdom) is a root of wholesome karma. Or, when one understands that corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness, are transient [subject to suffering, and without an Ego], also in that case one possesses Right Understanding. Should anyone say that he does not wish to lead the holy life under the Blessed One, unless the Blessed One first tells him, whether the world is eternal or temporal, finite or infinite; whether the life principle is identical with the body, or something different; whether the Perfect One continues after death, and so on such a man would die, ere the Perfect One could tell him all this.
It is as if a man were pierced by a poisoned arrow, and his friends, companions, or near relations, should send for a surgeon; but that man should say: "I will not have this arrow pulled out, until I know who the man is that has wounded me: whether he is a noble, a priest, a citizen, or a servant"; or: "what his name is, and to what family he belongs"; or: "whether he is tall, or short, or of medium height." Verily, such a man would die, ere he could adequately learn all this. Therefore, the man who seeks his own welfare, should pull out this arrow-this arrow of lamentation, pain, and sorrow. For, whether the theory exists, or whether it does not exist, that the world is eternal, or temporal, or finite, or infinite-certainly, there is birth, there is decay, there is death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the extinction of which, attainable even in this present life, I make known unto you. There is, for instance, an unlearned worldling, void of regard for holy men, ignorant of the teaching of holy men, untrained in the noble doctrine. And his heart is possessed and overcome by Self-Illusion, by Skepticism, by attachment to mere Rule and Ritual, by Sensual Lust, and by will; and how to free himself from these things, he does not really know. [Self-Illusion may reveal itself as "Eternalism" or Eternity-belief" i.e., the belief that one's Ego is existing independently of the material body, and continuing even after the dissolution of the latter; or as "Annihilationism," or "Annihilation-belief" i.e., the materialistic belief that this present life constitutes the Ego, and hence that it is annihilated at the death of the material body.] Not knowing what is worthy of consideration, and what is unworthy of consideration, he considers the unworthy, and not the worthy. And unwisely he considers thus: "Have I been in the past? Or. have I not been in the past? What have I been in the past? How have I been in the past? From what state into what state did I change in the past?-Shall I be in the future? Or, shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? From what state into what state shall I change in the future?" And the present also fills him with doubt: "Am I? Or, am I not? What am I? How am I? This being, whence has it come? Whither will it go?" And with such unwise considerations, he falls into one or other of the six views, and it becomes his conviction and firm belief: "I have an Ego"; or: "I have no Ego"; or: "With the Ego I perceive the Ego"; or: "With that which is no Ego, I perceive the Ego"; or: "With the Ego I perceive that which is no Ego. Or, he falls into the following view: "This my Ego, which can think and feel, and which, now here, now there, experiences the fruit of good and evil deeds; this my Ego is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and will thus eternally remain the same." If there really existed the Ego, there would be also something which belonged to the Ego. As, however, in truth and reality, neither the Ego, nor anything belonging to the Ego, can be found, is it not therefore really an utter fool's doctrine to say: "This is the world, this am I; after death, I shall be permanent, persisting, and eternal?" These are called mere views, a thicket of views, a puppet show of views, a toil of views, a snare of views; and ensnared in the fetter of views, the ignorant worldling will not be freed from rebirth, from decay, and from death, from sorrow, pain, grief, and despair; he will not be freed, I say, from suffering.