Lieh-Tzu exhibited his skill in archery to Po-Hun Wu-Jen.
Po-Hun Wu-Jen was an enlightened master. Lieh-Tzu himself became enlightened later on, this story belongs to the days of his seeking. Lieh-Tzu himself became a master in his own right, but this is a story from before he became enlightened.
The desire to exhibit is the desire of an ignorant mind. Why do you want to exhibit? Why do you want people to know you? What’s the cause of it? And why do you make it so significant in your life, the exhibition, that people should think that you are somebody very significant, important, extraordinary – why? Because you don’t have a self. You have only an ego – a substitute for the self.
Ego is not substantial. Self is substantial, but that is not known to you – and a man cannot live without the feeling of “I.” It is difficult to live without the feeling of “I.” Then from what center will you work and function? You need an “I.” Even if it is false it will be helpful. Without an “I” you will simply disintegrate! Who will be the integrator, the agent within you? Who will integrate you? From what center will you function?
Unless you know the self, you will have to live with an ego. Ego means a substitute self, a false self; you don’t know the self, so you create a self of your own. It is a mental creation. And for anything that is false, you have to make supports. Exhibition gives you support.
If somebody says, “You are a beautiful person,” you start feeling that you are beautiful. If nobody says so, it will be difficult for you to feel that you are beautiful; you will start suspecting, doubting. If you even say to an ugly person continuously, “You are beautiful,” the ugliness will drop from his mind, he will start feeling he is beautiful – because the mind depends on others’ opinions, it accumulates opinions, depends on them.
The ego depends on what people say about you: the ego feels good if people feel good about you; if they feel bad, the ego feels bad. If they don’t give you any attention, the supports are withdrawn; if many people give you attention, they feed your ego – that’s why so much attention is asked for continuously.