Pulling the rug out from under the ego
In my article Roadmap to enlightenment: a (fairly) comprehensive guide to spiritual practices I discuss the inter-relationship between insight and purification and liberation, so I won’t go into that here – please see that article for more information on this, but I would like to comment on one thing I often see in people who attend my meetings or who contact me for 1 to 1 meetings. It’s when the ego has the rug pulled out from underneath it but it still trying to regain its balance, tottering from left to right, sometimes disorientated, sometimes overwhelmed, lacking stability – in short – suffering.
This occurs when the mind is exposed to non-dual insight/knowledge teachings, ie. the radical teachings on no-self/no-person/no-free will, before the mind has achieved a degree of sattva (peace) and stability. When this happens, freedom is seen but the mind’s tendencies are now unleashed as if the ‘foot has been taken off the brake’. All the pre-existing egoic tendencies, previously held in check somewhat by notions of the ego, are now left to roam free, sometimes with riotous consequences.
Now, in a fundamental sense there is no problem in this, but from the point of view of the ego, which is still actually functioning out of habit (ie. the vasanas or egoic habitual tendencies are still at play), this is quite troubling and can be very tumultuous. It can lead to much suffering – both for the seeker and for those around them.
If the ego-mind is stable and sattvic (peaceful) with a health positive self-concept prior to being exposed to the radical non-dual teachings, when the teachings are seen, the sattvic qualities are naturally allowed to express themselves, namely love, peace, happiness, compassion, intelligence, clear thinking, clear seeing.
This was in essence what happened to me. I was lucky in that I had unwittingly spent many years purifying my mind through a combination of spiritual practices from a young age, readings spiritual books, being in a loving relationship and various forms of self-help to name a few factors. Awakening for me was not a difficult or tumultuous process. In retrospect I can see this was the case as my mind was already for the most part sattvic. The awakening was peaceful and gradual, permeated by love and light, so gradual I did not even realise it was happening. It was only when I started sharing this teaching with others that I realised how difficult the awakening process can sometimes be, when I saw how it affected others. Because I had read and studied traditional texts that spoke about about the energies whilst I was seeking, I was able to utilise these teachings for the benefit of those who came to me and my meetings.
If the mind is riddled with tamasic (negative) and rajasic (passionate) energy, addictive vasanas (habitual tendencies) and a negative self-concept, these aspects of the mind can flourish. Depending on the vasanas present, this can sometime cause much suffering. It can result in family/relationship problems, divorce, panic attacks and career and financial issues. Unconscious psychological insecurities that were not previously known can all surface at once leading to a crisis of confidence, disorientation and feeling overwhelmed. Tamasic impulses can increase, rajasic tendencies can increase, addictive tendencies can increase.
The general advice here is to not worry, remain calm and at peace, something that is easier to do if a degree of sattva has already been cultivated and most of the rajasic and tamasic energies have already been somewhat subdued. In time, these vasanas (tendencies) will naturally express themselves. If they are allowed to rise up, be experienced and felt (ie. not suppressed) withoutacting them out, then they will naturally purify themselves in time and the balance of sattva will naturally arise. However, if the vasanas are indulged in, then they may continue indefinitely, and the freedom-realisation may even be lost (apparently). Just knowing this information can make a huge difference (apparently).
It is for this very reason that most traditional approaches stress a period of purification prior to being introduced to the ‘higher’ non-dual teachings. Shankara often advised that seekers purify themselves with devotion to God and developing certain qualities prior to reading/listening to the higher teachings of Vedanta.
But what seeking ego wants to wait? And why should it, right! Most teachings are no longer guarded behind the secret screens of a religious patriarchy and are freely available on YouTube and Facebook, something which is largely good as far as I can see, but it is useful to be aware of the downsides and potential negative consequences.
This article is an excerpt taken from a longer article, click here to read it.
Question: Hi Tom, I can see that there is no self, but if there is not a doer, what do you do when is time to take a decision that seem to be very important, like calling or not calling a woman you like?
Tom: Thinking just happens when it is needed.
