Ego Traps on the Spiritual Path

The Ego is a terrible Trap

Most of us fall prey to this at some point or another.  It’s when we let ourselves delve into the ego.  The ego and spirit life are diametrically opposed.  By emphasizing the ego – we identify with “the self” what distinguishes us from others.  What makes us special and others not.  What makes someone superior and us inferior.  All of that stuff, is ego identification.  Every spiritual path of the East says the same thing here: This “self” is an illusion.  The ego is a delusion.
Each spiritual path (at it’s core teaching) seeks to destroy the ego identification.
Recently I was looking at a book on Taoism.  When I read the reviews I was somewhat shocked.  The negative reviews were incredible.  They were dripping with ego.
This became a object lesson for me, and I felt I should write about it.  I am thankful for the ego driven reviews. Without such, I may not have seen my own ego reflected back at me.
There is nothing wrong with having an opinion.  There is nothing wrong with feeling a book wasn’t good, but when that feeling is encrusted in ego – it serves no one and harms many – most of all yourself.
The Ego tricks you into thinking you’re smarter then the writer. That you need “meat and not milk” of spiritual teaching.  That you need complexity and proper grammar and graduate level writing styles.  The ego makes you write arrogance and flippantly disregard spirituality as written, for something conceptualized in your intellect (solidifying the delusion that WE (I) am smarter than THEY.)

An Example

Take this book on Amazon for example: The Tao of Daily Life
I have no vested interest in the book. I was thinking of buying it – for the most part it’s a 5 star book… with over 80 5 star ratings… but there were a few hold outs.  A one star and a two star and a few 3 star reviews… The things the negative reviewers said were shocking for a spiritual book review.
Go to the link above and look at the 1, 2 and 3 star reviews.  Specifically the 1 and 2 star reviews.  These are pretty harsh and focused on aspects outside the spiritual nature of the book. The focus of these reviews is about elements that would tickle the reviewers ego “It’s too simple!” or “the writing style doesn’t meet my standards…
Do you see the ego in the following review excerpts?
J.Hall writes, “So long as you can think for yourself, you might enjoy a couple of the stories. I might have bought this in a bookstore, but probably would not have done so. Three stars. It is now filed in the trash with my nail clippings … Pointless to read twice.   P.S. This book is not an introduction to Taoism.
oregonzen writes, “The author attempts to explain the Taoist stories in a simple way to the reader. He goes overboard by making them TOO simple.    This is the most dumbed-down, American-ized, McDonald-ized book on Taoism ever. If you are seriously interested in Taoism or Eastern philosophy please pass on this book. If you are able to think for yourself at all, pass on this book. I got absolutely nothing good from it and could not read more than a few chapters–it was that bad.
kcolorado writes, “A simple, profound, and important message but delivered in a distracting writing style filled with clichés and mediocre platitudes….. I believe this is Mr. Lin’s good intent– and in this, he is praiseworthy. However, authors make a living by selling their works and this book was a complete waste of my money and time. I will continue to search for other Tao books with credible (and properly cited) writing that doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence. I have to question why this work received a glowing and solid 5-star rating. I can only give it 2 stars.
Each of the reviewers indicates the book in question did not meet their high intellectual or spiritual standards. They expected more. It was just too simple.  The last excerpt above is the most confusing.  They state that the book was simple, profound and important but it wasn’t written to a skill level that matched their own.  In other words, the writing style trumps the message. That’s crazy.
Can you see any spirituality in their comments?  I can not.  I do see the ego.  I (as you most likely) can recognize ego, because we have Ego.  We see what we have.

What’s the Point

If I have ego issues, what’s the point in me bringing up the ego of others?
My point isn’t to judge such people, but to point out the mistake I and others have made – identifying with our ego’s to judge others mercilessly.

Truth is Simple

The reality is that truth is ALWAYS found in simplicity.  Jesus is attributed to saying that unless we become like children we will not find the Kingdom of God – inferring we must be simple as children to understand TRUTH.
The great Buddhist saint Shantideva taught simply as well, for example: “We need not cover the world in leather, we need just enough for our feet.”

Taoism is not about Intellect

Each of the reviews above, were reviewing a book on the Tao, and judging the book as not meeting their intellectual standards.  But Taoism from my research is opposed to understanding something by intellect!
From this site, we have this quote:

Like Hinduism and Buddhism, Taoism is interested in intuitive wisdom, rather than in rational knowledge…. Mistrust of conventional knowledge and reasoning is stronger in Taoism than in any other school of Eastern philosophy. It is based on the firm belief that the human intellect can never comprehend the Tao. In the words of Chuang Tzu,
The most extensive knowledge does not necessarily know it; reasoning will not make men wise in it. The sages have decided against both these methods.
Chuang Tzu’s book is full of passages reflecting the Taoist’s contempt of reasoning and argumentation. Thus he says,
A dog is not reckoned good because he barks well, and a man is not reckoned wise because he speaks skillfully and Disputation is a proof of not seeing clearly.

In other words, they deviated from Taoism, to write a review on a Taoist book.  They weren’t even true to what they claim to represent.  What they really represent is ego and intellect.
To the reviewer who complained of the writing style not being a college graduate level, they should read Chuant Tzu’s quote above:

A dog is not reckoned good because he barks well, and a man is not reckoned wise because he speaks skillfully and Disputation is a proof of not seeing clearly.

When we go looking for the complex – we are turning to the ego.  The intellect identifies with Ego.  It says “this isn’t as smart as me.”  The Ego is “me.”  The ego says “I am greater than so and so” and “I am less than this other person…” The ego is the danger. It is the self deception.  It tells you that you are spiritual, when you are not.  It leads you to failure all the time telling you how successful and smart you are.
Am I saying that you have to love this book or other books? No, not at all.   I am saying however, that by writing reviews like so, we clearly see our real problem. The problem isn’t with the book, but ourselves. I’ve written reviews like they have… and I’m ashamed of it.
I thank the reviewers, for opening my own mind to my failures with ego.  By seeing theirs, I recognized my own in some of my past reviews.

How To Tell the Difference Between Ego and Mind

If one were to meditate for a length of time, and truly succeed at removing thought, or centering and entering a state of peace.  Then in that state, to then review a book, I’m confident we wouldn’t write such things.  We would see the work differently.  We wouldn’t make assumptions about what “we know” or “what we expect,” but be more concerned with how others may benefit.
We certainly wouldn’t write arrogant statements about throwing the book in with our nail clippings.

Be Grateful

Be grateful for the Ego in these reviews.  They provide a mirror for us.  We can only see what we are afflicted with.  We see Ego, because we have Ego.  Do we treat others like they treated this author?  Do we?  Do I?
Honestly, yes.  Even recently I was arrogant, condescending and rude to someone over a sales order.  I made a big stink and wrote a nasty review of their services making snide comments left and right.
When I came to this book and saw the ego ridden negative reviews, I was flashed with my own recent mistakes of ego.
I am grateful to have read what I read, it illuminated my mind to what is real within me and what I should be working on daily.

2 thoughts on “Ego Traps on the Spiritual Path”

  1. I read your review of The Tao of Daily Life. Actually, I read your review of the negative reviewers.I really think that you made alot of sense. Your recent discovery of your own ego surfacing in a harsh review about a sales order made me laugh. Oh, that is me too! I want to try so much to live in the moment and leave the ego shell at the door. Yet I slip up time after time. I would tell you that you seem to be doing well recognizing when your ego is talking. But then that might inflate your ego? Still, good, thoughtful review of a typical negative review you see often! Good job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *