Beyond Ego Blog #10
One of the most misunderstood aspects of the spiritual path is the need to die to self. If a baby is born pure and trusting, without hangups and neuroses, isn’t that an admirable state? At least Jesus of Nazareth thought so. In fact, he told us that we need to become like little children if we wish to enter the kingdom of heaven.
What is being referred to in all of the various spiritual traditions that speak about this need to “die to self “is a need to go beyond ego as the center of one’s identity. The little baby has not yet developed an ego. The challenge of the baby is to develop an ego; the challenge of the adult is to transcend ego.
This is not an easy task, to say the least. It is so difficult because part of us thinks that we are in charge of our lives, separate and independent, skin -encapsulated gods who rule our destiny.
Life eventually teaches us otherwise, of course, but we do not usually surrender without a fight. False gods clamor for attention: food, drugs, sex, sports, motherhood, fatherhood, our jobs, religion, anything with which we identify. We all have to find out that all of these very good aspects of who we think we are will never suffice.
One by one, the false gods tumble. But this is nothing compared to the death of self alluded to before. For this, what is asked to be surrendered is not just ones will, or ones false gods, but one’s very identity. The Buddhists call this The Great Death. We disidentify from ourselves as a permanent object; we surrender to the transitory nature of reality; we come to experience ourselves as bundles of energy, part of a cosmic dance lasting billions of years.
The natural fear that we experience in contemplating this transformation is perfectly understandable. If I am more than my body, and more than my emotions and thoughts and reputation and job and bank account and even the roles that I play, then who am I? Who or what is left? The truth is what all spiritual teachers have known and taught: we are embodied spirits for the time being, but ultimately we will live on another dimension of reality.
For the great majority of people, they will find out all of this only when their earthly dwellings pass away. At that time, the lies will be dispelled, the truth will be known and the unconditional love will be felt. For those who “die to self” while still alive, however, intimations of that heavenly dimension begin to be experienced here and now. Fears are dispelled: the fear of failure, of rejection, even the fear of death pass away. It is said that, “One who dies before they die, does not die when they die.”
Ego is good; it is only being ego-centric that is a problem. We all need to go beyond ego to experience the fullness of who we are. How far each of us goes in letting go, in surrendering, is part of each person’s journey. Big risk, big reward.
Next posting: Fragmentation Not Final
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