Lester Levenson: Letting go of ego

Letting go of ego, Part 1

Recorded on May 19, 1966

I guess the best way to start is with an overall picture of our direction, in such a way that it embraces those who have been here for some time and those who are here for the first time. I think all the questions that the philosophers ask and try to get the answer to, that the psychologists ask, but even the field of medicine asks, and the world of religion, are really asking the very same thing, approaching it from different angles. Everyone is seeking the answers. And if we sift out what is it that we’re all seeking, we put different names to it. Some people call it spiritual, some truth, some philosophy, wisdom, understanding. But the basic thing that everyone is seeking is very simple: it’s happiness. But it’s the ultimate happiness. It’s nothing mystical and nothing far and nothing complex. Every being is seeking pure and simple happiness so that there is no more sorrow.

So, the word I like best for our path is “the ultimate happiness.” The ultimate happiness, of course, is the ultimate truth of our beingness, the truth of the universe. And it turns out that there is only one ultimate truth. So, all of us are seeking this continuous happiness with never a taint of sorrow. Most people in the world, of course, are making the error of seeking it where it is not, and therefore not attaining it and becoming extremely frustrated, because the more they try to get it where they think it is, the more they discover that it isn’t there. In place of the happiness, they’re finding more and more discontent, more and more misery. We never had so much materially as we have now, and I don’t think we’ve ever been so unhappy—at least in the past fifty years we haven’t—as we are today.

So, in seeking this ultimate happiness, one most important thing is necessary, and that is to have pointed out to us what this happiness is and how to get it. Now, as I said, it’s very simple. Truth, happiness, God, is simple. If it’s not simple, it’s not godly, it’s not truth, it’s not happiness; it’s an artificial complexity set up by man’s ignorance. So, again I say this whole direction we’re in is very simple.

Now the number-one thing preventing us from seeing what this ultimate happiness is, is our sense of egoity. So, opposed to this ultimate happiness, and the only thing stopping us from having this constant happiness with no sorrow, is the sense of separation: I am an individual separate from the all. Once we take on the sense of separation we seem to develop it more and more, and we keep pulling away from that ultimate happiness, the ultimate state, which in the beginning we were all in. And more and more we begin to believe that we are a limited mind, a limited body—so limited that we need a thing called oxygen to survive, or food, and so forth and so on.

This ultimate happiness that is the goal is something that never, ever really leaves us: it’s right within us all the time. But we cover it over with concepts of limitation, of being separate. And the more we do it, the more concepts we build up, until we get to the point where we are today—extremely overloaded with concepts of limitations.

How, then, do I seek thee, O Lord? For when I seek thee, my God, I seek a happy life. How, then, do I seek a happy life, since happiness is not mine till I can rightly say: “It is enough. This is it.” How do I seek it? Is it by remembering, as though I had forgotten it and still knew that I had forgotten it? Do I seek it in longing to learn of it as though it were something unknown, which either I had never known or had so completely forgotten as not even to remember that I had forgotten it? Is not the happy life the thing that all desire, and is there anyone who does not desire it at all? But where would they have gotten the knowledge of it, that they should so desire it? Where have they seen it that they should so love it? It is somehow true that we have it, but how I do not know. – St. Augustine (Confessions, ch. xx)

Now this ultimate joy that we are seeking is our natural state; it’s the natural state of all mankind. To get this ultimate happiness which is our natural state, all we need to do is to let go of the obstructions that we have set in the way of seeing what this happiness is. We have built up endless concepts of limitation over this unlimited being that we are naturally.

So, the simplicity of the direction is this: we are that natural unlimited being, possessing right now that unlimited joy, but covering it over with a sense of limitation called the ego. We need to rediscover what I just said. We need to rediscover it. It’s there. It’s there all the time. Well, how do we rediscover it? First we need someone to tell us that the direction is this way; someone must point out the direction. Secondly, we must look in that direction, and we must discover it for ourselves. No one can give it to us: we must see it. We must see it through our own mind’s eye. And when we do, we recognize that which we always were: an unlimited being with unlimited joy.

Now, the direction must be inwardly: it is not outwardly. Everything out there, we discover, is something that we have dreamed up, and then put a tag on it as being real. This world, this universe, we have dreamed it; and through accepting this dream for so long we think it’s real. So what we need to do is to turn our attention inwardly, to re-examine, rediscover what is the truth of everything. And as we do that we begin to see the falsity or the illusion of the world. And by getting concentrated in the inward direction, we see this infinite being that we are.

So, the path resolves itself into two things: one, seeing this infinite being that we are, and two, seeing the limitations we have superimposed over it and letting go of them.

Letting go of ego, Part 2

So,  to repeat what I said, to attain this unlimited happiness, the direction is pointed out to us. We must take it by going inwardly and rediscovering this wonderful, unlimited, ever-joyful being that we are.

The time it takes us to do this is determined by one thing only: the intensity of our desire for it. If we are convinced that our joys lie in the world, we will never, ever attain this happiness; we will always be with much misery. But when we accept, and then begin to prove, that the joys are just our natural state, are not attached to anything out there, then our life begins to become more joyful, and we can, with more conviction, take the right direction. It seems that at first the thing that drives us in this direction is the thing called misery. We go so far in the wrong direction that we just can’t stand it anymore, and because of the misery we are driven to seeking happiness elsewhere than in the world. When we begin to receive the fruits of our search and we begin to feel these joys that we have never experienced before, then the mere joy of the path is what will give us the intensity of the drive in the right direction.

We also discover that this path cannot be a part-time thing if we really want to make it. We have spent so many centuries, so much time, going in the wrong direction that it takes a superhuman effort now to redirect us into the right direction.

