Whilst living in India I had my fair share of experiences with people who come here for spiritual development. Since India is a spiritual place, and has many ashrams and other places of devotion, the string of pilgrims is stable.
Usually, those who come here for spiritual development are the most unnatural kind and it’s rare to meet someone who is truly awakened. There are also those spiritual aspirants who know they are only seekers and are humble about it; but unfortunately many are still strongly in the grip of the ego which convinces them that they are already very spiritual.
I only met several fully awakened people, but those meetings left indelible memories. Those special individuals did not try to impress others with their looks or speech; they did not want to prove to the world how spiritual they were because they were already spiritual.
Most people, however, perceive spirituality through the eyes of the ego. They aren’t awakened yet, they still operate through the mechanism of the ego rather than from the inner void, the place of stillness.
I’m writing this because it’s crucial to at least get onto that path of spirituality by trying to get rooted in stillness; otherwise your journey is just the ego’s attempt to spiritualize itself which it sometimes quite enjoys, because it’s not diminished but maintained.
It’s not that the ego is afraid of spirituality. It quite enjoys it in its many forms. It only perceives spirituality as a threat when you understand that being spiritual has nothing to do with appearances, and it has nothing to do with where you go and who you associate with.
When your true work starts of dwelling in the present moment and you do not react, neither do you identify with your thoughts, that’s when the ego perceives spirituality as threatening. Otherwise it’s just a pleasant play that it uses to maintain or strengthen itself, and it quite enjoys going to spiritual places, doing yogic stretches, engaging in spiritual discussions, praying, associating with spiritual people, wearing spiritual clothes and so forth.
So when you go to places like ashrams in India, you are faced with the sight of egos trying to act spiritual.
If certain egos perceive spirituality to be a serious business, the faces naturally are tense. If people are after bliss, there is an attempt to look blissful. It all depends on what spirituality is interpreted to be.
Sometimes people dress spiritually to appear more spiritual. White robes are common among the spiritual seekers in India, or wearing traditional Indian clothes that they perceive to give them the look of holiness and wisdom.
There is also a type of persons that consider themselves very deep, and they usually have serious looks, try to give penetrating glances, and identify with some elaborate dogma.
And then there are blissful devotees of gurus, who absolutely worship a self-proclaimed god in human form, and they believe that this makes them very spiritual.
Other people after finding spirituality start talking very slowly, as though each word is meaningful. Others slow down their movements. Others change their tone of voice, which they think makes them more spiritual, but it simply sounds unnatural and offputting. I often hear this fake voice in people who give spiritual teachings, as though such voice quality is what matters and not the teaching.
Other people do not part with their yoga mats, others meditate in train stations and other public places, and others socialize only with those who belong to the same spiritual belief structure that they themselves subscribe to.
In fact, it’s common for people strongly in the grip of the ego to search out those who believe as they do. Because the ego always feels insecure, it’s sense of self is strengthened the more other egos join it.
Others talk for hours about yogic or other philosophies, but with that talk they only try to compensate for the lack of depth; those who talk most know the least; those who talk the least know the most, usually. Of course, there are also those who don’t talk because they really don’t know!
The reason of writing all this is to make people wake up. This is not spirituality. This is egoic role-playing. The ego is very crafty in making people believe that they are very spiritual. Thus I listed as many ego role-playing observations as I could think of. It’s not meant to insult anyone, but it is meant to awaken those who might be falling for one or more of such ego tricks.
The common thread running through all these scenarios is an attempt to spiritualize oneself externally; but the change must come from within, as a result of becoming more and more conscious.
Judging the level of spirituality through the lens of some spiritual dogma
Another mistake spiritual-seekers make is identifying with some ideology and then filtering everything through it, which I definitely could be blamed for in the past, and not once.
For example, I have read some negative comments about Eckhart Tolle. People who are identified with some Indian ideologies were attacking him for eating meat. The argument was that if he is awakened, he must be compassionate, and thus he should not eat meat.
Buddha allowed his disciples to eat meat, do they even know it? Which means he probably ate meat too, because he lived his teachings. Jesus ate meet too, judging from the fact that he celebrated the Passover. I highly doubt it was a vegetarian celebration!
This universe works this way – through sacrifice. We also will have to die sooner or later to become the food of other organisms. We eat plants who are living beings. The problem today is that people have unnatural appetites and therefore they crave meat all the time, creating enormous suffering for animals as the whole industry had to be developed to serve that terrible unnatural taste.
