Ego-ing…. Going…. Gone
The Hidden Philosophy of Truth …..continued…
We began last time with the philosophical discipline, the first step thereof being a meditation practice. On this path there must be a continual effort to moderate emotions and so even peak experiences in meditation are to be viewed with a certain conscious detachment. Likewise, off the cushion, all of life’s emotional see-saws must be seen the same way, as the transient vapours of passing mood and feeling that they are. Ultimately, the ancient teachings inform us, on this path reason, not emotion should rule in the end. All strong, passionate emotions, such as anger, are to be curbed. If they can not be, in the heat of the moment, as soon as they can the disciple on the path is asked to seek to understand where and why the emotional reaction originated. In this, the path is better suited to individuals who have left the garden of youth and find themselves in the years of middle age – but of course the path is open to all with a willing heart and mind.
The next and closely related imperative is the relinquishing of the ego. It can be a bitter medicine to swallow to give up the biases of our conditioned minds. And this is exactly what our minds are. We are all individuated packages of consciousness, here living a temporal third-dimension life in human form and we are programmed from the moment we arrive here – beginning with the first lessons from our parents and then our teachers and playmates and then bosses and mates and so on. We are programmed too by the arrangement of cosmic patterning that comprises our birth chart, crystalised at our first breath. Yet beyond all of this our consciousness is part of the consciousness – just as the waves are part of the ocean. The ego is charged with maintaining awareness of the limitation of our individuality. Without this we would have no sense of where we ended and the world began. Our ‘instinct’ to survive would be muted. Our creativity and self-expression probably non-existent. But unfortunately, the ego can so easily take over the driver’s seat of our consciousness. When this occurs we lose the capacity for detachment from the flux of emotions, the only way to peace, and we lose our ability to reason.
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“Every time a man thrusts his ego into a train of thought its balance is disturbed and its truth-value distorted. If he is to judge every fact by the standards of his earlier experience alone he will thereby prevent new knowledge from arising.” (PB)
In essence, we have forgotten who we really are, the grandeur of who we are, and instead we have fallen into the habit of identifying ourselves with our conditioned version of who we think we are – the illusory self-image – an image that we form through the life process. We forget it is precisely that – an image. And a limiting one at that. It is not who we are. Christopher Wallis, teacher of the Tantrik tradition wrote in his beautiful book ‘Tantra Illuminated’ the following:
“The process by which consciousness moves from the unmanifest state of absolute potential into manifest particularity necessarily involves concealment or forgetting. For in order for Consciousness to manifest itself in one particular form, it must conceal or suppress all other possible forms. In order for God to fully become you, and therefore embrace Herself as you, She must temporarily forget everything about Herself that is not you. Thus the coalescence of Consciousness into embodied form is necessarily an act of self-limitation – but one that is freely chosen.”
God, Shiva-Shakti Consciousness is contracted down into specks of individual self-hood – ie us. The contraction as Wallis points out, necessitates a forgetting or concealment. The teachings of the Hidden Philosophy of Truth came out of an innate desire to remember. We all have this spark of desire within us. We know not whether it will manifest as a burn to know the truth, to begin the quest, in this lifetime, or the next.
Regarding the ego, Tantrika teaches the ego is not to be totally annihilated but rather purified and expanded ‘until it simply melts into all that is.’ (CW) Wallis points out the ego simply means ‘what you think you are, so expanding it means expanding your sense of self.’ How does this fit with the Hidden Teachings (Beyond Yoga) of Paul Brunton – one of the west’s early interpreters of the ancient wisdom? PB states, as per the quote above, that every time the ego intrudes into a train of thought, its balance is disturbed and therefore its truth value is distorted. This is because of our prior conditioning. If a new idea conflicts with our intrinsic beliefs we are likely to reject it. This is what he is calling ego – a package of conditioning wrapped up in a self-image. The Tantrika teachings, whilst not denying the reality of our conditioning and self-image, tell us to ‘purify and expand’ all of that – ie the ego. Which I take to mean the cracking open of our awareness of the One consciousness – contracted and concealed in our forgetting as it is – to reveal the beauty of who we really are.
