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...most of the time we relate to experience with an identity of some kind or another, a sense of self, of being some thing. We have many of them, actually. We have all of the ones that come with living in a society: parent, child, sibling, and with whatever our profession is: artist, poet, doctor, lawyer, plumber, massage therapist, salesman and so on.
We also have ideas about ourselves, which is another whole level of identity. So even though we may be a bank clerk, we kind of think of ourselves as a poet. And even though we are directing a corporation, we may think of ourselves as a humanitarian, and so on.
And then we have another whole level of identities, ones that usually come from earlier when our lives are being shaped. "I'm a person who does everything right all the time. I'm a person who never does anything right. I'm the best; no matter what situation I encounter, I'm the best person for it. It doesn't matter what situation I encounter, I always do something wrong. I'm not lovable. Everybody loves me." And you go on and on and on. I mean, we could take a poll here, different identities. You all know what I'm talking about, right?
Now the extraordinary thing is that even though we have this multiplicity of identities, and we actually operate as different people in different circumstances with a different view of things and different behaviors and so forth, we have the idea that there's just one thing. We don't even notice that we're switching personalities. We're like the shards of a shattered mirror and we don't know when we move from the reflections in one shard to the reflections in another. So, this is a mess. [Laughter]
One can say--and this may be a little different perspective for some of you--that the function of yidam meditation is to tidy up this mess. You adopt one identity and that's it. [Laughter] You don't get to choose all the other ones.
[Segment about clay cups and rocks, not transcribed]
The purpose for adopting an identity is to be able to let go of having any identity. So, in a certain sense, we're sweeping up the shards of the mirror, and then we discover we don't need the mirror. Or, as Trungpa said once, "If you're going to use a crutch, you might as well use a gold crutch."
And this is a very, very profound method of practice and quite unlike anything in the western spiritual traditions--at least that I know of.
So, we use identities and these are called yidams or deities. What are they? Well, they are expressions of awakened mind. That's the gold crutch. They're expressions of awakened mind.