Tag Archives: Ego

Looking for a Guru?

Do you wonder where to start, where to look to find a guru? You’ll find there are all kinds and types of gurus; often “guru” indicates a title for a teacher or a guide in most any subject, such as music, dance, art and sculpture, but especially religion and spirituality. We may find gurus’ range from musicians and storytellers to those whose message is transmitted without ever speaking a word. But what they all have in common is the ability and appointed authority to unveil some truth. For all too many, that authority is self-appointed, but for others it is a result of a long lineage or it is divinely appointed, the latter two helping the ego/mind (self w/small “s”) merge with the divinity within. You may call this divinity within, the Soul, Self, Jiva, Atman or whatever, but nonetheless it is immortal. There was never a time that it didn’t exist. There will never be a time that it will not be. The ego/mind is not immortal and never will be. It ceases to be at the moment of death, and according to yoga philosophy there’s an essence of what this egoic self has learned and accumulated in regard to spiritual value that continues into the next life, even if that life doesn’t find embodiment for hundreds or even a thousand years.

Yet this ego/self can become immortal if it so chooses. Naturally, this choice involves a clear decision, commitment, discipline, and Divine Grace, which often manifests in the form of a guru. Once the decision is made, a succession of teachers generally begins to appear; helping, teaching and guiding the aspirant or student. The ongoing quality that matters most is sincerity. We can make mistakes, wander from the path, and make short-term and careless choices, but if this is all done within a consistent framework of sincerity, then we’ll continue to get the guidance we need. In the process of preparing the ego/self to merge with the Divine within, negative qualities are stripped away, but only at the rate the aspirant can tolerate. Our rescue, within the bounds of our karma, is commonly afforded to us as we struggle, and eventually, we will meet our true guru.

Once we start looking we’ll see all sorts of self-appointed individuals hanging out their “guru shingle”. Sadly, they are mostly “wanna-be’s,” who “think they are” or “wish they were” – would-be spiritual leaders who have made a decision that this is their calling, perhaps in spite of their immaturity. Some of them are sincere, but many more are not. A true guru is never self-appointed. They are selected and trained by those who are already established as true gurus and sadgurus or else they’re genuine celestial enlightened ones (Avatars) who appear here from time to time. In reality, there are very few true gurus.

A true guru is endowed with spiritual gifts to give, and they give them (sometimes lavishly), to students, disciples, spiritual aspirants and on occasion to complete strangers. A true guru genuinely knows the appropriateness of the gift and can “see” how it will be applied. Although only a sadguru has this ability to know all possible outcomes, true gurus may not. Even still, a clear direction is apparent to the true guru which points strongly to how the gift will be employed. This is how the appropriateness of the gift is determined. All the while, the gift increases the ability of the ego/self to eventually merge with the Soul or Self and that is the determining objective.

All spiritual teachers, even ones who have reached the state of an advanced adept, are not automatically gurus, unless and until some divinely oriented appointment for the function arrives. As is the case for many advanced adepts, this appointment to become a true guru may never arrive.

The Grace of The Supreme flows through each true guru in wonderful and different ways; they’ve been embraced by Love and realize with every facet of their being that Love is both the method and the destination. It is the means and the end. There is no way to achieve a state of Love other than by loving. For the Divine or Truth speaks directly to the heart; the mind cannot apprehend Truth or the Self in its entirety, as a matter of fact, it can’t come close. It would be like trying to put the ocean in a teacup. It is easy to see how you can pour the contents of a teacup into the ocean and it becomes one with the ocean. But it’s a bit harder to dissolve the mind in the heart.

It seems astounding that some of the Avatars of the East (Shankaracharya, Vyasa, Buddha) and others do not agree on the finer points of what establishes Truth, or Reality, or the nature of the Self, and so on. They all see the same light, but don’t have the capacity to see it all at once so they each expound on it somewhat differently. Dattatreya, when asked to comment on the differences between Dvaita (dualism) and Advaita (Non-dualism), between Saguna (Realization with form) or Nirguna (Realization without form), looked kindly at the questioner and said, “If you are still concerned with such things, you still have a ways to go.”

