Letting Go on the path to Enlightenment

Ram Das, from paths to god: living the bhagavad gita

When we start to examine the self-definitions that make up the structure of our egos, we see that there seem to be different intensities to them, and that some of the modes feel much more deeply "us" than others do. So when it comes to letting go of them, some will be harder to work with than others. Maybe you'd find it easy to give up things like wealth and fame, for example. You might even find it possible to give up familial and social approval.

But what if we take it a step further: how about giving up pleasure? Are you ready for that? Pleasure? I mean, isn't that what the whole game's been about - to get the maximum pleasure for yourself as a seperate entity? But then you find that there are changes going on inside of you, changes that are leading you to identify yourself with something that sees pleasure as...just one more experience. That can be a scary moment.

The process of awakening brings you into a struggle with every habitual way you have of thinking about the universe, even the deepest ones, because every one of them has you locked into being some facet of who you think you are. "I'm somebody who's really getting along toward enlightenment, aren't I?" says the ego. Right up until the very last whisper, the ego is always lurking there, ready to play its next card. you've got to expect that battle will never be over until the last vestige of self is gone.

What often happens when we face this stripping away of our models is that we will give up this or that, and instead grab onto that and this. It's too uncomfortable not to have anything to cling to, and so we substitute a new set of attachments for the old ones. We give up family, we give up social forms - and we start clinging instead to spiritual leaders and spiritual forms. Uh-uh. It's all gotta go. Big clearance, everything must go.

That doesn't mean we have to give up everything at once; we can give things up as we come to not need them quite so badly anymore. And it doesn't mean we can't use spiritual forms; we just have to remember as we are using them that sooner or later they're going to have to go, too.

Knowing all that makes us feel very vulnerable: there's no authority we can turn to, nobody to tell us what to do. We can only keep turning to our hearts, listening to what feels like the right next move. We have nothing to hold on to.