Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Training of the Ego: Constant Battle with the Ego

Hi Friends,

This is a continuation of commentary on the Gathas of Inayat Khan. Even though these lectures and writings were collected in the early part of the 20th century, I am continually amazed at how they remain relevant for us in this century. The reading follows below in blue:

"For the person who walks in the path of God, the only struggle is a constant battle with the ego. It is the ego which forms the cover on the light of the soul, and the light hidden under the ego is the "light hidden under a bushel." Man's sense of justice, his logic, his reason, his intelligence, his affection, all is covered by the ego. If he judges anyone, it is from the point of view of his own interest, if he reasons, his selfish mind produces the result, in his affections, he puts self first, his intelligence is darkened by self; and this is the condition of the average man. In proportion, as man takes away the covering from the soul, so much more just, truer, more sincere, more loving does he become. Selfishness develops the sense of self-interest, and very often a person may gain earthly prosperity because of it. But as all things in the world are subject to change, death and decay, he remains in the end empty-handed; while the unselfish man, who has perhaps been debarred from the earthly good by his lack of self-interest, at least remains possessed of his sense of reason and is rich in the qualities of love, justice and intelligence."

This section above gives an insight into how our ego works. When it is out of control, it darkens the innate light we carry within, thereby coloring all our interactions with other human beings. However, our senses of justice, reason, logic, intelligence and affection can shift from being guided by mere self-interest to that of gradually being relieved of the burden of the ego and gathering together the components of our true self.

The proof of this is in the pudding as Inayat Khan correctly points out. Even more so today than when this was written, we live in a society strongly focused on worldly attainment above all else. Not only are we seeing the unraveling of this impulse in the financial markets today, we are coming back to the age-old question that is hinted at here in this discussion, the question many folks come to at some point in their life: Is this all there is? And, then, the true inner work may begin and the freedom from the ego may commence, if we take up the challenge to the ego.

"The whole  tragedy of life is in losing sight of one's natural self, and the greatest gain in life is coming into touch with one's real self. The real self is covered by many layers of ego; those which preponderate above all others are hunger and passion, beneath these are pride and vanity. One must learn to discriminate between what is natural and what is unnatural, what is necessary and what is not necessary, what brings happiness and what brings sorrow. No doubt it is difficult for many to discriminate between right and wrong; but by standing face to face with one's ego and recognizing it as someone who is ready to make war against us, and be keeping one's strength of will as an unsheathed sword, one protects oneself from one's greatest enemy, which is one's own ego. And a time comes in life when one can say, 'My worst enemy has been within myself.'"

Once again, we come to the issue of discernment: what is natural or unnatural? What brings happiness or sorrow? What do I truly need in life, what is the chaff? What have my hungers, passions, pride and vanity brought me and those around me? Only by deep self-inquiry can we come to conclusions that are the correct ones for ourselves. Once we stop being our own worst enemies, we can begin to engage ourselves from the inside out to produce the joy and happiness we so truly desire and is our natural birthright.

If you would like to make this a practice, choose an issue where you know you are still attached to an egoic response. Then, breathe fully and rhythmically into and out of the heart, asking the heart to answer, "What is my first step in letting go of this pattern?" Take some time - let yourself be surprised by the heart's answer!

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