Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spiritual Warfare, Part 3

Spiritual Warfare
by Scott Bradley

But why this war of self against self? Because there is something in self that is not-at-peace. There is something dysfunctional in the very essence of self. There is a snake in this garden. (Forgive me, snakes, for I do appreciate and affirm you for the wonderful beings you are. I use you only as cultural metaphor.)

We call this ego. “I am”. This emergence of self-awareness has led, perhaps inevitably, to a belief in the existence of a concrete, personal identity. And this is something to which we have become inexorably identified: We are this identity. Or soul. We are Someone and thus have Something to lose.

Death becomes the Great Thief, the greatest evil. But in the meantime, this quasi-reality of identity has its hands full trying to be the something it is not. It is no-one, but it wants to be Someone.

Thus, it nurtures a self-image which requires constant assertion and vigilance against the predations of events and others and even its own self which brings judgment upon itself. But the best defense is often a good offense, and so it finds security and substance in opposition to others. Another’s fault is my strength. Yes, it grieves me to have to say this, but my Tao is better than your Tao.

So, if the ego-self is the mother of dysfunction, why should I not oppose it; why not engage in spiritual warfare against it? My reply is two-fold.

Firstly, because the opposition is itself an expression of that selfsame dysfunction. Only ego-self opposes ego-self. War is not the way to peace. Peace is the way to peace. Ultimately, the only means to an end is the end itself. The end must be the means. When we embrace the totality of our experience in thankfulness and trust transcendence happens. Growth happens. This is the efficacy of non-doing. This is doing what happens.

Secondly, I suggest we should not declare war on the ego-self because it is a given of Nature. It is what is. It has not been foisted upon us by some devil. It is not the creation of our own evil nature.

If there was no Fall in some mythical garden, if the Universe is not a vast battleground between the Forces of Good and Evil, then the way humanity now finds itself to be is the Tao of Nature. Acceptance, always and ever, is the surest way to transcendence and transformation.

For Tao, whatever It might be, is always manifest in this phenomenal world as endless Transformation. And enlightenment, if there is such a thing, is or will be a purely natural transformation. Perhaps all humanity will one day transcend this bondage to an ego-driven existence. Perhaps individual human beings have already experienced or will experience this liberation.

If so, it will be a transformation arising out of the givens of Nature and thus an affirmation of things as they are.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

1 comment:

  1. The subject you bring up is controversial. I am not expressing another view in attempts to declare my Tao is better than yours. It is just food for thought. What you have detailed is a map on how you think we should embrace life and find true transcendence. Basically what I am understanding what you are saying is that we should "resist" going to war against our ego but rather forbear this temptation and accept ego because ego is a part of the whole nature of life. It is what it is so stop chasing your tail.

    But what if the "warring within" is a part of nature's process? Wouldn't what you are saying be just another form of resisting what is nature? What if this war within is a very critical part of the process of shattering the outer shell of ego's dominance on one’s life to experience real metamorphic transformation? Isn't what you are offering just an alternative escape route of this necessary battle, like water running downhill searching for the least resistance? Did the Buddha battle his ego before finding transcendence?

    There is a collection of Zen Koans compiled in the early 13th century by the Chinese Zen Master Wumen Hui-k'ai. One speaks of a gateless gate.

    The Zen Master mentions that you must pass through the barriers (gates). He says that this barrier is Mu meaning No-thing. This is why it is called the gateless gate. But what does this Zen master instruct his student to do on how to transcend through this Mu? Does he say that he should just accept this Mu and embrace it? No he doesn't. The Zen Master said:

    "Would you like to pass through this barrier? Then concentrate your whole body, with its 360 bones and joints, and 84,000 hair follicles, into this question of what "Mu" is; day and night, without ceasing, hold it before you. It is neither nothingness, nor its relative "not" of "is" and "is not." It must be like gulping a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out. How do you concentrate on this Mu? Pour every ounce of your entire energy into it and do not give up, then a torch of truth will illuminate the entire universe. When he enters this condition his ego-shell is crushed and he can shake the heaven and move the earth. He is like a great warrior with a sharp sword". (I have compressed these words to focus on my point)

    This to me implies that there is a battle which involves determination and effort to break through the illusion of ego. This battle ground is a necessary part of the process to transcend ego. The Zen Master speaks about a critical moment of severe tension and intensity when he says "it must be like gulping a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out". The Zen Master speaks about a condition when, "his ego-shell is crushed". I contend that the battle ground of our ego is an essential part of the process that nature has for each of us. When we have at it to the point that we sense a hot iron ball stuck in our throat is when the torch of truth will illuminant the entire universe. We will then turn around to see this barrier that caused such a battle and we will see Mu (The Gateless Gate) The gate that was never there. The transcendence of ego.

    All I'm saying is that the substance in this article “Spiritual Warfare” is surely up for debate.


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