Freedom from Binding Ego Tendencies: The Essence of Spiritual Liberation

Copyright © 1993/2006 by Timothy Conway, Ph.D.

Short of full spiritual liberation, which is operationally defined in the Perennial Wisdom Traditions as none other than the complete cessation of the “binding,” constricting ego tendencies of attachment and aversion (variously termed samskaras, vasanas, kleshas, nafs, sins, etc.), and cessation of the ignorance which creates a sense of a separate “me”—it’s quite silly to pretend to be “fully spiritually awake” and really silly to seek abdication of one’s responsibilities under the cloak that “whatever happens is perfect, whatever happens is God’s will.”

Until the authentic realization of the “effortless state” of what Advaita Vedanta calls sahaja samadhi (natural absorption in/as the God-Self, with eyes open and hands functioning) or Ch'an/Zen calls anuttara-samyak-sambodhi (complete, irreversible enlightenment), one does well to make the supreme effort to “be good, see good, do good.” In other words, as long as you still take yourself to be the separate doer, and aren’t aware of Atma (God-Self) or Tao or Buddhata as the sole Doer in everyone, then it behooves you to be a careful, compassionate, responsible “doer”!

Yes, all of this is a DREAM, conjured up in the heart-mind of the Divine Self, and made out of the Self’s luminous love. But we (the Divine Self in disguise) MUST ACT IMPECCABLY WITHIN THE DREAM. All the great “nondual” mystic sages of the modern era have taught this moral wholesomeness and they wonderfully exemplified it in their own lives—great ones like Ramana Maharshi, Anandamayi Ma, Ammachi (Mata Amritanandamayi), Meher Baba, Anasuya Devi, Narayana Guru, Swami Gnanananda, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Annamalai Swami, Hsu Yun, Hsuan Hua, Harada Roshi, the XIVth Dalai Lama, the XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ajahn Chah, Shaykh al-Alawi, Thomas Merton, Henri Le Saux (Abhishiktananda), Seraphim of Sarov, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, and many others.

As for these binding, heavy likes and dislikes (we’re not talking here about harmless preferences, e.g., preferring brown rice to white rice)—a good sign of spiritual progress is that these tendencies, these karmic habit-patterns of the egoic soul, become thinned out as one lets go, lets God. So, even if it seems that one can’t right now entirely drop certain “unwholesome” or “sinful” patterns of pride, anger, greed, lust, hatred, revulsion, apathy, disgust, envy, jealousy, shame, guilt, pettiness, and so forth, one can endeavor to have these patterns thinned out—letting them arise and pass away more quickly by simply seeing them off. One realizes, as the Buddha so often advised 2500 years ago about any body-mind identifications, “This is not me, this is not mine, this is not my Self.”

To illustrate: if one can let go of anger or greed or fear so that the emotion hangs around for only a few minutes instead of a few hours, or, better, a few seconds instead of a few minutes, that’s real spiritual progress!

Of course, the God-Self within, the Inner Guru, Atma, Tao or Spirit, may in certain periods of life set up very interesting “challenges” or “tests” to see if one is truly ameliorating or lessening the force of these egoic tendencies of attachment and aversion. Once one sincerely says “Yes” to the spiritual process of awakening to God-Realization, this “testing” or “quickening” process occurs quite frequently—especially in the presence of an especially powerful holy sage, who can serve as a real magnet to draw these tendencies from the subconscious to the surface so that they can be "seen off" and thereby released.

Hence, we can simply be the free Witness of the life-movie. We can relax and let the Grace and good times flow, being careful to insure that old selfish conditioning or ego-tendencies don’t distort or usurp the process.

May all beings awaken from this Dream to the clarity of the Divine “Lucid Dreamer,” the Divine Being-Awareness-Bliss Absolute (Sat-Cit-Ananda), the Infinite, Eternal God-Self.