Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Training of the Ego: What the Ego Needs and What It Does Not Need

This is another commentary on one of the Gathas writings of Inayat Khan. This has to be one of his most concise, clear and beautiful writings.

"In order to train the ego, it is necessary that one should distinguish what is the right of the ego and what is not its right. The ego has a tendency to want what it needs and also what it does not need. The first is its natural appetite and the second is greed."

This first comment requires that we have discernment about ourselves. This might be simple with regard to certain tendencies we have already conquered or that have come into our awareness, but it proves more difficult when we are unaware of certain behavioral patterns or our shadow tendencies which may be eluding us.

"This is like the nature of the dog, that after eating the flesh off a bone, still guards the bone against another dog. Besides this, the ego has a tendency to want more and more of what it likes, regardless of right and justice, also regardless of the after-effect. For instance, a person may eat and drink more and more until this makes him ill. Every kind of gratification of desires or appetite gives a tendency to want more and more. Then there is the desire for change of experience, and when a person gives in to it, it never ends. Excess of desire in appetites or passions always produces an intoxication in man. It increases to such an extent that the limited means that man has, become insufficient to gratify his desires. Therefore, naturally, to satisfy his desires he wants more than what is his own, wants what belongs to other people. When this begins, naturally injustice begins. Then he cannot get what he wants, then there is pain and disappointment."

What can be most difficult is when one of our bad habits gets the most of us: we can become so entrenched in a behavior or position, that it takes over entire areas of our lives. This might not only be issues of food or drink, but excessive anger, manipulation, victimhood, insisting on our point of view...the list can be quite long. We can even see this ego beyond into a regional or national level.

"When one person gratifies his desires more than other people, the others who see this want to take away the gratification he has. One naturally expects a thinker to understand this and to relieve his ego of all that is unnecessary."

So, how do we begin to do this? We begin by practicing moderation.

"The training of the ego is this, to eat to live and not to live to eat, and so with all things one desires. The nature of desire is such that nothing will satisfy it forever, and sometimes the pleasure of a moment costs more than it is worth. And when one's eyes are closed to this, one takes the momentary pleasure regardless of what will come after. The training of the ego is not necessarily a sad life of renunciation, nor is it necessarily the life of a hermit."

We don't need to run away from life at all. Here is the key to how we escape the suffering we encounter when the ego is runaway in our lives:

"The training is to be wise in life, and to understand what we desire and why we desire it and what effect will follow, what we can afford and what we cannot afford. It is also to understand desire from the point of view of justice, to know whether it is right and just. If the ego is given way to in the very least in the excess of its desires, it becomes master of one's self. Therefore, in training the ego, even the slightest thing must be avoided which may in time master us. The ideal life is the life of balance, not necessarily the life of renunciation. Renunciation must not be practiced for the sake of renunciation, but it must be practiced if it is necessary for balance. Verily, balance is the ideal life."

I invite you to take an area of your life that may be challenging , and to place your awareness there. Let your inhalation breathe this issue into your heart and let your exhalation let go of it, bringing insight and solution. May balance in life become your forte.

1 comment:

Rich said...

Ahhh...balance. Much easier said than done. But still I try. Thanks, Robert.