Thursday, 6 October 2016

Afflictions of the Ego : Part - 3

11. Love and Hate
First of all, we have nebulous terms here, so let’s define them. Love and hate are emotions, i.e. internal actions. The internal act that simulates pleasure and security is seen and felt as love, and the internal act that simulates pain and insecurity is hate. Love results in external actions that show attraction or attachment towards the agent causing love, while hate results in repulsion or fear or anger and ultimately in violence. So we can base them on the now familiar pleasure/pain and reward/punishment mechanisms of the Mind. The actions originating from love or hate aid in survival and also add spice to the human experience. All actions of love and hate are perfect, nothing needs to be done about them, however, if one wants to lessen the suffering they eventually cause, one needs to know them intimately. These, like other Egoic tendencies, can turn into afflictions when not controlled consciously. There is no doubt about extreme hate being an affliction of the Ego, but some people may not like to call extreme love an affliction because of it being a positive emotion. Note that any activity of the Ego can go out of hand and become an affliction, including positive ones.

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Isn’t love a function of higher Mind, an evolved and superior behaviour that distinguishes us from animals? No, love is primal, animals are capable of it as well, especially mammals. Anyone who has pets or children knows it as a fact. So it is an Egoic tendency and fits our beloved carrot and stick model of the Ego. Love is the carrot and hate is the stick. Anything or anyone that aids in survival becomes an object of love and things or people that are a threat become object of hate. Attraction towards stuff that ensures survival and procreation, and repulsion from stuff that threatens them or lessens their chances, become Egoic tendencies. They are very effective in the matter of survival to say the least. Why do we club them together? Because they are essentially the same - attempts of the Ego to ensure survival.

In the case of human Mind, love and hate do take finer forms, those of likes and dislikes, preferences and inclinations. We have already discussed these. In its finest form love appears as universal love which has no opposite. This is commonly known as the Unconditional Love, and I will adopt that word as it is to describe it. Just to make a clear distinction, one can use the phrase Egoic Love to refer to tendencies related to the survival. For the purpose of this discussion the word love means Egoic Love and this is intentional just to break the strange beliefs people associate with love.

Intense love does not measure, it just gives.
- Mother Teresa

Likes and dislikes seem to be higher functions but most of them can be traced back to the survival needs. There are exceptions, e.g. liking mathematics has no obvious survival advantages and same for liking art or meditation. However such activities do produce a reward in the form of finer pleasure and appear as beauty and joy. Likes and dislikes can be seen as refined forms of love and hate, and they appear to be internal actions of higher Mind (newer human layers). When seen from the point of view of the Self, the love becomes Unconditional Love. It arises as an awareness of oneness, when all experiences are seen as movements of the Self itself. So all objects, events, creatures and people are seen as Self. The Unconditional Love is the purest form of love. As we descend into matter, Unconditional Love takes on more and more impure forms, however all are just an awareness, a knowledge of oneness (non-duality) of everything. When we love, that’s what we are trying to do – unite with the loved one via external means.

So we can draw a hierarchy based on purity as follows:

Expression of Unity
Self Unconditional Love
Higher Mind Likes and dislikes
Ego Love and hate
Body Pleasure and pain
Programs Reward and punishment
Structural activities Control systems
Structures Physical rule sets

Note that there is no opposite for Unconditional Love, as the Self is one and whole, but as soon as we enter the domain of Mind, we find opposites. It again becomes non-dual once we leave the domain of Mind into matter. (strictly speaking matter is only a more static mental structure, as we have seen in earlier articles, in other words, less lively). By control systems I mean the simple positive and negative biases one finds in any electrical or mechanical system.

Before discussing the afflictions of love and hate, I’d like to clear up the differences between love and Unconditional Love, so that we are on the same page. For many the concept of Unconditional Love is new, just like the concept of non-duality. So here we go –