Both teachers and gurus will agree that Love will take you all the way to the utmost goal of human existence, but true gurus are blessed with a unique set of skills and tools to help the finite part of us merge with the infinite part of us; dissolving our identification with the ego/self, moving us as expeditiously as possible into that state of being where we realize unity because we have attained it.

Of related interest, click on: This entry was posted in GENERAL, RAE INDIGO, TEACHER TRAINING, YOGA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , on by .

The Ego According to Yoga Philosophy

Sooner or later everyone asks the question “what is the ego?”, and the general definition is usually something like this: “the ‘I’ or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling, and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought.”

But yoga goes a little further and sees it as reflected consciousness; a part of the soul’s pure consciousness that reflects in the mind and functions as the subjective knower, establishing the dichotomy of the observer and the observed, the experience and the experiencer. Therefore the ego is a fictitious character established by the mind, and the mind is simply a subtle form of energy (it has no consciousness of its own). The mind however, acts “as if” it’s a conscious entity, because of soul’s consciousness reflecting on it, or working within it.

Only a very small part of the sun’s light, when reflected from the moon’s surface, makes the moon appear as if it generates a light of its own. We may say “by the light of the moon”, but that light in reality is actually the sun’s light reflecting from the moon’s surface. Similarly, only a small part of soul’s pure consciousness, when working in the mind, identifies itself with the mind and its limitations, and thus feels itself limited. So then, the ego is not only reflected consciousness but also limited consciousness. Limited consciousness naturally equates to limited intelligence, limited understanding and limited ability of perception. Our eyes are not all-seeing and have a limited vision. From the eye’s limited perspective the earth seems flat; but the truth is, the earth is round. Since we see only a small portion of the earth’s circular surface (the horizon) it appears to us as flat, but when seen from a jetliner at 36,000 feet our perspective is expanded and we begin to appreciate the “roundness” of the earth’s horizon. This correlates to the ego’s limited ability to perceive things in the bigger perspective, so instead of seeing the whole (or undivided “oneness”) it sees everything in parts and falsely identifies each part as being separate and independent of the other parts.

The ego is the self or ‘I’ in our mind around which all our thoughts, feelings and experiences seem to revolve. The ego-self is the author, writing the script for all our thinking, feeling and desires. It is the subjective enjoyer and the “experiencer” of all our activities and the results of those activities. Whenever we say “I think, I feel, I see, I love, I enjoy, I hate, I fear, etc.” we are referring to our ego-self. This ‘I’ with which we are so familiar is our limited duplicate ‘I’ not our true ‘I’. It is this false (reflected or duplicated) ‘I’ that experiences all our pleasures and pain, all our joys and suffering. Our real ‘I’ – the Self (with a capital “S”) is the Soul in us that lies behind the ego. This limited ego-consciousness needs to be withdrawn from the mind and dissolved in the Self (like a baby salt doll thrown into the sea) or else have its effects annihilated by non-identification and non-attachment with the physical body and the thinking mind.

Yoga and meditation practice both teach us to slowly and steadily drop this identification and all its attachments. As the ego-self is gradually and progressively trained through yoga and meditation to drop its attachments, it becomes free and spontaneously withdraws inwards. Step-by-step, in deep prolonged meditation the ego-consciousness first withdraws from the body and then it withdraws from the mind. As it begins disconnecting itself from the activities of the mind and withdraws inwards it becomes aware of its original source and its oneness with that source. This process continues until the ego has expanded itself to the point of complete annihilation in the Soul (again, like the salt baby in the sea). Once the duplicate or reflected ‘I’ has merged with the real ‘I’ this is called Self-realization, samadhi or illumination, and this merging (union) is the object and true goal of all yoga and meditation practice.

“The I-ness or egoism (asmita), which arises from the ignorance, occurs due to the mistake of taking the intellect (buddhi, which knows, decides, judges, and discriminates) to itself be pure consciousness (purusha).”Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2:6

And, we’ll end this article with a quote from Krishnananda “The ego is trying to practice yoga. Oh, what a pity! The ego cannot practice yoga, because the ego is to be destroyed in yoga. So how can it practice yoga? Here we have a strange difficulty, and it has to be overcome with a strange technique; that is yoga itself. Yoga is achieved by yoga itself; there is no other means.”

