Monday, May 01, 2017

The dangers of spiritual materialism: wanting to keep accumulating spiritual "experiences"

The problem of today -- an excessive agrandisement of the idea of My-Idea-Is-the-the-Right-Idea. 
The greed to accumulate spiritual experiences, gurus,ashram visits, types of yoga, experiences. Seems to be a special problem of the day. The dangers of this? It encourages what is called the sukshma ahamkara -- the subtle ego -- that is so fine that you do not know that what you thought you destroyed as come back. This is the idea of the demons springing back -- millions of them -- from every demon whose head is cut. It is intriguing how this is such a common refrain in all mythologies. 

                                                       (Appears to be meditating, but wants experiences while meditating!) 
From a column I wrote a few years back: 
Intellectualisation of spiritual quests is also scoffed at as an acquisition. Here is what the Gita says on the real renounciation: "None who has not renounced the mental world, has any title to the name of yogin'. Why so? In Yogavashishtha, the treatise which records Sage Vashishtha's advice to a young Lord Ram, gives the answer. "That which to false vision, sets up the Anatman in place of Atman, shadows forth a thing in no-thing. This, oh Raghava, is that which we describe as `thinking.'" Another Vedantic saying in the Smriti compares pride in learning to love of life and fear of the world. Adi Shankaracharya who is rather dismissive of arrogance that comes from excessive intellectualization of the spiritual as well as overemphasis on rituals, says in his Vivekachudamani that the divine may never   be seen by one who indulges in `constant washing, by giving gifts, nay not even by a hundred pranayamas.'

The controversial guru Chogyam Tungpa has written an entire book on this difficult ground of spiritual materialism. In this book Cutting through spiritual materialism he writes of how the daughters of Mara, as symbolized by Tantric Buddhism, can invade even our spiritual equanimity with irresistible seduction. The soft inner voice in our minds can be said to represent their viles. Tungpa says these voices can make us believe that this equanimity is the result of our higher spiritual sadhana, making us feel that this is a `big deal'. He adds: "Then we begin to give birth to further samsaric patterns of mind. It is similar to the Christian idea of biting the apple. It is temptation. When we regard abhisheka or initiation as sacred, then the precision and sharpness immediately begins to fall away because we have begun to evaluate."  

No comments: