Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Training of the Ego: Humility

A short, beautiful reading from the Gathas of Inayat Khan:

"Humility is the principal thing that must be learnt in the path of training the ego. It is the constant effort of effacing the ego that prepares man for the greater journey. This principle of humility can be practiced by forgetting one's personality in every thought and action and in every dealing with another. No doubt it is difficult and may not seem very practicable in everyday life, though in the end it will prove to be the successful way, not only in one's spiritual life, but in one's everyday affairs. The general tendency is to bring one's personality forward, which builds a wall between two souls whose destiny and happiness lie in unity. In business, in profession, in all aspects of life it is necessary that one should unite with the other in this unity, in which the purpose of life is fulfilled."

"There are two forms of effacing the self, which in other words may be called giving in. One way is by weakness, the other is by willingness, the former being a defect, the latter a virtue. One comes by lack of will, the other by charity of the heart. Therefore in training the ego, one must take care that one is not developing a weakness, presuming it to be a virtue. The best way of dealing with the question is to let life take its natural course, and at the same time, to allow the conscience to keep before it the highest idea. On one side life taking its natural course, on the other side the conscience holding its highest ideal, balancing it, will make the journey easy. The words of Christ, which teach man to walk with another two miles if the other wanted him to walk one, prove the great importance of harmony in life. And his words, 'Resist not evil', show still more the importance of harmony in life, namely, that if you can avoid evil, in other words keep it away, that is better than to want to fight it. And the idea of Christ's teaching of giving in is also expressive of harmonizing with the wishes of another person. No doubt in this, discrimination is necessary. That harmony is advisable which develops into harmony and culminates in greater harmony, not that which may seem in the beginning to be harmony and would result in greater inharmony. In training the ego, balance must be taken as the most important principle"

Khan recommends we practice humility in our everyday lives by stepping out of the limelight and by letting others go forward. This may seem like anathema in today's society, but there is an underlying principle here. We are not being told not to achieve or to be excellent in our undertakings, whatever that arena may be. Rather, we gain much more in life by fostering a sense of cooperation over that of competition. We build bridges by unifying with others and honoring their gifts and contributions. Yet, we can still do our best by competing with ourselves to always hold forth our highest ideals, whatever the situation may be. As always, Khan advises discrimination in our desires to harmonize with others by seeking balance in all things.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Training Is As Well a Science as an Art

Another reading from the Gathas of Hazrat Inayat Khan:

"It is a science and an art to understand the nature of the human ego and to train it. Once can understand the nature of the human ego by a study of human nature; but one can learn the way of training it by training one's own ego. Man can train his ego by being patient with all around him that has a jarring effect upon him. For every jar upon the soul irritates the ego. When man expresses his irritation, he develops a disagreeable nature; when he controls it and does not express it, then he becomes crushed inwardly. The idea is to rise above all such irritations."

This is a wonderful application of the science aspect to training the ego. If we use our people-watching abilities and then apply that to ourselves, then we can begin to train our own ego. There are so many things in life that can prove to be irritating: from traffic to family issues or colleagues, to paying one's bills. Almost always, these sources of irritation are the sticking points of our own egos; so, take the more painful medication and crush the false ego. Lashing out in own form or another proves nothing, but being able to flow with life's problems develops beauty in one's character.

"Life has a jarring effect by its very nature which every sensitive soul can feel. If a person wishes to keep away all jarring influences, he had better not try to live, for life is a constant jarring. Life is motion, and it is in the nature of motion to strike against something. It does not require strength to stand against the jarring influences of life - there is no wall of stone or of iron that can always stand against the waves of the ocean - but a small piece of wood, little and light, can always rise and  fall with the waves, yet always above them, uninjured and safe. The lighter and littler man's ego becomes, the more power of endurance he has. It is two strong egos that strike against one another. The little ego, the light ego, just slips over when a powerful wave of a strong ego comes for it to knock over itself against a stronger wall that may throw it over."

This is a beautiful reminder that our path is being in the world. We don't wish to escape onto the mountaintop (although the occasional retreat may be rejuvenating), we want to embrace life as fully as possible. This means we will be bounced around, knocked about and thrown off our usual course at times. So, by bowing to what may come to us, as unpleasant or as painful as it might be, we become like the willow tree when the winds of life blow. This brings forth our true ego - we become malleable to what life presents.

"The art of dealing with egos of different grades of evolution is to learn gentleness, tolerance, and forgiveness, which all come from charity of heart. When man stands on the same plane as the other, then he is subject to the influence of the other ego. But if he rises above it, then every effort of the other ego falls flat. There is a poem in Hindustani, the verse of Ghalib: 'The world seems to me a playground of children. How constantly busy the infants seem with their toys!' Verily, the secret of peace is hidden under the cover of the ego."

How wonderful is this artfulness of life - if we just keep persisting with the work with our egos, we create peacefulness! The ingredients for success are learning and practicing tolerance, gentleness and forgiveness: living from the heart.