Egolessness and Detachment
December 21 2002
Meditation has been associated with the religious traditions of the world, such as Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, for thousands of years. Religious thinkers tend to see virtues as things you impose on yourself from the outside, a discipline. The "meditative" virtues are supposed to be egolessness, detachment and serenity. So these become qualities you are supposed to paint yourself with, so that you appear to others to be detached.
There are several problems with mistaking the side-effects of meditation for virtues to practiced. One is that this whole approach is stultifying and false, and deadens the very senses you need to be activated in order to have a powerful meditation. Exercising your ego, pursuing your passions, and experiencing your attachments is what makes you WANT to meditate and have the energy to go WAY into your inner world in meditation.
Detachment and egolessness are NOT virtues for most people. They are actually slightly dangerous side-effects of the large perspective on life that meditation gives you. Meditation is the direct experience of the vastness of life. This experience is accessible in every breath. When you expose yourself to the immensity of life, of course your little plans seem unimportant by comparison. Many meditators find themselves feeling slightly drunk for a year or two, because everything they previously thought was so important now seems so fleeting and vain.
If you find yourself feeling detached, encourage the opposite, attachment and involvement. If you find yourself feeling egoless, develop the opposite quality, which may feel like selfishness, all those energies of "I want this," "I want to go there," and "I don't want THAT." This could be called your preference structure, or your passion.
Balance IS a virtue. Attachment and Detachment, Ego and Egolessness, are two of many paired opposites that need to be balanced in your life. In meditation, your body and mind will spontaneously work to develop that balance, unless you interfere. And it is not up to you, or to your friends, to decide whether you need your ego reduced or not, any more than you should arbitrarily decide that you need your thyroid levels reduced, your blood pressure reduced, or your brain waves slowed.
By the way, detachment and egolessness ARE virtues for monks, nuns, and other professionally religious people. Look around you: if you are wearing robes, and live in a convent or ashram, then ignore what I am saying. Also, if you do not meditate, or do not meditate enough to really immerse your being in infinity, then go ahead and cultivate attitudes that make you seem as if you have been meditating. There is no harm in it.