Is it possible to watch ourselves? If so, who is doing the watching? Zen Buddhism speaks of the prajna-eye and the gahakaraka within us. The prajna-eye is a kind of deep and spiritual intuition, which could be loosely translated as ‘wisdom’. This wisdom has the capacity to ‘see into’ things within and around us, to see into the truth of them as they simply and really are. The gahakaraka, on the other hand, is ego as our external and material senses (touch, sight, hearing, etc) as well as our rational intellect – the inner and outer senses of surface consciousness.
In a Christian sense, perhaps prajna could be something like the divine wisdom which lives in and with our deep Self. When our psyche is quiet enough and attentive to this deep Self, it is then that we can experience this prajna-eye as it observes life in deep intuition. However, if we give our attention more to gahakaraka and not the prajna-eye, it is then that the experience of prajna fades from consciousness (because our attention is now on the senses of surface consciousness rather than the deep intuition within the Self). A purpose of life is growing in a healthy balance between prajna and gahakaraka. Too much of ego is an over reliance simply on these inner and outer senses as the foundation for identity, perception and living. A healthy human life has Self as our centre, with gahakaraka as friend of and vessel for the Self. Gahakaraka becomes a friend who knows when to be silent and when to speak. Doubtless to say, if this is the description of a healthy mind, then we are all in some state of mindful disorder.
I experience this song from The Cure as a description of the Self wisely and intuitively observing ego in a state of ongoing disillusionment and collapse (“I’ve [Self with prajna-eye] been watching me [gahakaraka] fall for it seems like years”). This can happen to the best of us. Life stresses, anxieties, unrealistic expectations both from us and others, a wounded ego (we all have one of these), and the deep melancholy of a life disconnected from its true centre – all of this and more can cause the ego to “fall”, to “disappear”, implode under the weight. Our architecture of consciousness cannot long support the weight of an ego struggling to maintain the weight of anxiety, unrealistic expectation, and woundedness. At these times the Self (our true centre) waits patiently observing with prajna-eye the falling away of ego. As this falling away happens Self can then come alive in our consciousness as the true centre and ground of all our consciousness.
Yet ego can resist stubbornly its own falling. There is a deep fear in ego that if it yields the centre of consciousness it dies. Ego’s falling can then become a blood struggle for its own survival, or at least that can be our experience. What is happening is the forced de-centring of ego. It is dying – dying to its own egocentricity, falling under its own weight into a more realistic place and role. This can be painful and feel like the whole of our world is breaking down.
At this time ego can crave attention because the more attention it has then the more it can be experienced as the centre of psyche and thus be preserved in its egocentric state. In short, it can become narcissistic – completely concerned with its own survival and continued self-centred expression.
In this song it seems that the attention ego craves is coming to it through the passion and pleasure of sex. Sex as an expression of the deep Self is all about other-centredness, communion, and love. Here the sex seems merely a physical grasping at pleasure, an egoic attempt to have attention lost in the moment, to have ego sufficiently distracted from its own ongoing breakdown.
In this clip of the band performing I see ego’s struggle being expressed. The music sounds to me like the audio depiction of some kind of internal holy struggle between a prideful egocentricity and a wise, humble prajna-eyed Self. The Self cannot ‘do’ anything. Self is simply being in love as the ego rages on fighting its own egocentric demise, a forced (due to circumstance) transcendence from ego to Self as true centre.
A practice like Christian meditation is simply the gracefully controlled, long-term falling of the ego from the centre. It takes a lifetime. Egoic implosion, of course, can also be part of the journey. For the meditator attention to the mantra as it sounds in the heart is attention given more and more to the deep Self. Over time we come to see life more and more through the prajna-eye. For the Christian, this prajna-eye is the eye, or the consciousness, of Christ. This consciousness is the gentle yoke, the light burden of a human life let go into the divine life. We need not carry the heavy weight of egocentricity. We were never made for that yoke. When the letting go and the falling come it can be experienced as sweet relief. Sometimes, though, letting go into Christ consciousness does involve the pain, fear – even terror – of the ego. Ego can be stubborn.
All will be well. We fall into Love. There really is nothing to fear.
The Zen Buddhist terms used above, along with their descriptions, together with their suggested connections to Christian Spirituality, can be found in the book Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist by D.T. Suzuki (1957, 2002).