The genuine philosophy, PB reminds us, requires us to cast aside the conceit and vanity of egoic preconceptions and prejudices – the quest of truth demands we do. The simplest way to understand this challenging sounding imperative is to remember to forget the word ‘I’. Using the word ‘I’ unconsciously keeps us stuck in a particular set of personal beliefs – so many of them inaccurate, others purely pathological.
“It is a pathological fact that the various forms of insanity and mental disorder are rooted in the ego and all the obsessions and complexes are likewise connected with the I.” (PB)
The obsession with ‘I’ prohibits us from the truth because it quarantines the mind within the boundaries of its own beliefs: bigotry, prejudice, rationalisations in defence of preferences… the list is long. Reason will always lose out when egoism is calling the shots.
“All this means that those who have the strongest personal views are the most difficult to lead to truth. Such persons need to absorb the lesson inculcated by Jesus: “Except ye become as little children ye shall in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven.” (PB) This means putting aside all prejudice coming from experience and preconceptions coming from conditioning. Further, it means, dropping the words ‘I think’, ‘I believe’, ‘I know’…… Opinion is not truth.
The Hidden Philosophy asks us to develop the faculty of reason. This faculty is known as buddhi – commonly translated as intellect. The buddhi is our means of formulating conceptions, decisions, judgements and discernment. It is also the power of imagination. The ancients tell us discernment is the highest of all the limbs of yoga and ‘the only one that directly leads to liberation.’ (‘Tantra Illuminated.’) We are told this is so because on the spiritual path discerning between what is to be held close and what is to be laid aside is crucial – it determines what is beneficial and what is not.
Of course the logical question is, how does our buddhi know what is most beneficial for us? There is more than one answer to this but the easiest is to say – it doesn’t ultimately matter, if we regard all experiences as learning experiences. A higher response though is to say the buddhi which is not lead by the ego (an expanded ego we might say) connects us with our innate voice of intuition (the Higher Self). It is this intuitive voice which guides our discernment to lead us to the truth and the truth will always be beneficial for us.
In the meantime, we are all ‘victims’ of our subliminal impressions of past experiences. In Sanskrit – our samskaras. All our experiences leave impressions and the impressions are like pattern makers dictating how the flow of life is interpreted by us. Samskaras disrupt and impede the buddhi. They trip us up – whether the psychological wounds of childhood or the traumas of later life experience – all coalescence within the psyche as grooves, like the ones in old records. These samskaras are inextricably linked to what we call the ego. That is, our self-identity package, the one we form over time is created in large part by our impressions of past experiences – the good the bad and the ugly. The astrological chart shows, to one who knows how to read it, the areas and nature of the most potent of these samskaras. One on the path of the hidden truth is advised, at the outset, to learn the secrets of the cosmic patterning – without becoming too obsessed with the ‘I’. Things happened. Life here, for all of us, babies, children, young people, old people, is nothing but a pile of experiences and many of them are painful. It is a challenge but one on the quest of truth will accept willingly – to train oneself, over time and with a committed meditation practice, to detach intellectually and emotionally from habitual identification with what happened. Often we don’t even know what happened of course. And then the samskaras are even harder to ferret out. Once they are brought to consciousness they can be processed, digested fully, and eliminated. We have no choice but to trust the others will dissolve over time as we learn to expand our egos – or drop them – choose your language. And then there is this….a further thought to leave you with …..
“Finally, we should note that in Tantrik Philosophy, the buddhi is not localized in the brain but extends throughout the body. Thus samskaras of different kinds are distributed throughout the body and can be released by the physical as well as the mental practices of yoga. We experience the buddhi on different levels of the body; for example when we speak of ‘gut instinct,’ we refer to an aspect of the buddhi’s intentionality associated with very deep, unconscious samskaras which we tend to feel in the viscera, the enteric nervous system. However, without the practice of yoga, the gut instinct in which we place so much trust might in fact be based in fear and lead us badly astray.” (‘Tantra Illuminated’ – Christopher Wallis).
See you down the road…
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