What does it mean to “be spiritual”?
Is it spiritual to fight? Is there even such a thing as being “spiritual”? This is an important topic that might ruffle some ego feathers, so be warned.
When we say “I’m being spiritual.” or “That’s not a very spiritual thing to do.” we may believe that we are helping ourselves or others, to get to some destination called ‘spiritual’ – but if you follow the logic of truth, then this type of belief is seen for what it is, just another belief… and one that can completely block true perception, and cause painful destruction in your life.
The true self, as ordinary awareness, is not a flag in the sand. It is not: “I am this point of view”.
When we take ourselves as a position, as a point of view, we limit our perception to that point of view. This is ego at its best.
This is its Maya dance – to turn a point of view into an identity. A point of view is merely that, a point of view. You are not a point of view.
This is ego at its best.
Well meaning folks, a past younger version of my mind included, would agonize over what the ‘spiritual’ response to life events should be. When a friend stole from me many years ago, and when my spiritual ego identity was still intact, I laboured for days with – “It’s not spiritual to be angry!” I would berate myself.
“Aren’t I supposed to love her unconditionally and accept her?”, “What should I do now?” These questions tortured my nervous system.
When a lover broke his promises, and lied, again there it was the spiritual identity chiming and hurting my body with: “This was obviously our soul’s agreement, so I should just be spiritual about this, and respond with kindness and love”.
Brace yourself – this is tough love truth.
The spiritual identity that feeds these thoughts and gives them power is the issue.
Ego is a mask. Any mask. Even one we call ‘spiritual’ is a mask. Not true, merely covering what is true.
This is where real spiritual enlightenment can seem completely at odds with spiritual idealized fantasy.
Many spiritual seekers have an idea of what enlightened spiritual people are meant to look like, sound like and how they are supposed to act.
Then to reach this special destination or to ‘be the one who is enlightened’, ego hijacks an image of ‘spiritual’ or ‘enlightened’ and emulates this.
That is not to say that people should not live good, clean lives, life works tirelessly through karma to teach the soul ‘right action’. But ‘trying to be good’, and ‘trying to act spiritual’ are poisons.
“Trying is lying”, as my business partner Chantel says.
Ego is always acting. Always pretending. Ego is self-image – an image is not real, it’s an image. An idea. A point of view, a concept. It has no weight, no substance, no reality. It is a projection of the mind that veils the true. And so, ironically, folks with a spiritual identity are as ego-driven and ignorant as anyone with a false identity. “I am spiritual” is as false as “I am not spiritual”.
The true ‘I’ cannot wear the clothes of the ego, does not mold itself to any imagined shape or idea.
- The true, ordinary, non dual awareness, is not held captive by the mind.
- Like a screen is not touched by a movie no matter how lovely or ugly the scene, no matter how we dress the characters.
Spiritual looking and sounding characters are as much of an illusion as the burger eating, beer drinking materialistic character on the screen of consciousness. All identities are concepts, not real and are false. They are projected by the mind on the screen of consciousness. Consciousness is unmoved by the movie.
Now with that being said, setting aside that metaphor let’s look at life and what the “true” response is or rather, where it is sourced. Life operates according to its own innate intelligence. And it does so automatically.
Birds fly, eyelashes grow, personality flowers, mind matures, souls evolve – these are all a part of the dance of life. And life looks after itself. It has laws and innate intelligence. This is the role of divinity. There is this great, awe-inspiring innate, automatic, intelligence, moving galaxies and causing feelings and thoughts to arise.
When the mind is shrouded by ignorance of the true self and therefore is hypnotized by the false ego movie identity of “I am spiritual” (or any other identity) suffering ensues. Also, life’s spontaneous, intuitive and true movement is blocked and distorted by this ignorance.
So when ‘a friend steals your money’, or ‘lover lies’, or dharma (the natural laws of life) is breached, there is always a spontaneous, wise and true response available in that moment.
This spontaneous, wise and true response cannot happen if the ego mind is a puppeteer and pulling strings. These strings will sound like thoughts about trying to be spiritual and will feel in the heart like inner conflict and suffering.