We know it’s harmful to eat that much meet, judging from the high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, heart attacks and skin redness that looks very unnatural in those who consume meat in large amounts. But I could say the same thing about people who absolutely refuse all animal products and therefore start rapidly losing weight, develop dark circles under eyes, hair starts falling out and so forth.
The society tends to go to extremes, therefore awareness is required in this area. And yes, one might maintain good health by avoiding all animal products, but one has to do enormous research to make sure one is not lacking any essential nutrients.
Hunter-gatherers did not create imbalance in nature because they acted like other beings. They did not lust for meat but only satisfied basic hunger. Tigers aren’t blamed for killing creatures either, because they kill to stay alive and do not disturb the balance of nature by doing that.
This whole universe functions in this way – either you kill many forms of life in order to live, or you do not kill anything and you start being consumed, whether by a disease, because of the lack of food (the body starts consuming itself) or through some imbalance in lifestyle.
And even if you live carefully, eventually all of us will die and will become the food of various microorganisms. Even microbes living in your gut start consuming your body when you don’t give it food, whilst they act friendly as long as they are fed.
Even in ancient Vedas this basic truth was known – that this world is based on sacrifice. Knowing this, we have to be grateful even when we eat plant-based foods, because they had to give up their existence as plants in order for us to be fed.
I personally think people need very little meat or no meat at all (eggs and milk can be sufficient) in order to have all their mineral and vitamin intake needs met. Ideally those who need meat would pray for the Universe to provide an animal whose life is going to be over soon and get it through hunting. The animal would freely roam all its life, and would only become the food of someone when its time is up, like all of us will in the end anyway.
This would be the natural way and people would then feel personal responsibility (at least most people), and may be much more compassionate and would only hunt were they really in need of such food.
I believe with such a natural system people would think twice before eating meat, and would hunt only if it’s really necessary. Now, because they don’t see the horrors of animal slaughter, they eat meat without much thinking about the suffering of the animal.
Today, of course, the system is not like what it was in the past. Now animals are kept in cages, in terrible conditions, to have no life of freedom but to serve as a source of our food. That’s a big difference from being born as a free animal who roams forests until it dies a natural death, is eaten by another animal, or is hunted and killed by humans.
If someone today would want to hunt animals for them to serve as a source of food, that would actually be illegal in at least some parts of the world. So the system is what it is, and therefore sometimes you have to comply with it if what you want cannot be gotten in any other way.
And I do apologize for expanding so much on this topic, but I notice how harshly many vegans attack anyone that goes against their ideology, so I wanted to explain my stance quite fully.
Therefore, labeling people unawakened just because they eat meat is not wise at all. Plants live too, yet vegans eat them. We would die were we to choose not to hurt any being.
When a person identifies with vegan or whatever ideology, he just placed a lens between himself and the world. And usually such people strengthen their egos considerably, by thinking they are more special, more spiritual than others. So those vegan or vegetarian commenters wrote in such a cruel way about Eckhart… I wonder how come they love animals but are so cruel towards their fellow humans.
It’s unwise to judge whether a person is spiritual or not through your own beliefs or through the lens of some spiritual text that you like. This only strengthens the ego and creates the feeling of separation from other humans.
It’s unwise to think that people are only spiritual if they meet some spiritual checklist. According to whom that checklist is error-free?
In this article I wanted to address these two spiritual traps caused by the ego which either maintain the ego or even strengthen it. The first trap is perceiving spirituality through the mechanism of the ego and trying to appear spiritual without any change actually happening within; and the second trap is by judging about the spiritual level of others based on what you read or believe spiritual people to behave or look like.
To avoid the first mistake, the external change should not be initiated by your thought. Instead, if you are present and conscious as much as possible in your life, this increasing consciousness will uncover such depths within your being and so much power that no matter how you look, how quick or slow you speak, and how you dress, people will sense your power and presence. And sure, some external changes are likely to take place too, but they will be genuine and in harmony with your new level of awareness.
And the second mistake can be avoided if, when you meet someone for the first time, you stop any sort of judgment and comparison, but instead you get totally still and sense the energy of the person despite of how he looks, behaves or sounds like. This will give a true insight into who that person truly is, and how conscious he or she is.