Robin Stevens, New Zealand

When the words nirvana, samadhi, liberation art spoken we all think, 'Yes, man! That's where I want to be!'. We all want to escape from the dross and the rubbish that most of us carry around. The neuroses, the hang-ups, the anger, the vanity, the greed, the lust, all of these block our way on the road to enlightenment. All of us would like to dump these things right away if we could, but as we all know, it's not as easy as that. Many people turn to the spiritual life to escape from all those things which they do not like within themselves. That they should do so is only natural, but often when we begin to tread the spiritual path we become dichotomized. We become split. One side of us desperately wants to go deeper and deeper into the spiritual life and to give up everything; the other side wants to enjoy all the worldly attachments to which we as human beings are heir. Often we begin to deny all the emotions and feelings which we normally think of as being bad, and unfortunately, because of our religious culture, we tend to classify these as sinful.

As we tread the spiritual path, experiencing the more negative things, we either deny them altogether or, if we acknowledge them, then we only do so to the minimal extent, refusing to look at them closely. So we become split into two souls, or even many souls. The good, the spiritual side of us always trying to develop, is often denied, repressed or suppressed. This denial brings about alienation. Our true self is divided and scattered. We are not whole, we are not together, we are not in union with ourselves. If we experience anger, greed, lust, or any other negative emotion, we say to ourselves, 'I shouldn't feel these things because I'm a practising yogi'. Therefore as these emotions do arise from time to time we never fully experience them. The very fact that we never fully experience them means that they stay with us. We find ourselves stumbling over them time and time again and we never get rid of them. This is not suggesting that we should openly express these feelings at all times, at all places, although this may be necessary for certain emotions sometimes. But at least we must be able to experience these things emotionally in utter and complete awareness. We must be able to acknowledge to ourselves, 'Here is anger, here is greed, here is vanity, and I am feeling them'. If we can do this, if we can have that utter and complete awareness of all that is negative in us as well as all that is good and pure, then we will begin to experience the dropping away, bit by bit, of all those things which we normally class as bad, wicked, or even sinful. These words have been used deliberately because they are often the terms by which we express these emotions. Perhaps we should try to use a new set of words or classifications for these experiences. Perhaps we should begin to see all emotions, all experiences, as either skilful or unskilful actions in our quest for enlightenment. If we begin to use this new classification, perhaps we can do away with quiet remorse, and be able to look at all our emotions in the light of full awareness. Then we may become more integrated, more whole, with the skilful and unskilful parts together. If we can achieve this, then maybe we can even begin to like and love ourselves, all of ourselves, the skilful and the unskilful. For unless we love ourselves we cannot love one another, let alone God or guru. When we achieve this sense of integration of every part of ourselves, then perhaps we shall find we are standing on the first rung of the ladder to enlightenment.