Does spiritual practice empower the ego?

Does sAdhana (spiritual practice) empower the ego?
An essay by Atman Nityananda

If you abandon sAdhana in order to avoid this sAdhana-ego you are left with nothing except egoism. Egoism plus sAdhana is better than egoism minus sAdhana.
~Swami Sivananda

Liberation is the dissolution or the death of the ego which is a field of energy crystallized in our bodies. Liberation has nothing to do with an enlightened ego. There cannot ever be an enlightened or liberated ego.

Liberation is neither for the ego nor for the consciousness which is already free. Liberation is for the mind. When the mind after intense spiritual practice (sAdhana) becomes free from all egoistic tendencies, rajas and tamas then liberation takes place for none and the mind celebrates its unity with the spirit or Consciousness.

But some neo-advaita or non-teachers as they call themselves like Tony Parsons claim that the spiritual practices empower the ego instead of dissolve it. They claim that is impossible the ego to be eliminated by sAdhana by the very fact that the sAdhana is done by the ego. They say that sAdhana and the dissolution of ego is a contradiction because the ego itself is engaged in sAdhana and this keeps the ego alive. Continue reading

Atma vichAra

The Self cannot be ‘known’ in any objective sense because it is the ultimate subject – there is no other subject that could know it. This is why science can never tell us anything about the Self. Science works by collecting data and analyzing it; formulating theories and then using them to predict what will happen when data are gathered in a different situation. This can never be applied to Self/brahman, because brahman has no data.

Strictly speaking, vichAra refers to investigation into ‘things’ so that Atma vichAra is effectively a contradiction in terms; the Self is not a thing. Spiritual investigation has to be done rather differently. The correct term is shAstra mImAMsA and it is really scriptural ‘investigation’ that we must conduct in order to find out about the Self. Monier-Williams translates mImAMsA as “profound thought or reflection or consideration; investigation, examination, discussion”. The philosophical branch that studies the Upanishads etc at the end of the Vedas (Vedanta) is called uttara mImAMsA. (uttara means “later, following, subsequent, concluding” but also “superior, chief, excellent, dominant”.)

We ‘discover’ the Self by removing ignorance. If someone holds up a screen in front of our face and then brings an object to show us, but keeps it behind the screen, we can say nothing at all about the object. However, as soon as the screen is taken away, the object is revealed to our senses and the perception takes place automatically. Similarly, knowledge of the Self is obscured by ignorance but as soon as that ignorance is removed, the Self is immediately self-evident; we do not have to do anything to ‘investigate’ it.

Scripture functions like a mirror. When we look into a mirror, we do not literally see our face and body, we only see an image of it. Yet this enables us directly to perform whatever actions are required on the body itself – combing the hair, shaving and so on. We do not shave the image but the actual hair on the face. Similarly, the scriptures do not directly represent the Self but the information therein, when explained by a qualified teacher, directly enables the ignorance in our mind to be removed, revealing the Self-knowledge which is as though hidden beneath.

Actions will never bring about Self-knowledge, since action is not opposed to ignorance. Nor will practices such as meditation or prayer. As Swami Paramarthananda puts it, meditation will only bring about quiet ignorance.

As Shankara puts it (if he was the author of vivekachUDAmaNi v.13): “It is through reflection over the words of a truly benevolent soul that one comes to a knowledge of reality, and not through bathing at sacred places, charity or hundreds of breathing practices”. [1] I.e. it is through shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana and not through asking ‘Who am I?’ that one gains Self-knowledge.

[1] The Crest Jewel of Wisdom; viveka-chUDAmaNi, commentary by Hari Prasad Shastri, Shanti Sadan, 1997. ISBN 0-85421-047-0.

The Male Chauvinist Pig in Us!


Varaha avatar – Vishnu’s Incarnation as a Boar

vivekacUDAmaNi is a famous text on advaita teaching, usually  ascribed to Shankara. The very first verse, after the formal salutation for auspiciousness, speaks of the rarity to be born as a male human being. It says:

jantUnAm narajanma durlabham atah pumstvam tato vipratA …

(For all beings, the human birth is difficult to obtain; much more so is a male body; rarer than that is brahminhood…)

Now we have genetic support!

Dr. E.M. McCarthy, a Georgia University geneticist, comes up with a controversial new hypothesis of humans evolution. He says that the genetic evidence overwhelmingly suggests that we are a rare cross between  a male Pig and a female Chimp.

Can 48/2 of Chimps chromosomes + 38/2 of pig = 46 of a man? Well, don’t ask such silly math questions. Who  can remember  what happened after all over 80 million years ago?

So Sitara, Dhanya and Meenakshi, Don’t blame us if we are boastful of ourselves!

(If you are more curious see:

Mind Frames – What is Your Reality?

196952_web_R_K_B_by_Echino_pixelio.deThe mind of the seeker needs to be calm and contained in order for it to be able to grasp what reality is. Karma Yoga prepares the mind to attain such a state and there are a number of blogs and articles dealing with it on this site. But many Western seekers find it hard to relate to the karma yoga recommendation given by traditional advaitins as the first port of call, mainly because it needs a devotional mind set.

The purpose of karma yoga is all about developing the nine virtues of chatushtaya sampatti described in Tattvabodha as preparing the mind for self-knowledge, and explained in more detail by Adi Shankara in Vivekachudamani.  As I am professionally working with a method that is effective in enhancing equanimity I would like to give you a taste of it’s principals here.

In order to ultimately free him/herself from the idea of being a body-mind entity separate from other body-mind-entities the seeker needs to get caught up less in identifications with what he/she is not. Yet he/she finds himself getting confined again and again in entrenched mental, emotional and behavioural patterns.

How is one to liberate oneself from them, especially if one does not happen to have full trust in the efficacy of a karma yoga life style? First of all the mind needs to be able to question itself. Continue reading