Of related interest, click on: The Wisdom of Patanjali

Measuring Spiritual Growth

Could you be a Saint, a Guru, a Yogi or a Zen Master?  Or maybe you’re just an ordinary decent, moral human being. How would you know for sure? Are there qualifications, or maybe some tests you can take to determine your spiritual growth?  Well, yes there are!  And “Life” is constantly giving you plenty of ways to test your spiritual development and plenty of circumstances to assist you in evaluating yourself, which will help you evolve spiritually.

Human beings are extremely complex, as is life, but with the right spiritual attitude, the right perspective, you can cut deep into your psyche and reveal those conditions under which you are currently operating.  This will help evaluate some aspects of your being that you may not presently be aware of, and that’s where the real test begins; at this point you must be cautious not to judge yourself or the world too harshly. Measuring one’s spiritual nature can be a tricky business. When it comes to internal processes, like accessing the growth of the mind or the spirit for example, there are no fancy growth charts to tack up on the wall.

But, there are also many ways to assess your spiritual maturity proactively. One of these ways is to observe how much time we actually spend serving others in comparison to the time focused on getting results in our own life. You may be seeing the world in an ego-centric way, full of separate people, instead of seeing the world in a non-dual light with all of creation being “one” and having nothing but an interconnected, unified Divine Nature.

Yogi Bhajan once said; “If you don’t see God in all, you don’t see God at all.” So, if we want to grow spiritually, the questions we must ask ourselves are, “Am I serving others?”, and if so, “How am I serving?” Serving begins with ourselves, extends to our immediate surroundings with family and at home and then spreads out to all around us. We realize that we live where we live for a reason and a purpose, to serve others and we need to start serving right there. We then realize just how much we have been blessed, not just for ourselves, but for our opportunity to serve others. When we serve the least, the last, the lost, and everyone in between, we realize that we actually are inherently one with the Divine.

Another way to measure your spiritual maturity is to take some time to determine what you are really passionate about. Are your passions based on the secular/materialistic world or the spiritual world? In today’s “worldly” society there is too much competition for a limited number of rewards, and this competition all too often breeds conflict. But enlightenment has no limits, and just because someone else appears to be enlightened, doesn’t mean you can’t be also.  We all have the innate ability recognize ourselves as enlightened beings and this is one of those things you can realize on your own, without worrying about having to wrestle it away from anyone else. So relax, there’s no need to compete, spiritual enlightenment is an infinite, inexhaustible resource. Beware of getting distracted and running around all over the place chasing useless, stupid things. Redirect yourself and get back to the business of pursuing that which is holds the highest purpose for mankind.

Summary: It’s apparent our world is presently being plagued by a number of problems. These problems are varied and can range personal types, such as drug/alcohol addictions and marital disharmony, to problems that society, countries and even international communities are faced with, such as urban violence, wars and man-made disasters. This reflects a state of the world that is primarily due to the fact that both the people and their leaders are predominantly at a lower spiritual level. It would naturally follow that the current state of the world can only be corrected if the average spiritual level of mankind is elevated, and this can only happen if people begin the process of spiritual assessment and practice on a regular basis.

Without evaluating our progress (or lack of it), and without making periodic and honest assessments of our spiritual progress it is unlikely that any real progress will be made. You will know you are advancing spiritually when you begin to see all others as connected to your own Self, and your sense of identity expands to include everything. This may be the best sign that one is maturing (or evolving) spiritually.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500 

Yoga & the 5 Kleshas

Directly following Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (book II) which describes Kriya Yoga, he explains the five main reasons we are bound, these are known as the Kleshas: [1]

  • 1. Ignorance (Avidya)
  • 2. Ego (Asmita)
  • 3. Attachment to Pleasure (Raga)
  • 4. Aversion to Pain (Dvesa)
  • 5. Fear of Death (Abhinivesah)

These five afflictions are often depicted as a tree. Avidya is the trunk of the tree, and the other four Kleshas sprout from it. The Samkhya emphasis on viveka, knowing the real nature of the universe, is echoed in Classical Yoga’s emphasis on avidya, or ignorance, as the main affliction we suffer. Destroy avidya and all the other afflictions go away.

