Monday, October 6, 2008

Three Stages Through Which the Ego Develops

This is the last Gatha reading in the series on the Training of the Ego of Inayat Khan.

"There are three different stages through which the ego develops and reaches the ideal state. The first stage is called Ammara by Sufis, and in this the ego is satisfied by the satisfaction of the passions and the appetites."

This first aspect concerns the nafs ammara, which, in this interpretation of the Arabic word nafs would refer to the petty self, the false ego, is indicating addiction to the carnal and sensual self, which we all have (nafs can also mean the soul or breath of life: the relation to the first meaning is a good linguistic example of the covering of the physical ego over the spiritual one) . Food, sex, substance abuse or many other items could come under this category. Idries Shah would call this the commanding self, i.e., the domineering false self which runs our lives.

"From this animal stage the ego may rise to a higher stage, which is man's ego, and that stage is the gratification of vanity. This ego is termed by the Sufi Lawwama, and this stage in the beginning causes a person to act in every way that is likely to cause harm and to be hurtful and unjust to others. This continues until he learns to understand the true nature of vanity, since all good as well as all evil is born of vanity. When vanity ceases to cause man to do evil, he has reached the human stage, Mutmainna."

This next stage of development is divided into two parts. The nafs lawwama is when one is in the state of constantly blaming others or accusing himself. Over time, as one takes more responsibility for one's actions and practices forgiveness, the nafs is purified and moves into the state of nafs mutmainna, the tranquil aspect of the nafs, when one has moved beyond the lower states of ammara and lawamma and is peaceful. 

"But when vanity causes man to do good the ego becomes humane, using this word in the oriental sense, in which it means more than human, as it is derived from the words, Hu, divine, and Manas, mind.

The first lesson that the ego must learn in order to develop into the humane state is that of pride in the form of self-respect. As man has the inclination to have good clothes and good ornaments in order to appear in the eyes of others as what he considers beautiful, so he must feel the same inclination towards the building of personality by the ornamentation of every action and manner in the way that he considers good and beautiful."

Finally, when one reaches the humane state, the art of personality is at a pinnacle, its most beautiful state. Khan here is hinting at akhlaq-I Allah, or, the manner of God, in which all parts of the human being are harmonized and beautiful. Attaining this truly is an art, and, as any artist knows, must be practiced daily, with great love and patience in order for this inner beauty to manifest and flower, extending itself to all creation.

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