Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Ego and Seeking
Shawn Nevins

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The following is one of the essays in the TAT Forum (Monthly Journal founded on the writings of Richard Rose), July 2005.

Assuming you accept the notion that the ego is the great barrier to discovering our true nature and curing what ails us, you will eventually confront the ego of spiritual seeking. Egos are poses, beliefs about our self, which range from the ridiculous belief we are great lovers or unrecognized geniuses to the core belief that we exist. Many say that the ego of seeking is the greatest barrier to finding. There is a grain of truth in that, yet the untruth lies in trying to eliminate this ego. The ego of seeking will resolve itself at the proper time. As Ramana Maharshi says, the stick that stirs the funeral pyre is itself consumed by the fire.

I think it is often beginners on the path who torment themselves the most about the ego of seeking, and thereby threaten to short circuit their quest. In their enthusiasm for identifying egos, beginners realize they've assumed a new pose -- they are now spiritual seekers. As other egos diminish, the spiritual ego and pride grows. They determine that this ego is as illusory as the rest and must be eliminated.

That is not how the process of ego elimination works, though. We don't choose to give up or let go of egos. They wither as their painful ridiculousness causes us to turn from them and slowly cease giving them attention and life. Alternatively, egos are stripped from us when the sharp sword of psychological trauma leaves no other route of survival but the dropping of a pose in order to preserve the whole.

Yet these mistaken seekers try to let go and stop seeking in hopes of finding. They attempt to do nothing, thinking that doing nothing eliminates the ego. Of course, they don't do nothing. They imagine doing nothing -- they "do" doing nothing based on what they've read of letting go and acceptance. If they are really intelligent, they recognize they are "doing" doing nothing and really tie their selves into knots. All the while, other egos are growing to fill the vacuum. This is much ado about nothing.

You can seek without the ego of seeking. Giving up seeking doesn't mean that you stop -- only that you no longer admire the seeker. Don't be like the athlete admiring himself in the mirror. Get down to business rather than play. It is the actor seeking that is not real. Yet none of this will be revealed without trauma and tension -- without seeking. You must observe your many egos and reject that which you see as not you. This process will strip you to your essence.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012