My version/definition of spiritual enlightenment definitely includes a certain degree of transcendence of the ego, however, many who claim to have achieved a state of spiritual enlightenment claim that they have reached a state of being where they have become ego-less, completely devoid of a sense of self or individuated ‘lens’ through which they view and perceive the world around them. It is my opinion that these folks are vastly overstating their state of being.
Many of us hold our own personal definition of spiritual enlightenment. Most spiritual seekers would agree though that spiritual enlightenment involves a freedom from emotional pain and suffering. Many see this as only being attainable through a complete and total transcendence or even ‘annihilation’ of the ego. They are convinced that all identification with the ego and sense of personal self will lead to suffering, therefore, they strive to completely do away with the ego and sense of unique self.
While many claim to have done this, I assert that so long as we continue to remain physically focused, anchored within the physical realm by our physical body, brain and mind, COMPLETE and permanent transcendence of the ego is impossible. This does not mean that we cannot have experiences of transcending the ego when we enter into meditative states and such, however, the moment we re-engage with physical life, we will once again, be filtering through the lens of 'self.'
It seems to me that the only thing that could cause us to take such a strong line towards ego and attempt to annihilate our own, is fear. Many are fearful of the ego and the hold it can have over us. The only time ego has a hold on us is when we 'over-identify' with it. What does it mean to 'over-identify' with the ego? It means to see the ego and sense of personal self as the totality of self. Once we see beyond the physical self to experience a greater knowing of who and what we really are (spirit) ego loses it's ability to cause suffering. I personally see such a state as one that denotes a certain amount of spiritual enlightenment. The truth is however, that I see spiritual enlightenment more as a process.
I’ve found that instead of striving for complete transcendence of the ego, better and easier results can be obtained by accepting and loving the ego. I see the ego as something to be understood rather than something to be annihilated. Through understanding the ego, we come to a place of expanded awareness regarding the nature of self and thus reach a place where suffering becomes impossible. Expanded awareness and spiritual enlightenment are both terms that for me denote a freedom from suffering.
What really is ego? I see ego as the totality of the personal sense of self that allows us to view our reality as a separate and unique entity. Thus I see ego as something that can be sub-divided into lower ego and ego.
Our personality, unique traits and perception of being a separate entity all fall under the umbrella of this definition of ‘ego.’ Without ego, we would cease to have a physical experience. So long as we remain anchored within the physical experience, as an “I” we will have some perception of ‘self’ and personality and therefore, ego. The degree to which we identify with ego in any given moment depends on whether we are perceiving reality through contracted or expanded awareness.
The mere identification with a specific physical body involves a certain amount of ego involvement. The ability to say, “I” am thirsty therefore ‘I’ desire a glass of water, involves perceiving one’s ‘self’ as a unique and separate entity and thus as having ‘ego.’
It seems to me that when many talk about achieving spiritual enlightenment and completely transcending the ego, what they are really talking about is achieving freedom from suffering. They mistakingly believe that because suffering can occur when we are over-identifying with our ego, that ego itself is then the problem. Such derogatory declarations as; Ego is a disease and ego must be annihilated, abound.
When we see ego, personality and sense of personal self as a disease or something bad, dirty or evil that should be cast away, we deny and negate the physical experience itself.
Part and parcel of being physical and having a physical experience means perceiving through a specific filter or lens. Without our own unique filter or lens, no specific experience of reality could occur. While it is definitely possible to rise above and see through or past the lens ‘of’ self, it would be impossible to experience a separate reality without ego.
I see our purpose for having this physical experience as to have a joyous adventure, where our specific experience is framed by the personality traits, sense of self and ego that each of us has chosen from our prior position in spirit to don for this physical incarnation.
Once we become aware of and understand that our entire experience is framed by our perceptions and beliefs, we can enjoy them without fear that they will overwhelm us. So long as we do not over-identify with our ego, it can actually serve us.
Ego or identification with self, only creates suffering when is it misunderstood. When we perceive ourselves as ‘being’ nothing more than our ego, then and only then will problems ensue. So long as we hold awareness as to the totality of our being, ego will not present a problem.
We can embrace the physical experience along with ego completely and fully and still realize that it is not the end all and be of who and what we ‘really’ are. I see such a state of being as a form of spiritual enlightenment. The truth is I personally see spiritual enlightenment as a journey rather than a destination or permanent state of being. As consciousness expressing through the physical, we are always in the state of flux.
Hate the ego, despise it and call it a disease and it will remain a constant threat to your level of joy and overall experience of peace. Love and accept the ego and you will be able to rise above it at will.
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