Every effort takes you further away

I have often become repeatedly frustrated with spiritual seeking, wondering which spiritual teaching is best, which practice to do, and what is the absolute truth. There are so many flavours of spirituality and non-duality on offer that I have often found myself confused. And at the end of so many years of seeking, what do I really know? Despite having read some of the most profound texts from many of the great ancient traditions and contemporary teachers, I often feel that I still have no clue. And in many ways I don’t really have a clue. But what I keep on remembering is that there is no-self. And with that remembering of that phrase can come a clear seeing that there is no person here.

Every practice and method assumes the ego-self as being existent. Subtlety there is the desire for the person to get somewhere. But when it is realised that there is no person, then the desire to get somewhere is no longer relevant and loses its traction. The desire for spiritual practice is the desire for escape. And this escapist desire is the primary activity of ego, the desire that is responsible for materialism, hedonism, addiction and violence.

“No matter how many spiritual practices I do, or how much I read, I always end up right HERE.” Me

True spiritual practice is simply to see, instantaneously and all-at-once, that there is no-self. Not much of a practice, I know. The problem is that methods are for the ego, and there is no method for just seeing things as they are, apart from….to see things as they are. It’s like teaching someone to lift up their arm. All you can give in way of instruction is… “you just lift up your arm!”.

“The sphere of the experience of the Buddhas is not something that is found by seeking it…Thus [those who seek it] are like a blind man trying to grasp the sky…” Kunjed Gyalpo

It appears as if there is a ‘self’, but there isn’t. What we take to be a self is just a bundle of phenomena appearing in consciousness, the ego is just a bundle of thoughts:

“If this mind is investigated, it turns out to be nothing more than a bundle of thoughts based on the primary thought of ‘I am the body’ called the ego.”  Ribhu Gita Chapter 32 verse 34

So, there is no need to worry about any of this. Worrying about this is itself the activity of a pre-supposed ego. Instead know the ego does not exist. If you cannot see it (it actually cannot be seen by you, it can only just be seen), then perhaps you have faith in it. The faith in it allows the mind to be temporarily stilled, worry free, and then it perhaps will see it for itself.

“When we drop all worries, our mind will spontaneously attain realisation” Gendun Rinpoche from Heart Advice from a Mahamudra Master, p.172

This is where faith can work. Faith in God, a teaching or a in higher power allows thoughts and worries to temporarily subside, and in that space the truth can be seen. So, have faith if you can, otherwise just see, be with whatever is happening, or be whatever is happening. Do not believe when the mind tells you that you exist, either directly or by implication. See how all practices are a function of the greedy ego trying to get somewhere, see how this subtle greed manifests in so many different ways under different guises. See there is no-self.

“If asked, `Which of these three is final liberation: With form, without form, or with-and-without-form?’ I say, Liberation is the extinction of the ego which enquires `With form, without form, or with-and-without-form?” Ramana Maharshi, 40 verses on reality, verse 40

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3 thoughts on “Every effort takes you further away

  1. We keep on talking about the ego as something bad and separate from us. Yet it is generated from within us, and it serves a purpose, it arises for a function. We seem to loathe it so much. Yet it’s a wonderful thing to converse with. Quite illuminating.

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    1. Good point! We don’t have to fight ourselves…I guess it depends what you mean by the word ego. The functional aspect is fine, but there can also be a dysfunctional aspect which causes suffering and is based on not seeing things clearly. This can cause things like excessive worry and violence (both in thought and action). It’s this latter dysfunctional one that I call ‘ego’. The functional ego is simply thought functioning sanely. My experience is that we can certainly learn from the dysfunctional ego, and talking to it can be very beneficial and healing, but is it not based on a false sense of self and an unfounded sense of vulnerability? It seems to me that the dysfunctional ego is a self-defence mechanism gone wrong. The suffering it generates is telling us something has gone wrong. What do you think?

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      1. I think when, what you call dysfunctional ego, is formed, there is an accurate sense of self based on the context it was generated, and its vulnerability is founded. I think ego is relational, circumstantial, and it’s a self-defence mechanism activated. It feels to me it’s its preservation beyond necessary periods that has branded it dysfunctional. The suffering it generates is probably telling us it’s being used past its expiry date and needs to reassess its thoughts, behaviours, and reactions. Something like a habit that isnt helpful anymore.

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