RYS 200, 300, 500 in Rishikesh
Is so called good moral values a requirement for spiritual progress? Or is it an obstacle? Or perhaps just a natural consequence of a heightened state of being, of spiritual development... something that follows rather than precedes? Breaking through the illusion of right and wrong can be a challenge for many seekers. I'm not talking about right and wrong from the heart, but about right and wrong from the mind. Does goodness based on a concept of morality, an idea of duality where the world is divided up in saints and sinners have any value?
How many people do you honestly know who do good without wanting anything? Who doesn't have a hidden agenda? Are you yourself doing so called good deeds from your heart or is it really about maintaining and protecting a self-image, because someone once told you that it's what good boys and girls do? And you accepted this statement as a truth, didn't you? But it was always some reward at the end of that goodness, right? A piece of candy, a hug, or a promise of heaven. Would the incitament for being good be the same if there would've been nothing in it for you? As you grew up, the idea of good and bad grow just like your backbone and it became less about the candy or heaven and more about your self image, isn't that right? The other evening I was seated next to a guy during a dinner. I hadn't met him before but by the end of the evening he had painted a really nice picture of himself as a good guy; selfless, good hearted, generous etc. but somehow I was utterly unimpressed. A really good person doesn't even reflect on whether his actions are good or bad, because he is not identified with them so there's no way he can brag about them, is there? It would be meaningless for him to brag, wouldn't it?
Let's time out and admit it; most of us give beggars a coin not because our hearts are filled with empathy, but because we feel noble doing it. There are of course exceptions, but I do believe that good deeds are often selfish when you flip the coin, if you dare to admit it. We feel strong when someone else is weaker and we keep confirming our self-image.
A few months ago I was on the subway and a beggar entered the train. I very seldom give money to beggars here, but by chance I happened to have a few coins laying loose in my pocket and I thought I might as well give them to him. If I wrote that my heart was flooded with empathy at the sight of his poverty, I would lie to you. It was a completely intellectual and practical decision: "I've got some coins and I don't like loose coins in my pocket. This guy needs coins. Win-win, I'll give them to him and get rid of them!" or something like that. When the beggar came to the group of seats where I was, nobody moved a fen. Everybody was silent, looking out into the nothingness in the dark tunnel outside (common subway syndrom in Stockholm!). But the movement of my hand going into my pocket suddenly stirred the silence; quick glances were cast, insecurity filled the air and all of a sudden a few other people also started reaching into their pockets. Interesting isn't it? Why? One reason only: protection of self-image. You don't want to come across as cheap, right? If you keep your money you will experience a crack in the self-image you have created for yourself. The ego will suffer.
When you think about it, none of the enlightened people we know of have been good until after the enlightenment, isn’t it so? Instead, they have been outlaws and rebels; going against the norm of society of their time. They have been selfish in their search, made immense sacrifices, provoked and hurt a lot of people on their path… but we forget this and we tell generation after generation that to grow spiritually you need to be good. Nonsens! To grow spiritually you need not be good, you need to be bold and you need to question everything. You need to be the one asking the uncomfortable questions, daring to experiment with everything in life, shredding your self-image and be willing to lose yourself. Spiritual progress has nothing to do with being a good boy or a good girl, but about how willing you are to leave your comfort zone and break the boundaries. Travel back to the moment when you were at your center, unwritten...when you were neither good nor bad, when you simply were... and take it from there.