When dharma (the natural laws of life) is breached, there is always a spontaneous, wise and true response available in that moment.
Field of knowledge
The dharma field, which is life, is free of desire and fear (which is born of ignorance and ego) and it will move as your body and feelings, its movement is perfect and innocent when free of false identity.
When the false identity is in charge, the movement is painful, causes division, breaks families apart and leads to feeling lost and triggers suffering. Ironically false identity causes a break in dharma, even “spiritual identity”.
A true dharma response to a break in dharma could also look like something very “non-spiritual”.
I am reminded of how in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna commands Arjuna to pick up his sword and fight in the war. Arjuna doesn’t want to fight and lays down his sword. He doesn’t want to go to war with his cousins and family.
Krishna has to reveal the truth of his nature, as non dual awareness in order for Arjuna to accept his dharma and fight a truly righteous war. I love this example because “war” is labelled as so “non-spiritual” to the spiritual ego. This makes me think of how so many minds, held prisoner by a spiritual identity wear masks of polite love, and block appropriate wise right action.
Here is a translated quote of Krishna telling Arjuna to go to war.
“And even considering your personal dharma as well, it is not right for you to hesitate. There is nothing better for a warrior than a fight based on dharma.” (Bg. 2.31) The Bhagavad Gita
We feel it when dharma is breached. Dishonesty. Theft. Taking what is not ours. Ill-gotten gain. People taking the wrong places in a family structure – pretending to be parents when they are not, etc. These breaches of dharma have karmic consequences.
Life looks after this through the dharma field. The body and the mind are woven from the fabric of the dharma field. There is appropriate dharma aligned response to life.
No one can tell you what that is, or anticipate in advance what that will be.
The mind has no dominion here. Self-honesty, maturity and wisdom are required for life to move with dharma. And in this movement is always love. But this love does not look like the clichéd spiritual identity image.
- This love can rage with a fierce grace to restore dharma.
- This love can move like Kali the destroyer of worlds.
- This love can also bow in acceptance and let go.
- This love can laugh like a child, work hard to pay bills, and do its duty with dignity.
- This love can move to help with such tender gentleness, and it can equally move to pick up its sword and fight.
- This love moves cleanly, without arrogance, and is not driven by personal fear or desire.
Ego is always hungry, it always wants for itself. It’s always defending itself and attacking others.
This is not ego. It is different, entirely. It is impersonal love and impersonal war.
If you want to know if an action is born of ignorant ego, or if it is life’s dharma field moving appropriately, look and feel honestly in your body. The body is very sensitive to dharma. We feel closed when we move against life.
We feel open when we move with life. Even anger, sadness, even wielding a sword of truth can be an open movement of clean, wise dharma.
This is not an excuse for breaking dharma. This is not a get out of jail free card for the ego to hijack another truth and use it to cause more suffering. This is an invitation to spot the tricky fox of the ignorant ego-mind, as it builds its false images of self.
These self-images are the false idols warned of in the old testament – and a spiritual self-image is still that, a mirage, an image.
This is Maya’s game in the ancient teachings of Vedanta, where God’s powers of veiling and projection are given to the soul, that it might experience apparently be in the life that it is. Until it’s time until the soul is mature. Ready to break open like a seed.
To liberate the mind with the truth. To see “ah – I am NO image. I am that I am, non dual, ordinary, action-less awareness. Life happens in me, and life oversees life. Life flows through and as my soul, body and mind. May my mind be illumined by the truth, and be set free of all false identities.
Here spiritual and physical collapse as mere concepts in the mind. Sandcastles built on the seashore by the ancient child mind at play. There is only awareness. There is no person. Beware my friends of the “spiritual identity”, it is amongst the trickiest of tricksters. It uses the appearance of truth and distorts it to keep your mind in prison and poisoned.
When free of the false spiritual identity, we are free of the mind, the heart fills with love, peace and deep acceptance. We leave all outcomes to life, and when its time, we pick up our dharma swords and we fight.