The king said, “You are talking nonsense. When I am here, my ego is here. How can I leave it? That is the whole problem: I want to leave it! I can’t leave it! It follows me like my shadow!”
Bodhidharma said, “Then, okay. You sit and close your eyes and try to find it, where it is. If you find, immediately tell me – because unless you find it how can I kill it? And I will sit in front of you with this stick in my hand. The moment you have found it just give me a nod, and I will finish it forever!”
The king was frightened. It was a cold winter morning, but he started perspiring. But he tried; he went in, he looked in every nook and comer of his being, looked and looked and looked, and was surprised: he could not find the ego. Three hours passed, and his face changed. A great grace started descending on him. His vibe changed, he was feeling blessed. A benediction was around. And the sun started rising and the cave was becoming full of light.
Bodhidharma laughed and he said, “It is long enough that you have been searching. Have you not found it?”
And the king opened his eyes, fell at the feet of Bodhidharma and said, “You finished it. How did you do it?”
Bodhidharma said, “It is simple: the ego exists if you don’t look at it. It exists only if you keep your back to it. The moment you turn and start looking – nobody.”
Now listen to this small, beautiful poem of Octavio Paz. It says exactly that:
Here is a long and silent street.
I walk in blackness and I stumble and fall,
And rise and I walk blind,
My feet trampling the silent stones and the dry leaves.
Someone behind me also tramples stones, leaves.
If I slow down, he slows;
If I run, he runs.
I turn – nobody.
This is half, a part, of the Buddha’s story. Once the ego disappears you should not think, even for a single moment, that the self will remain. When the ego has disappeared, the self also has disappeared. That’s why Buddha says, “You don’t have a soul, you don’t have a self. You are not there at all. Nobody exists there – neither the ego nor the atman. They are two aspects of the same illusion.”
You are followed by a shadow: if you look, the shadow disappears. And the second part is: if you look still deeper, you also disappear. Not only does the object of your look disappear, the subject of your look also disappears. This is the second part of Paz’s poem.