Asmita is the ego. The problem with ego is not the fact that we have one; it is useful and even necessary to have an ego in order to function and live. The problem arises when the ego believes it is the Self. If all we do is in service of the little self, our life will be sorrowful. When we serve our higher Self, liberation becomes possible.

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra there are five Kleshas (aka afflictions, colorings) described (Book II-3); those Kleshas, like clever sorcerers, can knock you off balance, sidetracking from your quest for spiritual evolution.

1. Avidya (Ignorance): The inability to see things for what they really are.

Yoga Sutra (Book II-4): “Ignorance is the breeding place for all the others whether they are dormant or attenuated, partially overcome or fully operative.”

(Book II-5): “Ignorance is taking the non-eternal for the eternal, the impure for the pure, evil for good and non-self as self.”

Vidya means spiritual knowledge. The prefix ‘A’ changes the word into its opposite; without (or absence of something). Thus Avidya means the absence of spiritual or Self knowledge.

The following is an excerpt from Gregor Maehle’s commentary on Yoga Sutra II.24: “… Ignorance is the belief system that results from false knowledge (viparyaya). This false knowledge makes us believe that we are the body, that are our emotions and thoughts. Viparyaya is defined in sutra I.8 as wrong knowledge without foundation in reality. Reality is that which is permanent. Returning to the metaphor of the TV screen, we can note that, however many pictures are displayed on the screen; none will ever stick to it. New pictures will always replace them. Once the film is over, the screen will be empty. The only thing permanent here is the screen, which means the screen is the reality, whereas the pictures are only fleeting images superimposed on the screen. Although there exists a certain proximity between screen and images, both will remain forever separate. The screen won’t take on the quality of the images, nor will it altar them.

“Similar is the case with the seer and the seen. There is a certain proximity between our true nature as the immutable consciousness and the constantly changing seen, which is the body, emotions, thoughts, and so on. However, in reality they touch as little as do a screen and the images displayed on it.”

2. Asmita (Ego): The sense of “I-am-ness” or the tendency to identify with your ego.

Yoga Sutra (Book II-6): “Egoism is the identification of the power that knows with the instruments of knowing.”

The problem with ego is not the fact that we have one; it is useful, even necessary to have an ego in order to function and live. The problem arises when the ego believes it is the Self. If all we do is in service of the little self, our life will be sorrowful. Only when we recognize and serve our higher “Self” does liberation become possible.

From a spiritual perspective; identification with the ego denotes considering oneself to be distinct and/or separate from others (and the Divine) due to identification with the physical body and impressions (Samskaras) in various centers of the subtle (energetic) body. In other words, the ego-self is allowed to lead our life by us maintaining the false notion that our existence is limited to our five senses, our mind and intellect, and identifying with them to various degrees.

Gregor Maehle refers to the ego in yoga the following way: “In yoga we first learn to observe the body. Once this observation is established, we know that we are not the body but an observing agent independent of the body. Otherwise we could not observe the body. The next step is that we start observing our thoughts. Eventually, from being established in that observation, we know that we are not our thoughts, since we can detach ourselves and observe them like the thoughts of a stranger. Who are we, then, if we are not the body and not the mind (manas, the thinking principle)? The agent that claims ownership of body and mind is called ahamkara — ego. Its function, which is the erroneous commingling or mixing of seer (pure consciousness) and seeing (the mind), is called egoity or I-am-ness (asmita).”

3. Raga (Attachment to Pleasure): raja is wanting, craving, passionate attachment to beings and things. It’s the flame of desire that causes addiction to pleasure and even negative emotions.

Yoga Sutra (Book II-7): “Attachment is that magnetic pattern which clusters in pleasure and pulls one towards such experience.”

Raja can take the form of possessiveness, ownership, liking, attraction etc. It also indicates attachment to people, things, and ideas. The sense that “This is ours,” “This is mine.” It’s the most common cause of quarrels, violent conflicts, and even war. In a broader scale it’s often expressed as race, nationality; my country, my money.

