There is a bumble bee in my basement, “attacking” the fluorescent lighting tubes. He (she?) doesn’t understand that this light is not day-light. He (she?) doesn’t understand that he (she?) is in my basement and not outside. The bumble bee bangs and bangs against the light, needing something from it, perhaps, the navigation guidance of the sunlight, I don’t know.
What I do know is that the bee cannot and will not understand the nature of this mystery. He (she?) is mesmerized, befuddled, exasperated. I’ve seen flies do the same, when trapped inside, they bang against the transparent – and, therefore, theoretically, open “space” of the window pane. “Why can’t I fly through?” must think the fly. “Why isn’t this dumb light working as the sunlight should?” must wonder the bee.
I open the basement door, it’s dark outside, I turn on the outside light and wait – in hope – for the bee to fly out, thinking that I fooled it. It keeps bomb-diving at the fluorescent tubes in the basement, seemingly unaware of the escape option. I turn off the basement light, just leaving the outside light on. The contrast works: the bee instantly flies out, following its instinct for the light.
Problem solved, but not the mystery.
All identification with the external is a giveaway of your essence.
Identity giveaway begins with social comparisons and peaks with social imitation.
The word “identity” comes from the Latin word idem, which means “same.” Identity is built through identification with the external, with what you are not. We determine our identities by comparing ourselves to “not-ourselves” and thereby try to determine who we are. We tend to think along the lines of “I am like this or that” or “I am like so-and-so or that-and-such.” Therein lies the problem.
In 1951, Dr. George Harding, with the National Capital Parks in Washington, looked in amazement at a lotus sprout. The lotus seed that had just come to life was a “relic of one of the early crops of lotus cultivated by Buddhists” at an ancient dry lakebed at Pulantien (Laoning Province, China) after the introduction of Buddhism to the region.
This particular lotus seed had been collected by a Japanese scientist named Ichiro Ohga and had been carbon-dated to be approximately 1300 years old, thus holding the seed-germination longevity record.
Had we been standing next to Dr. Harding, marveling at the showy, dish-like leaves and the beautiful pink of the lotus corolla rising gracefully above the surface of the water, we might have thought: “How is it possible for a living thing to remain itself, unaffected amidst the mud of its circumstance, for such a long, long time?”
It is exactly this question of identity that preoccupied Chandrakirti, the seventh-century Buddhist thinker who happened to die around the very time Dr. Harding’s lotus seed was born. Indeed, what is identity? What is essence? What is purity? What is self? Or are these questions just different ways of looking at the same issue?