You can conceive of it this way: the heart is an organ in the body, and its function is to pump blood around the body. When you exercise, the natural intelligence of the body means that it pumps faster.
Now see the brain and thinking in the same way. The brain is an organ and (one of) its function is to think. When thinking is required, eg. when making a decision, the natural intelligence thinks out a decision based on the information available to it at the time. It happens by itself, as it has always done.
Of course, as with all skills, one can learn to make better decisions, and both learning specific techniques and having experience in making decisions can aid this process.
We had a lovely meeting in Kingston at the Druids’s Head Pub yesterday, and it’s amazing how a spontaneous teaching can apparently arise through interactions with others. This morning I felt moved to write down some of what was said, so here it is:
Towards the end of the apparent seeker’s apparent journey, the very interest in non-duality or liberation itself becomes a hindrance. What are you looking for? And who or what is looking?
The answer to the first question is you are looking to feel better/not feel bad. The answer to the second question is that it is the illusory ego/’small self’ that is looking. So the seeking is perpetuating the ego, or the seeking is the ego.
The ego/mind can logically start to realise that lasting freedom cannot be found in any object whatsoever, gross or subtle, and it can also recognise that all experiences or states of consciousness, no matter how lofty or sublime, are all objects that are fleeting and so eventually lead to suffering and so push the motion of the hamster wheel that is called samsara (suffering). Therefore chasing experiences and states of consciousness is not the answer – this just leads to more suffering.
What is the solution?
1. It can be seen that there is no lasting satisfaction resulting from the search, so there is no point to seeking.
2. It can be intellectually known that Liberation is not an object and that Liberation must already be here (if it exists at all) if it is something permanent or lasting.
Reflect on these.
More fundamentally than either of these 2 above, which are both forms of ego-intellectual understanding, it can be seen that there is no person/body/mind, that these are illusory appearances that we engender with an artificial sense of self by conceptual projection and overlay and self-reinforcing labelling of felt/perceived energies.
Put simply, there is no-one here. There was never anyone here. It was all just an illusion in consciousness (when this is seen, then it is also seen that the path to enlightenment and the spiritual practices are also illusory). We don’t even need to use the word consciousness really, but it can be a useful pointer.
No person, no problem.
Meditate/reflect on this: as long as there is a person (ie. belief in being a person, or thinking the body or mind are real), there is suffering, and there must be suffering, for the body is subject to change and decline and all the other things that come along with this that you can hopefully reason out for yourselves.
Lastly, may I point that all of this is a teaching, and these words work to remove the ignorance. The teachings are antidotes given to the seeker and wielded by the seeker. No words are the truth. Please read the above in this context. The words are never quite it (and of course they are it, as everything is it, and there is no ‘it’, ‘it’ being just an expression…oh dear!)
Pranams and blessings to you
Think of it this way: there is never a doer, even when thought says there is one. This knowledge can set you free. Don’t worry if it seems like you’re a doer. It’s just like the sun rising and setting – it seems like the sun is orbiting the earth, but the knowledge is there telling us that it is the earth that is orbiting the sun.
Don’t worry too much about the appearances or whether or not you get lost in thoughts. Sometimes, in fact very often, thoughts needs to express themselves, and in expressing themselves you can learn about yourself on the human level/level of the mind. A bit of worry can be quite good, as it helps us prepare for future events.
Know well that even performing tapas (spiritual practice) and yoga with the intention ‘I should become an instrument in the hands of the Lord Siva’ is a blemish to complete self-surrender, which is the highest form of being in His service.
(Guru Vachaka Kovai, verse 471)
Sri Sadhu Om’s Comments:
Since even the thought ‘I am an instrument in the Lord’s hand’ is a means by which the ego retains its individuality, it is directly opposed to the spirit of complete self-surrender, the ‘I’-lessness. Are there not many good-natured people who engage themselves in prayers, worship, yoga and such virtuous acts with the aim of achieving power from God and doing good to the world as one divinely commissioned? It is exposed here that even such endeavours are egotistical and hence contrary to self-surrender.