"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ego: The Enemy Within

As ever, the bloggers on The Huffington Post - alongside their usual fare of political and social commentary - continue to bring the reader informed and varied insights into humanity's spiritual struggles. This week, featured blogger Bernard Starr (professor emeritus at the City University of New York) examines the path to self-realization and spiritual awakening, while examining the ego-traps that lie in wait along that path.
"While wisdom and realization may be fundamental to your being." Starr notes, "they are obfuscated by a lifelong process starting at birth that leads us away from the realized state and inner guru. From the outset, personal experiences and conditioning manifest a personal ego that we firmly believe is our sole identity. That conclusion commits us to a lifelong process of seeking self-realization by strengthening, expanding and defending the little me/self/ego in a desperate struggle for survival. And most of our psychological theories and traditional societal teachings keep us on that dead-end path, since they too cannot see any foundation for existence other than the ego level of consciousness."
And therein lies the first ego-trap. The man or woman who bucks the system and seeks enlightenment is going against the stream of the unawakened vast majority of the population that seeks merely to grab and hold the seeming security and luxuries that society holds out on offer. Doubts as to the validity of the spiritual path and the goal of enlightenment are bound to arise.

More subtle, and much more difficult, however, is the problem of an ego that grasps onto the individual's drive for enlightenment as a means to retain its dominance over the individual. "You are seeking enlightenment?," the ego seems to ask. "Well, just watch how spiritual I can be!"

Starr, identifying this process as the  "near enemy" (a term popularized by Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield), warns that "the ego will not willingly loosen its ferocious grip on existence."

"Since the ego has been your sole co-pilot in life for seeking a secure sense of self," he notes, "you will not abandon it for the smoke and mirrors of another foundation that you sense but are not sure is real."

"The ensuing internal struggle to free yourself from the grip of the ego will submerge you in many self-deceptions in which you will firmly believe you are progressing toward the spiritual mountain top," he cautions. "But many of your practices and behavior(s) on close examination will reveal the ego in disguise and control."

Utilizing the concept of 'love' as an example - a concept which along with 'compassion' is universal to the world's great wisdom traditions - Starr illustrates the process of how the "near enemy" of the ego subverts even these most lofty of emotions and ideals.

"While love is at the core of all religions and spiritual traditions," Starr notes, "its near enemy version abounds. "I love you" are three little words that are easy to say but much more difficult to genuinely mean or live. Hidden behind affirmations of love can be self-serving egoism, attachment and dependency."

"Love that is truly spiritual is unconditional and selfless," he observes. "But in practice, how often does it mean "I will love you only if you return love"? All too frequently we hear about "love" that quickly morphed into hate and even violence when it was not reciprocated."

Traditionally, the role of a spiritual teacher, formal mentor or guru was to help the spiritual aspirant to identify and avoid such ego-traps. Yet such roles may be inimical to the modern seeker, with modern sensibilities. Thus, it is not absolutely critical to find (if one can) and follow an enlightened guru or teacher, one can travel by one's self what is in any event a lonely inner road - for "the kingdom of God is within you" - but, nevertheless, it is helpful.

"(Y)ou can be your own guru," Starr notes, (b)ut beware of the near enemies. Few can avoid entrapment. If you think you can," he warns, "that may be another near enemy."

6 comments:

  1. The ultimate aim of the ego is not to see something, but to be something. See the link below for more info.


    #ego
    www.ufgop.org

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks to the writer of this article. I appreciate your effort in making this informational blogs. I know it's not easy to do this but you have done a really great job. Congrats. I'm pretty sure your readers enjoying it a lots.


    Rica
    www.imarksweb.org

    ReplyDelete

  3. Bhuddini says "it is not absolutely critical to find (if one can) and follow an enlightened guru or teacher," I dont want to get into an argument over this just want to issue a dire warning then let you all go your own way . I dont know of any one who has suceeded in God realization who was not accepted by a duely appointed living human god realized master as his . The line of Master's runs from teh beginning and there has never been a time when this world was without a master . DO NOT TRY TO REALIZE GOD WITH OUT ONE OR YOU WILL FAIL

    ReplyDelete

  4. Bhuddini says "it is not absolutely critical to find (if one can) and follow an enlightened guru or teacher," I dont want to get into an argument over this just want to issue a dire warning then let you all go your own way . I dont know of any one who has suceeded in God realization who was not accepted by a duely appointed living human god realized master as his . The line of Master's runs from teh beginning and there has never been a time when this world was without a master . DO NOT TRY TO REALIZE GOD WITH OUT ONE OR YOU WILL FAIL

    ReplyDelete
  5. I really enjoyed reading your article. I found this as an informative and interesting post, so i think it is very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the effort you have made in writing this article.


    edupdf.org

    ReplyDelete
  6. If more people that write articles really concerned themselves with writing great content like you, more readers would be interested in their writings. Thank you for caring about your content.
    self-realized teachers

    ReplyDelete

There was an error in this gadget