In the book “Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy,” Gregor Maehle writes that: “…desire, (raga), and with it all addictions, is a clear form of misapprehension or ignorance (avidya). A drug addict might say ‘I just can’t help it; I need the drug!’ In this statement, the needing of the drug, which is the hankering after a remembered pleasure, is consciously connected with the faculty of I.”

Raga and the following Klesha (Dvesa) are often considered opposite sides of the same coin.

4. Dvesha (Aversion to Pain): The aversion to pain, this aversion emerges from previous experiences of pain and suffering. It can create a quicksand like cycle of misery and self-hatred that sucks you under and suffocates your will to evolve spiritually.

Yoga Sutra (Book II-8): “Aversion is the magnetic pattern which clusters in misery and pushes one from such experience.”

Oftentimes we can easily become subconsciously driven to avoid previously painful experiences. Our desire to protect ourselves limits our options in life, clouding our ability to see and think clearly. We tend to mistake the person, situation or object that caused us pain with the painful experience itself. When this happens we end up going to great lengths to avoid situations that we are afraid of; regardless of whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual. Fear and hatred are the inevitable downfalls of excessive aversion.

*Note on both Raja and Dvesha: These excessive ‘attachments’ and ‘aversions’ that are being examined here are very different from the intelligent, careful and well-considered choices we are also capable of making when our perspective changes through the practice of Pratipaksha Bhavanam (a method recommended by Patanjali that helps us catch these destructive and distracting thoughts, and redirects our minds back toward the Yogic path). By cultivating opposite perspectives (by actively cultivating thoughts of the opposite nature) whenever a destructive thought arises, we increasingly expose ourselves to new, uplifting options. It can even be as simple as formulating the opposite thought.

The path of Yoga is one that helps us become aware of our unconscious thoughts and actions; gradually moving toward a life full of consciously chosen thoughts and actions. Each posture and each breath enables us to discover a fresh opportunity to distinguish between skillful, conscious decision making and subconsciously driven motivations of fear and desire.

5. Abhinivesha (Fear of Death): The fear of death (or a clinging to life).

Abhinevesha is the last of the five Kleshas. Georg Feuerstein says of this Klesha: “It is the impulse towards individuated existence and as such is a primary source of suffering.”

Yoga Sutra (Book II-9):“Flowing by its own energy, established even in the wise and in the foolish, is the unending desire for life.”

Many believe that this fear is not limited to physical death; it is the fear of the cessation of the “ego-I” narrative (Asmita) that we as individuals are “creating” during our lifes’ experience. We cling to this “ego-I” narrative because of ignorance (Avidya) of the impermanence of the mind body experience by perpetrating the misperception of ego (Asmita) as being who we are. This subsequently dilutes our focus and interferes with our ability to experience the spiritual freedom that is the goal of Yoga.

Gregor Maehle’s commentary regarding Abhinevesha: “…Vyasa deduces from the fact that all beings are afraid of death that they have experienced death and thus life before. The intensity to which all beings cling to life can only be explained through accepting that we have all experienced death as a process to be avoided at all costs.

“Shankara elaborates on Vyasa‘s argument thus: ‘Unless happiness (pleasure) had been experienced no one would pray for it. Without past experience of pain, there would be no desire to avoid it. Similarly, though the pangs of death have not been (in this life) experienced by a man either directly or by inference, the fact of his lust for life points to experience of death previously, just as there can be no experience of birth unless there has been birth.’”

Final thoughts: If this article seems like deep philosophical stuff, it’s because it is. Keep in mind that yogic philosophy developed over thousands of years of time. During most of that time there were some outstanding thinkers and philosophers in India that had nothing else to do but contemplate these larger questions concerning life and death and where we as humans beings fit into the equation.

When you are able to make peace with everyone in your life every day, then there should be no attachment, no regret, and no unfinished business. To quote the motivational speaker, Zig Zigler: “Live every day like it is your last, and one day you will be right.”

We will see a list similar to the 5 Kleshas in Buddhist philosophy called  “the 5 Hindrances.”