On monastic life whether prayer or meditation based the point is essentialy the same. Both include denial and devotion. To deny is a form of pleasure, it is also an inverted form of desire. Can a tortured mind ever find what is freedom? Many religions assert that the only way to truth is through this torture, this distortion. Is there are difference between a spiritual life and a worldy life? You can be devoted the work of profit, the work of war, with the same level of captivation as another is devoted to enlightenment or God. Is there any fundamental difference? To be consumed by one thing is no different from being consumed by another. It is just another form of identification. Spiritual people are amongst the most violent of all peoples. The cold showers, the chanting, the control, the ascetism, you know what goes on; they are violent to themselves.
‘Holy’ ascetics cause themselves unnecessary suffering by being extreme in their practice. There is no middle ground, there is only an extreme. For example, many are so keen to be unattached to material possessions that they even deny themselves the most basic necessities. It becomes an obsession; they become attached to being unattached! The root of the problem has not been weeded out. There is no need to get caught in a frenzy of getting rid of everything; recognition that nothing is yours and that the world is transitory is enough. When you understand this, you can take a more balanced ‘middle path’ without even thinking about it. That is the trick, to be balanced without even thinking about it. Contentment, peace and harmony indicate understanding, while such extreme denial only demonstrates misunderstanding. Ego effacing is turning the ego upside down. Those who have retreated from everyday life in search of fulfilment through asceticism are leading a life of denial and repression, all in the name of something spiritual, holy and eternal. It is nothing more than desire with a different face and, what is worse, we admire and respect this face because we delude ourselves into thinking it is an admirable strength of character. It is not true strength, it is ego stubbornness. It is more materialistic than materialism. To give up pleasure in this world for eternal pleasure in the next is, if you penetrate this deeply, more greedy than the behaviour of worldly materialists. It does not matter what the desire is for, it is still desire, and desire is the main component of the process of ego.
Those who are caught up in ego effacing have misunderstood. They are dissolving some layers of the ego like layers of an onion, but still numerous rules remain. Only now, these rules create new layers of falsehood blocking what is true. Empowerment is the opposite. Our ego may be dissolving but for the first time our individuality is shining. When the layers of ‘I’ have been identified and are understood, for the first time you come alive in a most magical way. The layers of identity that have entrapped you are now dissolving away. Such ‘presence’ is the vibration of freedom; vibration is key if you want to unlock doors and high vibration only comes if you open your heart. It is like fresh air filling the empty studio space. Strict religious observances and ascetic practices actually disempower people by distracting them away from their inner Being onto some projected Other, be that a goal or a deity. Their energy is misplaced, distracted from what is their essence here and now; the only moment where life really is. In ascetic practice you are projecting a new future in an afterlife, no longer living this life.
You are longing for something else. Such practices waste energy and prolong desire, feeding rather than understanding the ego.
Emptying oneself dissolves desire into gratitude. Effacing oneself exchanges worldly desire with spiritual desire, in which case nothing has really changed. In fact, the desire is now more deeply rooted than before; at least materialists have to recognise that their pleasure will not last forever. By effacing oneself, by following strict ascetic paths, one is responding to personality, albeit a new personality which desires something eternal. The ascetic path is not freedom, it is torture; it is the slow, painful death of ‘individuality’ by a new ‘personality’ and it is a complete misunderstanding of what has been taught by the masters. This is totally imbalanced, one is adopting a path of imposed method rather than opening up one’s own understanding. If one has to be serious all the time, one is wearing a mask that is not real. The ego is not real. The ego is not individuality, the ego is personality. Your true essence, your true individuality, that which is existential is not the ego; it is the acorn seed of your fundamental essence.
Ascetics may say ‘I am not’ but this very statement demonstrates a subtle form of ego ‘I’. They then do whatever it takes to destroy this ego ‘I’, fighting something which is not real. If you fight something which is not real, you will lose. Like fighting your shadow, no matter how quickly you duck and dive it, you will always lose, you will die of exhaustion first. Ascetics renounce all worldly pleasure in the name of something eternal, but the very statement of ‘I renounce’ is a form of ego identification. Of course we use ‘I’ for practical purposes and communication, but without understanding the nature of this ‘I’, without knowing what it means to identify, we will never know freedom. Ascetics are identified with freedom and therefore can never know freedom. They are forcing away onion layers of personality from themselves, whilst replacing them one by one with deeper, darker, more stubborn layers.
Any form of repression and denial dampens and stultifies one’s uniqueness. Uniqueness can only be covered with new layers, it cannot be destroyed; you cannot destroy Truth, it is impossible. Repression forms another dark, thick cloth that covers your inner light inside. Look at an ascetic, is he bouncing around in joy or is his face drawn out and exhausted? If you spend too long fighting your shadow, of course you will become exhausted.