So, again, the whole thing is simple. We are that infinite unlimited joy we are seeking. We are that God that we are seeking. We must turn within and discover that. When we do, we know it and we hold on to it. Then we go through the process of continuing the elimination of all the concepts of limitation, all the ego-concepts, until we are fully established in that high exalted state of beingness.

I believe the only reason why I should be here is to help, that if I can’t help, there’s no reason for my being here. I believe every one of us has been with the path for quite some time. I wouldn’t like to be in the position where I’m talking about the subject. Talking about the subject is an obstacle on the path. What should happen here is that each one moves forward, and very definitely moves ahead. If that doesn’t happen, I see no reason for my being here, because we can all read. Almost everything I’ll say you can read it in books found somewhere. There’s nothing new on the subject of truth. It’s eternal; it always was, it always will be the same. So the thing that’s different—or I hope is different—is that there is something effected here, that something will happen to give us more realization than we had before we came here.

I believe the general approach to the subject that I have is called advaita, or in English, non-duality, which can also be translated as oneness. And that there’s only one singular method of growth: that that one method of growth is letting go of our ego. Now, egoity is the sense of separation: I am an individual. And once I become an individual I am separate from the whole, or the all. This sense of egoity is what starts all our trouble, all our delusion. So we must get back to the place where we again see that we are the only One, with a capital ‘O’. In truth there’s no such thing as growing into full realization. And that is because we are now, we always have been, we always will be that infinite being called God or the Self. That’s one thing we cannot get away from: we are That. “I am what I am.” That’s the changeless part of us. We cover that over with a sense of being a separate individual.

So, growth consists only of letting go of our ego. And I hope that through these meetings we do that more—more so than we have done before. We are that infinite being here and now. We are blinding ourselves to it by saying, “I, the infinite being, am a limited ego”; “I, the infinite being, am separate from the infinity.” We must change those concepts, let go of them. I hope to bring out ways and means of sensing the ego operating in us, ways and means that we can use to point out to ourselves when we are being ego-motivated. And each and every time that we are, if we let go of it, we are letting go of a bit of ego. If we keep this going from here until the end, we eventually get to the place where there is no more ego left. And where the ego is not, there God is. There the infinite Self is left in its pure, pristine beingness. So all that we do is remove the cover.

If we lose our sense of egoity in the state we are in now, we save ourselves millions of years of growing on the higher planes. To be in a higher astral realm, or a causal realm, or the highest of realms, we still need a sense of separation, a sense of egoity. We need a sense of a higher body. And one of the greatest, most wonderful things about the state we are in now is that it allows us to go all the way back home, right to the very top. Even the gods, the angels, cannot do what we can do. We can go all the way by completely losing the sense of being an ego.

Letting go of ego, Part 3

I try to bring out the very highest of teachings; I like to start from the top. If we ever expect to know the truth, we must start with the truth and reason from there. We can’t get to the truth from the falsity, the lie, the reality of the world as most people see it. If we try to grow from this world up to the truth, it just won’t work, because we’re starting with the lie and trying to reason from there. We must start reasoning with the truth. Now the truth is the absolute One, the changeless. That which never changes is true. If it changes, it wasn’t true in the first place—it changed. So we define truth as that which never changes. So, if we reason, we should start with the one infinity, as being the all, and reason from there.

Now, as we go on, I believe the various methods of seeing our ego will come out. And the general method we have used has not been my talking as much as my answering questions. And if I answer a question I always try to answer by letting the answer come from within.

Neither be you called teachers (καθηγηται); for the One is your teacher, even of the Annointed One. (Matthew 23: 8-10)

And if I do that it will bring out the ego behind the questioner. Or, sometimes we’ll put the question right into the Self. And very often the answer is put in such a way as to provoke thinking rather than answer the question. Unfortunately we all know that questions can’t really be answered for us, that each one must answer the question himself or herself. So my method of answering questions very often might seem kind of odd, in that it’s not direct: it’s roundabout. Or it’s provoking. But the purpose is to make obvious to the one asking the ego-motivation, or the ego, so that he may see it, and if he chooses, let go of it.

When I come in, I sit down, I just know, I have a conviction, that “Thou art That.” And to the degree that I have this conviction, to that degree I help you to be in that mood, in that state. Now when we are in that state, we should recognize it. We should get to know that that is a very high state. And we shouldn’t try to relate that to our ego-world—it just doesn’t relate to it. It’s a calmness, it’s a peace, it’s a very delightful state, and there’s no sense of doing-ness, of having-ness when we are in that state. It’s just beingness. But that is the experiencing that we need to establish more and more until that is full and complete and only. And that’s what’s called full realization.

Another point about our teaching is that we like to get all the mystery out of it because it is basically so simple. “Thou art That”; “Stop trying to be not That” is the basic teaching. If we can recognize that state for what it is, we will get to the place where that remains, and then we automatically do, have, talk, and so forth. And we no more associate ourselves with the doing-ness, having-ness, and so forth.

But the silent teachings are the most effective of teachings. And this is the teaching that all the gurus give. This is one reason why they’re mostly not in body. Because when they are in body, most of us attribute egoity to them, because they have a body to us and they eat and they sleep and so forth. When they don’t have a body, we give them more credit that is due them. And they try to teach us via the silent method. And to the degree that we can accept it, to that degree we receive it from them

It’s the stilling of the whirlpools of thought; it’s quieting thought. When there is no more thought, that is called realization. All thought is motivated by the ego. When there is no more ego, there’s no more thought. It’s the ego that, being separate from the all, thinks it needs things. When we are the all, there’s nothing we need. If there’s a desire, there’s something we don’t have: that’s the ego. So, it’s the ego we need to let go of.


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