As much as we want to, we can never say, “This is the only true way. This is how it is. End of discussion.” As individuals we, too, have plenty of fundamentalist tendencies. We use them to comfort ourselves. We grab on to a position or belief as a way of neatly explaining reality, unwilling to tolerate the uncertainty and discomfort of staying open to other possibilities.
The root of these fundamentalist tendencies is a fixed identity. With a fixed identity, we have to busy ourselves with trying to rearrange reality, because reality doesn’t always conform to our view. In Buddhism we call the notion of a fixed identity “ego clinging.” Ego clinging is our means of denial. The fixed identity is our false security. We maintain it by filtering all of our experiences through this perspective.
Meditation practice starts to erode that fixed identity.
The purpose of the spiritual path is to unmask, to take off our armor. The Buddha taught that the fixed identity is the cause of our suffering. Looking deeper, we could say that the real cause of suffering is not being able to tolerate uncertainty—and thinking that it’s perfectly sane, perfectly normal, to deny the fundamental ambiguity of being human.
We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, unbiased.