Self And Selfishness
With the seventh vrtti of the spiritual heart, we move into the right, solar side of the Anahata Vortex. Here the centrifugal force is stronger than the centripetal force and the tendencies on this side move more outward than inward. The seventh vrtti is the need for self-definition or “Aham vrtti”. Aham is ego or “doer-I”. Aham really doesn’t denote egotism or selfishness, which is in fact the eigth vrtti. I call Aham “self-definition” because it is simply the need to understand yourself in the relative plane of existence; who you are, who you have been and who you want to do in this life. It cannot be a negative tendency because the human mind propelled by this vrtti always desires clarity, expansion and betterment of its existential position. In fact, this tendency can take one so deep into the question of “who am I?” that the very separateness of the ego-dominated “I” disappears into the eternal “I-Witness”. To follow this introspective tendency to its origin takes one back to the headwaters of the godhead where it pours itself out into every microcosmic soul. The Aham is the active, doer-I; but just behind it is the I-witness that is perfectly still, eternal, and simple. Where does one begin and the other end? It is just like trying to find the edge of a shadow in that there is no real, defined limit. The ego in its most noble expression is but a relative vehicle for the super-personal Consciousness to express itself as a person, as a Self-realized human being. And it becomes so, or will become so in every microcosm. When one truly trusts oneself, then the person is sustained by the I-Witness itself. To simply remember and ideate on the Witnessing Entity behind your person will always put the mind into balance and all problems are placed in a clearer perspective. The person is but an ornamentation, an unintentional flash whose image is illuminated from an image-less act from deep within one’s inner Subjectivity. This expression is controlled by the vibrant and buoyant acoustic root of “ja.” The degeneration of this manifestation of the Macrocosm in the microcosm is egotism or selfishness. It is controlled by the sound “jha.” Here is where a temple to the separate, fearful and vain ego is built and worshiped by the vrttis below the Anahata Vortex. The egocentric and vain desires coupled by the unconscious emotional complexes take refuge in an embellished image of oneself. Where selfishness reigns, death is not far away. The underlying reason for our crisis of consciousness, culture and self-definition is not just the natural limitations of evolving beings but the enforcement of this vrtti by our society and its institutions. Instead of fostering a sense of inter-being and cooperation, most of us have learned individual separateness, competition and domination. Within a capitalist and individualist society there is space for just a few “winners” while so many suffer from a lack of personal fulfillment and social alienation that leaves them spiritually estranged and neurotic. I was born in probably one of the most neurotic and mentally ill societies on the planet, at least for the so-called developed world. Now, in the north of Mexico, I see that most people want to have a typical American life-style and that these materialistic, individualistic values only further corrupt what is already quite a troubled culture.
One can carry this selfishness over into one’s spiritual practice as well and selfishly seek enlightenment. One who truly knows the Atman also loves from this sublime stance. I have seen many who devote long hours to meditation and/or yoga but really make no progress because they think only of themselves and their spiritual image. In fact, they create much imbalance in their lives and fail to see how they only begin to suffer more than when they were just mundane people. As an Upanishad states, “those that seek only the finite go into darkness. Those who seek only the infinite go into deeper darkness.” Yoga is the balance of adjusting the internal and external mental flows and making them one. One really needs a fairly balanced mind before beginning spiritual practice. Unfortunately, yoga, and especially Tantra Yoga, is not a form of psychotherapy designed to cure modern psychological complexes. Rather, it is a form of pinnacled, “apex psychology” designed to help well-adjusted people attain spiritual realization.
For those not so well-adjusted, a clear, psychological understanding of yama and niyama coupled with gentle asanas and meditation is necessary before attempting any other practices. If one looks at the world of yoga, it is mostly an ego show and there are very few who really understand the implications of what they are teaching. Many are just asana clowns, but it gets even more dangerous the higher one goes up the ashtaunga (8- limbed) ladder. I lived in a monastic community with many Tantra Yoga practitioners. Although there were some very good examples of mature meditators, there were also so many who were often quite neurotic because they couldn’t digest all of the unconscious and sub-conscious psychic content that their practices were awakening. Instead of finding enlightenment, one only ends up deeper in the quagmire of an ignorant ego besieged by so many emotional complexes. They probably would have been better off with families and a less intense spiritual practice. For the ego that contemplates and surrenders to the inner radiance of pure awareness, selfishness becomes something aversive. Selfishness is revelry in the ignorance of separateness. It is born of suffering and dies in suffering. The individual who truly understands his/her inner self will always contribute something good to the collective well-being. Through the contemplation and devotion to the pure “I” beyond thought and volition, one can’t help but find oneself in all persons.
