How To Be Really Happy!

ENLIGHTENMENT AND LIBERATION

There is enlightenment and there is liberation and they are not the same thing. We may have enlightenment experiences in which, for a moment, the individual merges with God or the Self. However, the function of the ego returns. There are many self-styled gurus who have had an enlightenment experience or two and then present themselves as a “completed work.” They are only beginners because the spiritual path has only begun when an enlightenment experience occurs. This is only the beginning. There remains the hard work of removing the ego. The enlightenment experience is the tool or the salve that we apply again and again to this end.

On the other hand, liberation or moksha, is the permanent dissolution of the ego. There are very few truly liberated beings in this world. 

The idea that “the need to destroy the ego is just a fantasy in which the ego engages to perpetuate itself” is not without merit but it is an incomplete idea and this creates a distortion. In truth, the ego is an illusion and we are trying to remove something that does not exist. However, and here is the rest of the story, one cannot simply say, “there is no ego” and expect our self-centered actions and reactions to disappear. That would be like telling someone writhing in pain with a broken leg to get over it because they are not the body.

EnlightenmentThis idea of not having to remove the ego because the ego is simply the thief trying to catch itself is common among non-dualists and one of the pitfalls of that path. This point of view is attractive to those who are still attached to their ego and don’t want to give it up. They want to have their cake and eat it too. It won’t happen. People who take this view are fooling themselves. Also, we do not want to face the prospect of lots of hard work. Hard work is a requirement. Lots of spiritual practice. And so, this kind of distorted non-dual reasoning is appealing to our tamasic laziness.

One must walk out of the maze to realize there is not a maze. Suzuki Roshi, in Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind, states that we must make an effort to become effortless. Yes, in the beginning, the ego tries to remove itself but then God comes to help us. It should be noted that this effort by the ego is unique from all other ego-centered efforts. It is the attempt to remove itself while all other ego-centered efforts enhance or support the ego. This is Amma’s post-no-bills analogy. Putting up a sign that says, “Post No Bills” is, in itself, a bill or a sign.  However, it is different from all other signs because it keeps all other signs away. Thus, our desire and attempt to remove the ego is one ego-oriented activity that is acceptable. It is the secret door out of the non-existent maze of the ego.

We do not need to apply any esoteric magic to see that the ego must go. Common sense will do. What is the ego? It is the feeling of being separate.  In truth, we can’t really “be” separate. We are simply ignorant of being united. In the same way, darkness is not really something even though we speak of it as though it were something. There is only varying levels of light. The feeling of separation is the ego and is the obscuring factor of maya. Light and darkness will not mix and neither will God or Self and the ego.

What is it like to have an enlightenment experience? Generally there is a feeling of great relief as our burdens are removed. Then the burdens come back like rocks tied to rubber bands, whap… whap… whap.  We have seen the truth but we can’t shake the illusion either. We still get mad when someone cuts us off in traffic. We still react negatively when someone says something unkind to us. This is the ego that is not yet removed. Having seen or felt how wonderful it is to be free of the ego, we resolve to do everything we can to remove it.

This, in itself, is a dualistic notion but that is all right. The thief begins by chasing the thief. The ego is going to get rid of the ego. All paths start with a dualistic notion. Non-duality starts with trying to find the “I” so there is a seeker and that which is sought. We may practice being the witness of it all. Again, a witness and that which is witnessed. In bhakti or the devotional path there is “I” and “Thou”. However, with all of these paths a purification of the mind occurs in which the ego is eventually burnt up and ceases to function and only the Self or God remains. What starts as a dualistic practice resolves in non-duality. In the beginning, no matter what path, our practice will be dualistic because our minds are oriented in an entirely dualistic way of seeing. So, we have to begin from where we are. We have to walk out of the maze to realize there is never was a maze.

At the point of liberation, the wheel of birth and death stops spinning and we require no more bodies. The exception is the Bodhisattva like Mother, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, etc. who vows, out of compassion, to come back again and again putting on the mask of an ego to communicate with us and help us. The difference is they are masters and can take the mask of anytime they want and we cannot. We are convinced the mask is permanent. Someone asked Amma about the difference between a mahatma and ordinary human and she said mahatmas are like the brakes on a car. A mahatma can stop on a dime.

It is normal to have fear of removing the ego because we think we are the ego. In truth, when the illusion of the ego is gone, we remain as we always have been. Nothing is lost. The ego dies but we do not. One who has removed the ego looks at the plight of the rest of us and shakes their head in disbelief that anyone would actually choose such an existence.

 

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