Monday, June 29, 2015

Don't kill the ego, clean it up (Part 2)

As I commented in the previous post, the ego is not the enemy of spiritual endeavor. It's how we use it.
The popular notion of seeing the world through tinted glasses is only part of the story. Many factors contribute to the color and shape of the lens. They reduce, exaggerate or even change completely the way we see things. Our emotions, experiences, preferences and habits pool together in what we call the limited ego and make us believe that what we see and remember actually exists as such.
There was a guy named Tony who used to come to our meditation center. Though his enthusiasm and progress was high, his wife was somehow jealously opposed to this. He tried to come at times when it would not upset her. Finally, he convinced her to meet him at the center after work and explain exactly what he was doing. While waiting for him to show up, she overheard a conversation between two women in the next room. They were talking about the sweets they had prepared the day before.
They said: Did you see how much people liked the toli yesterday? (Toli is sweets in Hindi.)
What the wife heard: Did you see how much people liked Tony yesterday?
As soon as Tony arrived she practically jumped on him:
- Didn't you say you had to visit neighboring cities yesterday? I just found out that you were here entertaining people.
- What do you mean? I couldn't have come here. I spent the whole day visiting clients.
- Don't lie to me. Let's get out of here.
We didn't see either of them again. After about three months he called and we asked him what had happened. He explained that he had cleared up the misunderstanding of one word. We asked him if he wanted to recommence his meditation practice. He declined saying that they were too embarrassed for him to take it up again. This shows how the limited ego in the form of jealousy distorts and even changes the course of events.
The ego, spinning around in its own interests and associations, colors, shapes and even positions the lens of perception according to its whims. When it is limited it's like looking at reality through a very tiny keyhole. This is shown in the above diagram:
The first reducers of our perspective are the physical senses. We perceive only about 3 percent of the electromagnetic spectrum. We can't see anything before red and after violet. Dogs can hear and smell better the we can. Bats guide themselves around using sonar. Many insects and birds navigate around due to a map like spatial memory, better than many human beings. Imagine if, for example , we could "see" people's vibrations. The advantages of that would be tremendous. In essence, the world that we see, hear and touch is not the whole world that exists.
Secondly, we are limited due to the consciousness of the roles that we have to play. This becomes natural due to habit. A mother sees her children as the mother. A boss sees the team as the boss. In other words, the tasks and responsibilities pressure the roles so that we perceive things from that perspective. We put on the hat of our habitual identity and often can't see beyond that. This extends to cultural aspects as well - race, nationality, religion, and so on. As spiritual beings we are playing roles through the coordinates of our physical identity. We are not our roles, we are the actors.
The third limiting factor is our own story. We carry the memory of everything we have gone through in childhood, adolescence, youth and other age groups. All the events and the experiences that we took from them crowds into a small window of perception. Objectivity becomes impossible as we take most of our experiences personally. Many of us become just human CVs or resumés interacting with other CVs and resumés.
For all the above reasons, it is by chance that we can perceive the same thing in the same way as someone else. Again, the problem is not the lens of the ego, that how open it is to see reality. When there is an unlimited sense of self, the whole door is open. We can see things as they really are.
(More about opening the door in the next post).