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.
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.
They think like this:
. Who wants the liberation? The ego wants it.
. Who does spiritual practices (meditation, japa nama, prayer, purification etc.)? The ego does it.
. If the ego does everything how can the ego die?
By thinking like this they conclude that by doing spiritual practices, the ego perpetuates its existence and maintains in us the illusory sense of a separate mind-body entity who acts with an apparent free will.
These arguments appear logical and reasonable but they are a fallacy. It is obvious that these people ignore what is spiritual life and sAdhana and what really happens in the inner life of a sAdhaka.
I put here my arguments that show the fallacy of these neo-advaita opinions.
For thousands of years great spiritual masters like Buddha, Jesus Christ, Pythagoras, Nisargadatta, Shankaracharya, Swami Sivananda, and many others became enlightened by doing rigorous sAdhana (spiritual practices) for a long time. After their enlightenment they gave to the public certain spiritual teachings and practices to help all those who were ready to follow the spiritual path in order to eliminate their ego and realize Oneness or God consciousness.
All these great masters are divine incarnations and radiate fully the divine light, wisdom and love. They have a powerful spiritual aura that can transform any human being who is in resonance with them. The very fact that all these divine beings have spread their teachings to humanity and have called people to practice them is an unquestionable proof that liberation is possible by doing spiritual practices.
Let see now what really happens by doing sAdhana in order to dissolve the ego and realize the Truth.
First of all I want to declare with emphasis that we are not on the spiritual path because of the ego, and that the spiritual practices are not done by the ego. Our true Self propels us to find the truth and not the ego and the sAdhana is done by the body, the mind, the senses and the vital energy. It is true that the ego claims that it is the agent or the doer of the practices and the ego also thinks that the impulse to find the truth is also a desire of its own, which it is not. As I said, this longing for freedom and unity comes from our heart within, and not from the ego.
It is natural for these two illusions to happen, because in the beginning of the spiritual journey the ego is the center of our life; it is strong and plays the agent of everything that happens in us.
It is certain that the ego is entangled in sAdhana, and is also obvious that the ego wants to prevent us from doing sAdhana.
Swami SIVANANDA says that ego can be classified into three kinds:
“There are three kinds of Ahankara, viz., Sattvic egoism, Rajasic egoism and Tamasic egoism. Sattvic egoism will not bind a man to Samsara. It will help the aspirant to attain the final emancipation.”
Thus, it becomes clear that there is a part of the ego and mind also, the sattvic one, which help us to eliminate the lower tamaso-rajasic one which creates many obstacles in order to make us abandon the sAdhana. The ego knows that, by following a spiritual path, life will lose its pleasures and that sAdhana will cause it to be eliminated. In the beginning we cannot avoid all these things because we are strongly identified with the ego and our buddhi is hypnotized and manipulated by the egoistic energies.
It is a fact that the ego wants desperately to survive and tries its best to achieve this by any means. That is why many follow the spiritual path but very few (until now) have succeeded in this endeavor.
During our spiritual journey the ego creates many illusory identifications, projections and superimpositions in order to prevent the buddhi, (intellect, intelligence) from becoming conscious of the ego-tricks. Ego tries its best to cloud the Buddhi because it is certain that, if the ego’s identifications and illusions are revealed by the power of discernment of the buddhi, then the ego will lose its sovereignty over the mind and intellect. Then, little by little, the ego-energy will dissolve by the power of spiritual practices and the divine energies that are invoked by the aspirant.
As a result of firm and decisive sAdhana, the egoistic energies and tendencies gradually are eliminated and after years of practice the ego becomes very thin and weak. This enables us to practice easily and without effort deep meditation and samAdhi. By practicing deep meditation and samAdhi, the ego fades more and more and the mind becomes still, serene, objectless and is absorbed in its center (pure Consciousness, Beingness, Existence, tell it as you like).
When the samAdhi deepens by ceaseless practice and by the grace of God (and the grace of God is assured for anyone who sincerely seeks the Union with Him), the ego cannot find any support and dissolves totally and forever (in deep Nirvikalpa Samadhi). Then freedom or liberation is achieved.
According to my experience and understanding we can see the case of enlightenment in the following way:
When a man wants to earn money there are two possibilities: The first is to work hard and intelligently and little by little to get it. The other is to wait by doing nothing until the day (if ever comes that day, who knows) to win the lottery or receive a rich inheritance.
Similar is the case with liberation. The first possibility is that someone can wait until liberation happens accidentally (if it will happen at all) and the other is to do something (sAdhana) methodically and systematically according the guidance and the teachings of enlightened masters or advanced sAdhaka-s. (If one has a good karma, it is possible that this will happen relatively soon and easily).
Of course enlightenment and bondage from the absolute point of view are illusory. What ever existed, exists and will exist is only boundless freedom and unconditional love and bliss.
It is obvious that until the achievement (by no-one) of the state of liberation (in reality it is not a state but I cannot communicate better through words), this 3D world and the individual seeker with his pleasurable and painful experiences will appear as a solid reality.
I conclude with a few verses from Vivekachudamani (one of the best Advaita books written by Adisankaracharya one of the greatest advaita Hindu masters of the past):
- Bondage and Liberation, which are conjured up by Maya, do not really exist in the Atman, one’s Reality, as the appearance and exit of the snake do not abide in the rope, which suffers no change.
- Bondage and Liberation may be talked of when there is the presence or absence of a covering veil. But there can be no covering veil for Brahman, which is always uncovered for want of a second thing besides Itself. If there be, the non-duality of Brahman will be contradicted, and the Shrutis can never brook duality.
- Bondage and Liberation are attributes of the Buddhi which ignorant people falsely superimpose on the Reality, as the covering of the eyes by a cloud is transferred to the sun. For this Immutable Brahman is Knowledge Absolute, the One without a second and unattached.
- The idea that bondage exists, and the idea that it does not, are, with reference to the Reality, both attributes of the Buddhi merely, and never belong to the Eternal Reality, Brahman.
- Hence this bondage and Liberation are created by Maya, and are not in the Atman. How can there be any idea of limitation with regard to the Supreme Truth, which is without parts, without activity, calm, unimpeachable, taintless, and One without a second, as there can be none with regard to the infinite sky ?
- There is neither death nor birth, neither a bound nor a struggling soul, neither a seeker after Liberation nor a liberated one – this is the ultimate truth.
Peace, Love and harmony