Personal Growth - The Delusion of Superiority
by Ashok Gollerkeri
One of the most dangerous delusions that one can have is the feeling that one is intrinsically superior to another. This is a dangerous delusion because it combines two delusions within itself: one, it is an assertion of the stubbornly persistent delusion of separateness, of being a separate creature cut off from the rest of creation and, two, it is the delusion and arrogance of one human being's assumption of intrinsic superiority over another or over other creatures and the rest of creation.
A closer scrutiny will help us to see the shallowness and unreality of the deeply embedded notion of separateness within us and the resultant notion of intrinsic superiority of one over another. Man is not superior or special, nor are human beings born to rule the earth. The rest of creation is not created subservient to man merely to serve his ends.
It is absolutely true that one is, in a day-to-day sense, a separate creature on this planet. However, it is equally true that one cannot exist independent of the earth and its ecosystem, an existence that includes innumerable living organisms and environmental factors in an exquisite unity of creation. Thus, one's own existence is, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, inextricably interlinked with the world around us, with plants, animals, the air we breathe, the water we drink and so on.
Each of us is an organism that is integrated with the larger environment. One's very birth is possible because of two individuals who existed before one. One's life is sustained by the care and support of numerous individuals. One's bodily existence is dependent on the availability of air, water, food, shelter, optimum temperature, rest, sleep and so on. When one dies, this bundle of matter that we call one's body, this ever-changing flux of matter and energy that we confuse with a constant personal identity, this body, bites the dust. It merges with the earth and its contents become a part of the great food chain in nature. It merely becomes fertilizer for plants and food for animals.
Thus, from beginning to end, from one's very origins to one's final exit, in bodily terms, each of us is not merely a separate creature, not an isolated fragment within nature; rather, each of us is an integral, inseparable part of the whole of creation. Thus, in the larger sense, separateness is a delusion of consciousness that arises in the gap between the immediate perception of one's own body and the mediate perception (through the medium of the senses) of all other objects in the world. The body is assumed to be "I" and fears and hopes, likes and dislikes based on the pleasures and pains, attractions and aversions of the body set the stage for a life that is centered mainly around survival and focused mainly on pleasure.
As one's likes and dislikes become more subtle, as one learns to manipulate and control factors in one's own environment, one develops thought patterns that converge on a crystallized notion of a separate self. This is not merely physical, it is mental and intellectual, social and cultural; it is notional.
It begins with a name, the name one is given and the name one is identified by in the world. One tends to forget that the name merely identifies a form. One soon builds and weaves an identity around the name as expertly and as elaborately as a bird builds a nest. One uses the twigs of experiences and memories, the leaves of parentage and lineage, the hay of education, ideas and other notions to build the nest of assumed self-identity. This is then identified with as the center of one's being, as "I". One may think of oneself as clever or stupid, beautiful or ugly, or many subtle and complex shades in between. In innumerable permutations and combinations, shades and complexities, each one of us builds his own intricate nest. Here are hatched the eggs of one's deepest beliefs and thoughts and from these emerge the patterns of our destiny, the birds of one's thoughts, words and deeds which fly out in the world.
Thus, in the realm of the body and the realm of the mind, by forces of nature and nurture, one is confined to the separate self. The vast realm of awareness lies as the unseen observer within oneself. This sense of separateness is not a delusion in the mundane sense of reality as we experience it in our daily lives. The sense of separateness is reality in a daily, experiential sense but it is a partial reality, a sense of reality that shackles and limits one's creativity, insight, serenity and joy.
To discover one's potential beyond every kind of barrier and limitation, one needs to break these barriers.
This is the crucial point. The self is realistically experienced as separate in its daily bodily sense and in its relational aspect of being one creature amidst many on this planet. Yet, in its transcendent aspect, in a realm of the spirit beyond thought, in its tireless thirst and quest for an unending bliss, in its utterly quiet moments amidst total serenity and stillness, the curtain of separateness falls, disclosing an identity that is at once immediate and personal, yet vast and open, unshackled and free.
This is a state of realization of total unity within oneself and with the environment. One is anchored in utter clarity and stillness, total peace and joy, and the fear and sorrow emanating from the notion of separateness disappear like a dream.
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