Understanding the Ego
Most spiritual teachers agree that ego is the problem, but their approaches to dissolving it vary widely. In fact, if you look closely at many teachings you will find that they are actually ego-based.
Any direct strategy to transcend the ego must involve a more subtle ego that is initiating the discipline. Hence the frequent perpetuation of the spiritual ego in many traditions.
Most teachers suggest that it is necessary to adopt certain positive attitudes and qualities in order to make progress. In this process your unconscious ego recreates itself as it strives to reach the ideals of your teacher.
Buddha understands that attachment is a problem, so you should not cling or reject. Jesus knows that love is freedom, so you should be more loving. New-age teachers value a wide variety of positive ideals. Therefore you should be more positive.
If you could be different from the way you are right now, you would be. You can be only as you are, until that changes. This understanding reflects Buddha's greatest insight of tathata or suchness, and is the essence of the refined spiritual insight of advaita.
The seeker's ego survives unconsciously in its agenda for self-improvement. This is the main hiding place in many teachings for the ego's last identification.
The strategy of 'cornering the ego' in the Zen tradition implies a superior ego to manage the cornering. And even teachings that say you should surrender may miss the point that the ego lives on in that very attempt to surrender. The spiritual ego takes refuge in 'my surrender' and thus perpetuates itself.
When the implications of tathata are deeply understood, the ego naturally becomes neutralized. Buddha's insight cuts to the core of the identification with a doer called 'me'. Clearly all seekers have experienced that their inner world is not in their control.
If control were in your hands you would just choose to be enlightened and free from all suffering. Every seeker tries to be more positive and conscious, but mostly with limited success.
All that is needed is to deeply recognize the facts: life is already living you and has its own agenda that is often contrary to that of your ego. This gap, between your ego's agenda for how things should be and the actual reality of life, manifests as suffering.
The potent insight of advaita is that all life, including your ego-doer, is a play of consciousness. This insight rests on the core enlightened experience of conscious oneness which is then extended in logic. The human mind is the most sophisticated creation on Earth. Every buddha has discovered that consciousness is at the source of mind, so it follows that other creations also spring from consciousness.
This means consciousness is the core reality, the source of the universe and all existence. Intelligence is programed into every atom of the universe, therefore it follows that consciousness has a superior intelligence to design and manifest existence.
Conscious intelligence with the power to design, create and sustain the universe is an accurate definition of God. Since all of existence has God as its source, everything that exists is equally divine and is made of God by God.
This also means God is the only real power and that your ego's claim to free will is illusory.
Even your ego-mind is a play of consciousness and has no independent power to achieve anything at all. God or consciousness is the only power there is, both as all the manifest multiplicity of existence and its eternal transcendental source.
The application of tathata, or suchness, gives the means to live with the complex vicissitudes of life: one simply watches all internal and external events with the deep acceptance that they must be as they are until they change. Acceptance does not prevent anyone from being total in the game of growth and self-improvement, but it does remove the burden of ego responsibility for success or failure, and makes your endeavor more conscious. You play your part in the leela as if it really matters - and to the very best of your ability - while remembering that ultimately nothing is in your hands.
Not my will but 'Thy will be done' is the highly valuable contribution of Jesus to tathata and advaita. Since God is omnipotent, then whatever happens, including all details of everything, must be the will of God. And surrender to life is actually surrender to divine will.
Only in this surrender born of deep understanding is the subtle spiritual ego neutralized. To grow and to enjoy life you need only to be consciously with what is so. There is nothing to do or achieve.
Mindfulness in action is good and necessary, but it is not enough to allow consciousness to turn back on itself in the essential rest of silent awareness. For awareness to expand in most seekers, silent unoccupied meditation time is required.
After the preparation of ego-based disciplines, meditating with an awakened one within the context of advaita creates the best conditions for rapid growth. Meditating in the energy field of a living buddha is the ultimate effective method of transformation - his or her energy lifts you up into the light of consciousness.
Satsangs with me focus on silent sitting and sharing the basic spiritual understanding: God is all there is, I am not separate from the Whole. This understanding allows you to trust life as God and to accept yourself totally as you are right now, not after you have lived up to the ideals of an ego-based teaching.
Consciously watching with equanimity as life lives you is a deeply transformative approach that frees mature seekers from ego neurosis herenow.