By disengaging from society, by withdrawing into a monastery, a convent or up a mountain, you are no longer living. You are slowly killing your own joy and freedom. Unless you live totally, deeply, fully, intensely, how can you say that you have lived? If you live a calculated life, withdrawn like the monks in a monastery or in analysis like Confucius or a modern day rationalist, the suchness of life passes you by. Unless you throw yourself into an experience, how can you have any authentic knowing of that experience? You can decide to taste life just a little bit to see if you like it, or you can deny it altogether like the monks, but this is like dipping your toe into cold water or refusing to get into the water at all. The only way to know the cold water is to jump in; it is like this with life. Jump into life, then you know what cold water is, then you can say that you have lived. If you calculate your life, you are responding to the movements of the ego and you will never begin to live. You will always be guarded, never attaining authentic balance.
If you are rejecting an aspect of yourself that you do not wish to face, it slips into the subconscious. You may forget about it, you may think it has been eradicated but it is still there except now you are not conscious of it. This is what the subconscious is, it is that part of your mind which is hidden deep out of sight. This is why denial is so dangerous. In denial you are now split, only you think you are not. And because whatsoever you have denied has not been released, it remains within you. Now there is a tension within you that is looking for a release, only you do not see it. This creates imbalance and contradiction and this disorder can bubble up at any moment. Growth only comes from full acceptance of oneself. If you do not face certain aspects of yourself, they will always bubble to the surface looking for release.
Rather than negate sensation, follow an easy, effortless middle path, one that feels like balance is its middle name. Life is too complicated to follow theory in the hope for harmony. Life is what brings you balance, not calculation. Life is the great teacher. Balance is something that happens effortlessly when you have had experiencing of the many dimensions of life. There is no need for you to go out and seek balance or cultivate it; if you fill your life up with many dimensions, the balance that you seek will happen of its own accord. When there is misery you know that it will pass, when there is laughter you know to savour its suchness because the moment may not last forever. Your witness to what is life will bring you balance, the witnessing itself is the balance. But if balance is something that you have to enforce upon yourself, it will be exactly that; forced rather than effortless and graceful. Whatever is forced is not natural. If you try to bring balance to your life through your efforts, then your life will be a life that is full of effort and therefore false and unnatural. It will be tense and uptight, as you constantly seek to correct any imbalance through action. You are in conflict and contradiction, always. Always you are on guard so as to not stray from your calculation. Never are you relaxed. You live a life of tension, and so you miss. You are missing the great game that has been presented to you for you to learn and become wise, the opportunity to be happy and joyful without effort. Your vision has become narrow, your life dull and mediocre. Where there is mediocrity there is nothing to truly calibrate your life to. How can you know feeling high without knowledge of what it is to feel low? How can there be laughter without tears of pain? How then do you know whether or not you have lived? To live well, to live deeply you have to live fully. Without intensity you miss the opportunity to appreciate and be grateful for the gift that is existence. You pass by the opportunity to accumulate wisdom because wisdom draws from life experience, not from books or doctrines or calculated moves.
Those who live their lives according to doctrine become afraid of moving away from that doctrine. But since when did life follow any rigid pattern? You withdraw and you remain calculated because you are afraid that perhaps one day – maybe today – you will slip up from doctrine. Maybe today there will come an outpouring of self that you cannot trust, so to be safe you choose to lock yourself up in a rigid pattern. You stay guarded so that you remain covered. This is not being true to oneself. This is a mind of two voices not one, a mind of conflict and contradiction. Effacing the personality and suppressing the ego by conforming to the patterns of doctrine and withdrawing from the intensity of life is an expression of fear. Such a life can only lead to a mind in conflict, a mind that doesn’t trust itself. Effacing of personality breeds nothing but tension and misery, you are heavy and serious, and far from effortless, relaxed and joyful; far from enlightenment.
Why would a master teach what is not effortless, relaxed and joyful? What kind of enlightening process is this? If what you are doing is not the above, you know in your heart that something is wrong. Your intuition will be bursting at the seams, screaming for help. Remember that any step to freedom begins with freedom. Simply look deep within and understand. The layers of personality falsehood will dissolve of their own accord. Look within, holding a mind beyond judgment; this is the approach of emptying. It is the emptying of content so that the pure space that is ‘you’ can now simply Be. Now you are open to existence without distortion, your emptiness allows existence in. Effacing destroys one’s own uniqueness, emptying allows that uniqueness to flourish.