Out of Control

Path of Action: Day 29

The self’s usual tendency is to narrow experience down to objects that it wants to take control of or use. Look at the self in operation, and you will see it acting out a pattern of grasping again and again. The self says, “I need this,” and then sets out to get it.

But it never gets lasting satisfaction.

Suppose we get what we want. The result is new problems. The more we accumulate, the more our possessions become a burden. We maintain, we take care, we deal with what breaks down. When things are going smoothly, the fear of losing what we have makes us possessive and suspicious.

On the other hand, suppose we do not get what we want or crave. In that case, we manifest hungry-ghost mind, always wanting and seeking. The result is the same as before. The self ends up out of balance and dissatisfied, its energy drained away in fruitless pursuits or concerns.

The antidote to this narrow way of connecting to our own experience is to cultivate the motive to share with others whatever we accomplish or attain. When this is our intention, we naturally develop a more open, balanced perspective on our own patterns, and this opens up the range of experience. When the self cries out for new things to own or enjoy, we do not respond with mindless obedience or give its desires the highest priority. Instead, we dedicate ourselves to the purposes we value most.

When we stop letting the self and its needs control our lives, the self, with all its complaints, and wishes, loses its audience. Eventually it falls silent. In that silence knowledge can take hold and grow. At that point we may be living with relatively few possessions and comforts, but because the self is no longer in control, the choice we have made to follow this way of life hardly seems like a sacrifice at all.


Path of Action, by Tarthang Tulku is an unpublished work. Please do not copy, remix or republish this post or any others in this series without express permission from Mandala Training.