Aham-vrtti does not refer to egotism or the vrtti of vanity. Instead, this propensity is the feeling of one’s actual identity. It is the existential concept of what one’s psychological make-up consists of, independent of inferiority or superiority complexes, of what the essential nature of the personality is. It informs one of what are the innate proclivities; one’s cognitive styles and affective tones, whether one is introverted or extroverted, a thinker or a feeler, analytical or intuitive, etc..
This self-concept is a notion of identity that organizes and structures the various propensities and modes of thought into an organized concept of a general identity. Ego vrtti gives a thought-form to the notion of “I”. Although the “I” or Mahat is clearly manifest at the Anahata Vortex, it is still qualified by phenomenal reality. The reality of the ego here is mental and psycho-spiritual. Ego, therefore, is a concept of what the “I” is in relation to the relative world. Deep and wondrous potentials are possible with this vrtti. The human notion of the “I” is most often bound into sociological, national, cultural, and regional as well as the limited notions of the lower personality. However, a great potential resides in this vrtti in that the eternal spiritual identity, Shiva, can find an abode of expression through the human personality. There is truly only one Aham (ego) in the universe, and it belongs to the Macrocosmic Mind. Only through association of the Macrocosmic Aham with the microcosmic chitta does the Aham feel that it belongs to the physical body and psychological identity. Maya, ultimately, is but a trick of the senses and the Aham who identifies with their relative reality. While it is true that the human personality is something relative as it is within the domain of Shakti, there is, however, the reflection of the fundamental consciousness that informs the notion of identity. At this stage of the cultivation of the spiritual personality the objective qualities and concepts that qualify the Identity are not so much a bondage but rather a means of expression in which the ineffable Infinite Being expresses itself through the finite personality. The objective qualities are transparent in that the personality no longer clings to outer, conditioned notions for self- reference. Here one understands that the infinite Shiva, in itself, is not a personality with any qualities. It expresses itself through the finer, subtler realms of the relative, created world. Personality or character cannot exist for the Infinite without the limitations of finite definitions. Conversely, personality cannot exist in the finite without the reflection of the subjective, existential feeling of I, which is Infinite. Character, therefore, is the breeding ground of the Infinite to express itself consciously through a finite medium. Of course all of creation is the progeny of Shiva, but it is within the developed human being that self-consciousness knows itself fundamentally as Supreme Consciousness, even though there still may be subtle qualifications of that Consciousness. But without those subtle qualifications, the Infinite would not have a personality.
All human beings are gods in disguise. Only one who treads the deepest ground of their being and identity realizes that their life, their being, and relative existence is in truth a vehicle for Shiva to manifest itself in multitudinous forms of personality. The infinite gives a name to the nameless. This is perhaps the sweetest and melodious truth of human life: that human life is verily the Life Divine.
While all of the vrttis of the Anahata Vortex are related to the concept of self, half of them bind the identity to the limitations of self while the other half, the positive qualities, provide an impetus for the expansion of the phenomenal self. With vanity there is an embellishment and pride with the qualities that one identifies with in an attempt to establish one’s existential identity. The vrtti of selfishness is similar with its fixation on the qualities of the limited identity. However, with this tendency there is even more of a sharp and guarded egocentrism than with vanity.
Vanity is a limitation, but at the same time gives one a sense of pride and confidence with a belief in their self-efficacy. One can have a healthy personality with good qualities but still hold onto a little pride. Selfishness is more of a pathology in that the personality is lacking of true and meaningful qualities and instead of endeavoring to expand in soulful and meaningful ways, it fixes ones psychic energy exclusively on preserving the notion of self. A proud person can at times step outside of their boundaries and connect with others. This is more difficult for the selfish in that their self-concern and importance is not just to polish off and refine the personality. Rather it is a defense that helps to hold together the integrity of a weak ego structure.
Very often this vrtti is found to work in accordance with the vrttis of the second vortex. Resentment, compulsion, repression (of the 2nd vortex) are all propensities that hold together the integrity of the ego’s foundation. If the ego isn’t well integrated and the 3rd and 4th vortex vrttis haven’t integrated and compensated for the second vortex, then the 4th vortex personality will be very contracted. The potential for psychic expansion at the Anahata Vortex will be concentrated on the security of a fragile self- concept that is perpetually insecure. The character of such a person is often aloof, distrustful, and vacillates between a constrained emotional detachment and a repression of infantile tendencies and a compulsion to act upon them. One also maintains a very marked self-other boundary that keeps others at a safe distance.
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