Been There, Done That, Know-It-All

Spiritual Ego

There is, they say, no fool like an old fool. And there is no ego like a hardened old seeker ego. Encrusted within a prickly sense of having read the words, done the practice and glimpsed ‘the peace that passeth understanding’, the old seeker has absorbed it into a new-and-improved spiritual ego. Like a virus that becomes antidote-resistant with small doses of medicine, the spiritual ego becomes more sophisticated and subtle with ‘spiritual’ insights, knowledge and experiences.

On the surface the words are right – ‘love’, ‘light’, ‘oneness’ etc – the clothes are flowing and the lifestyle says there is a sincere seeker of Truth here. But inside a subtle arrogance has quietly crept in: a shrewd way of dismissing words of a teacher.

There are two ways to do this: one way is by proving the teacher wrong or inadequate and the other is by putting him on a pedestal – in either case, by making his words not applicable to one’s real, daily life. Maybe it’s a clever ‘You don’t really understand my life…’ or ‘What you say is true but not practical’ or even a ‘Yes, I read that in a book’. Do you see how deftly the mind can sweep a real insight under the carpet so hearing the Truth doesn’t upset one’s carefully manicured spiritual life anymore?

“That is the only path the ego-mind knows,” my mentor GD said to me on this subject. “It judges and discards everybody and everything, becoming more and more depressed and isolated. The ego-mind cannot know love or oneness.”

What was shocking was that this ‘ego-mind’ which GD was kindly referring to in third person was what I lived identified with ALL THE TIME. It was, for most part, what I called ‘me’. I felt shaken by his words but also felt softer, like something hard had been broken open. Like a truer ‘me’ had emerged, blinking, into the light.

“The more you ‘know’,” GD continued, “the deader you become. The more you ‘know’ about love, the less you will be able to experience it. Once we know that this particular flower is called a ‘rose’, we no longer bother to see it. The mystery is lost. Every word, every label, deadens us to the mystery that life is.

“Knowing spiritual concepts like ‘freedom’ and ‘oneness’ often make us dead to the actuality of it. Spirituality is a pure ‘I-don’t-know’ space. It is a wide-awake-openness. And it requires no knowledge or point of view.”

Never before in history have spiritual answers been so easily available to feed the ego-mind’s quest to protect itself by accumulating information and processes. It is easy to forget that the way to Truth/Love/Bliss has always been through this ‘wide-awake-openness’ and silence. And especially for those who have read much, heard much and known much, it is critical to pause once in a while and ask whether the words are windows or just new bricks in the walls of our prison?

Image used under creative commons via Alice Popkorn

10 thoughts on “Been There, Done That, Know-It-All

  1. Yes… another form of consumption… on the spiritual supermarket. And the result is a strengthened ego full of worldly knowledge of words but no true understanding. Thanks for sharing and for the reminder. 🙂

      • Thank you! 🙂
        This has been the highlight of my trip this year. As I arrived I was welcomed by the president who pointed me with a serious gaze that seemed to tell me “We gonna get you soon my son!”. I really enjoyed the circumambulation of the Arunachala which I did as millions have done it before me. And it is still resonating… As I was not there on a special day I went out very early in the morning and just walked that path, alone with all. My feet were burning like fire as I was back. (btw. the inner circle is closed so I did the outer one).
        I have done some beautiful pictures of the temple not far from the cave on the hill. I’ll post them soon.

    • Thanks Joe. Sometimes its funny and sometimes its tragic how we keep believing in the ego even after seeing and experiencing its falseness 🙂 It is like a virus, and even worse, it is an imaginary virus!

  2. “It judges and discards everybody and everything, becoming more and more depressed and isolated. The ego-mind cannot know love or oneness” ~Now I can relate and say this is what I was going through. It required a very strong reset button and made me realise that forget spirituality, even in so many other aspects of life we have to nourish an ability to have “new eyes”, to reinvent ourselves and even look at ourselves as someone just born. Thank you for this post. Love

  3. I hear that. I’ve found maintaining “beginner’s mind” to be one of the great challenges. It helped when I quit doing much reading or taking classes and started just doing practices. But I have to stay mindful to remember there’s always something new to be learned even where I think I already know… Good reminder. Thanks.

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