There is another rather harmless mistake which happens regularly to beginners. Many of them are blessed with various glimpses of the higher life, which they have entered. These carry the stamp of a genuine change of consciousness, and of course the sadhaka is happy, and convinced that he has made real progress. There is no harm in it, because he soon has to face the fact that his ‘experience’ is fading away, never to return. When this happens again and again, he learns to understand these sparks as what they are, glimpses from another dimension which want to teach him to discriminate between, the different dimensions but which also lure him on in his spiritual endeavour. They only become a pitfall, when he, by vanity or impatience, gets stuck in one of them, taking it for final Realisation. Then his further progress is blocked.
The mark by which this pitfall is recognised is ‘I’ have realised… This ‘I’ can only be a ‘wrong I’, because it is not the ‘I’ that realises.
The duty of the sadhaka is to watch himself ceaselessly; he has to know what is going on within himself. There is a serious risk in doing this only when he looks too much at others. When he does, his ‘personal I’ at once makes comparisons; and the result will be: ‘I am holier than thou’.
With this idea he gives his ‘personal I’ a strong chance to develop into a ‘spiritual I’, which is much worse than his original quite ordinary ‘I’, strengthened by all his previous spiritual effort. The result is a spiritual pride, the worse the more advanced the sadhaka has become, because his attainments, serve only to confirm his ‘right’ to be proud of his success. But even if he perceives the gentle Voice from within, warning him against this trend going on in him and reminding him of the secret of real ‘attainment’, silent humility, and even if he is quite prepared to accept the warning, there is still the risk that the cunning ego now is concealing itself behind his pride in his humility!
There is only one remedy against these and all other pitfalls on the Path to Realisation: Alert Awareness, relentlessly focusing on the treacherous ego…I.
Luckily the sadhaka is not left alone in his secret struggle against himself on his lonesome journey towards his high destination. How could he ever reach It. Were It not already within himself? And It never fails to send signals of warning when the traveller is nearing a pitfall or has even been caught by one due to inadvertance.
His is a journey like that in fairy-tales, when the hero has to go through many adventures, to fight against many enemies and even demons, to win the princess at the end. The further he proceeds, the mightier the obstacles.
The most cunning pitfall on the path of the sadhaka is the last one, hidden in Realisation Itself.
The first Revelation of the Self is temporary. “Jnana, once revealed, needs time to steady itself.” (Talks, 141).
The danger is not in the sliding back; it is natural to most sadhakas and is met quite naturally by continuing one’s practice faithfully, which in its turn will lead to further Revelations of the Self until finally there is no sadhaka left, but the Self only.
If, on the other hand, the sadhaka tries to ‘hold on’ to that first Revelation, in spite of his Inner Guide warning him, (Who is holding on?), then the ego…I slinks again in where the Self is veiled again and distorts the Revelation of the Self into the cry of victory: ‘I have realised!’ Blindfolded by the Bliss of the final ‘success’ (‘whose success?’) he never stops to scrutinize his condition and thus never finds out the truth: That he became a yogabhrastha, one who has fallen out of his yoga, his ‘union’.
The new and definitive disguise of his ego…I is ‘the Guru’, and this last and most powerful pitfall never releases him, because he never recognises that he is its victim.
There are nowadays many whose Guru-pitfall caught them even much earlier on their path.
Excerpt From Hunting the ‘I’, Obstacles and Pitfalls, pages 38-40
Two related posts can be found at Awakening Before Enlightenment and Enlightenment, Before, During and After.