A. For me your question hits right to the heart of what Dharma practice reveals, which is our will to power. It’s what makes the world go around and is the reason for all the suffering that exists. The will to power manifests most clearly in our normal everyday life when we try to control and even (sometimes very subtly) manipulate people or situations (or both) for our own ends. This is the fundamental characteristic of the sense of self.

In practising the Dharma we are encouraged to look very closely at ourselves to see who we really are, how we are put together as a person. Thus we slowly come to understand why we act in the way that we do. When we open honestly to ourselves, we see there is nothing we do that doesn’t have something in it for ourselves. More often than not, we come to see that we do things so that they give us a sense of control over our experience. It is as though we are always trying to be on top and in control, for when we find ourselves not in control we feel vulnerable and fearful.

With this sense of self we create our sense of separateness. Me here and the world out there. When we feel separate we feel lonely and frightened, and as a result we need to take control of life so as to avoid still more loneliness and fear. We try to manipulate and control life, which in truth can never be controlled and can never be the possession we crave it to be.

Because your question hits right to the heart of our makeup, your query cannot be regarded as pointing at an aspect of our personality that we can target specifically and do something about. Rather, we need to see it as something that is addressed through the whole practice of Buddha-Dharma, whether it’s ethics, mindfulness, understanding, or the complete opening up and giving of ourself to the refuges. Like any aspect of our makeup, if you feel that it gets out of control sometimes, bring forth the ethical side of practice through restraint with containment. But to satisfactorily transform our desire to control and manipulate, we need to practise the whole of the path with complete commitment and whole-heartedness.