Egoic Love Unconditional Love
Is an impure form of Unconditional Love Is Self itself, the pure unity or oneness of Presence
Based on pleasure and pain, and so has an opposite – the hate Non-dual
A behaviour that assists in survival An attribute of the Presence itself
Originates from the needs Originates from the knowledge that everything is just Self, there is no separation of any kind
Needs an agent to trigger, vanishes in absence of it Has no beginning or end, eternally present
Exclusive to the object of love All inclusive. It is seen as love for everything
The person become indifferent towards other things or other people whom he does not love The person shows no indifference towards anyone or anything, he acts in exactly the same manner with all
Objects or people are seen as sources of pleasure and happiness Objects and people are seen as receivers of love, the person himself is the source
Easily turns into hate when the person does not get the love and happiness in return Remains as strong as before, it demands nothing
Conditional by very nature Absolutely unconditional
The person in love tends to become possessive and restricts the object of love Non-possessive, takes no ownership, respects freedom of others and remains free
Is about give and take Is about just giving, takes nothing, lacks nothing
The person gets easily attached and dependent on the object of love Remains detached and independent
Causes suffering and pain when the object of love is gone Remains peaceful and happy as ever, has nothing to do with the objects or people
Forms relations and bonds, tries to keep others tied Does not form bonds, needs no relations, no names for relations, needs nothing at all
When bonded in relations, the person demands love, care, security, resources, time or money. Demands anything that ensures survival Demands are non-existent, instead the person serves others selflessly. Remains friendly and helpful in all situations
Love becomes an expression of lust when in sexual relations, a means of fulfilling procreative tendencies of the Ego Knows no gender, is same for all, irrespective of gender, age, locality, time. Has nothing to do with Ego and its functions, or bodies.
Has degrees of intensity from neutral to extreme love Is same always, cannot be quantified or weighed, doesn’t increase or decrease
Has degrees of quality from extreme hate to extreme obsession Is always of same quality and purity
Evokes actions that either enhance love or maintain it Nothing needs to be done
Results in jealously when the exclusiveness is threatened Since it is all inclusive, all are an object of love
Is fickle, easily changes from one object to the other, or one person to the other Is changeless, since all remain as Self all the time
The person is always afraid of the loss of loved object or person Is fearless, there are no objects or people
Causes anger when the expectations are not met Has no expectations
The loved person is forced to comply with the expectations, however inconvenient, in order to maintain the love (or relation) The person is always free, no one can force him, he gives nothing and takes nothing
Deteriorates with the age and looks of the beloved Does not depend on the structures, mental or physical
Is impulsive Is actionless
Is subject to P2P (continuous exposure to the loved object or person causes indifference eventually) Always remains steady, does not change with mental states
The beloved manipulates the lover in order to get the needs fulfilled A receiver of the love gets nothing except love, there is nothing else to give
Modulates one’s actions, influences decisions Remains uninfluenced and conscious
Tries to change the other to suit his needs better Accepts everyone as they are, sees perfection in all
Sees love as an achievement, competes to get more, its about getting more and more Has an unlimited love already for all, its about giving more and more
Is a sign of ignorance Is a sign of knowledge and wisdom

The list is long and can be longer, but you get the point. Now it should be easy to see how love is just another Egoic tendency and when it goes rogue it becomes an affliction. Hate has more potential to turn into an affliction obviously. Hate evolved as an ancient memory that kept track of one’s enemies. When one sees an enemy or a competitor, one is filled with hate automatically, this has an advantage for survival, as one tends to either avoid the enemy or kills him off if one finds an opportunity there. It helps to remember who is who. In modern times, hate continues and gets extended to whole groups and countries, not only individuals. Strange biases extend hate to objects, foods, acts and even beliefs of others. This has obvious implications when suffering is concerned. The person who suffers most is none other than the hater himself. The negativity, anger, fear, insecurity and anxiety consume him. He finds no peace, no happiness, even when surrounded by finest luxury and mates.

Love causes suffering too. It augments suffering because it gets contrasted with the extreme happiness that results from love. So the person we love most causes most pain when things go southwards. The hate that originates from failed love has no parallels. Things that we love give us most pain when impermanence consumes them. People and relatives whom we attach to leave us full of sorrow when they die. Love lives in a constant fear of loss. Little glimpses of pleasure keep it alive. It struggles to stand in the torrents of impermanence, it is too fragile and artificial. A person in love (or hate) takes irrational and impulsive decisions and his actions are coloured by these intense emotions. Mindless actions always result in suffering, as a rule. As we have seen above, the Unconditional variety is immune from such disadvantages.

 When you love someone, you love the person as they are, and not as you'd like them to be.
- Leo Tolstoy

In addition to self-suffering, love causes suffering for others. The object of love soon becomes an object of manipulation. As the love is based on needs, it demands stuff from the other. Just like our loved animals are caged, leashed and fed on our laps, a person is held hostage by the lover in his cage of love. We demand most from the person we love most. It is seen as a privilege for some odd reason. Failure to meet the demands and expectations usually means the end of love and start of hate (and perhaps a new love affair). A person in love rarely has any other option but to comply. This is his reason of suffering, he suffers as long as he remains in the bondage of a “loving relation.”

In human world, the words “I love you” easily get you a mate. It is easy to disguise one’s lust under the fluffy, warm, happy and secure mask of love. No surprise that coupling becomes “making love”. When one does not get his needs fulfilled, one lacks “love”, tries to get it from others. Failure to get it means more suffering. A large part of human life is devoted to achieving love and maintaining the relations that form around this need.

By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.
- Socrates

The lack of love often starts early in childhood, when it is needed most. An unloved child grows up as an indifferent person, heartless and devoid of emotions. Isn’t that an ideal condition? Well, obviously not. The progress lies in maturing of Ego, not in elimination of it. The whole point of human experience is to go through all these experiences, know them directly and transcend them. Nothing is learnt if you simply bypass them. When after years and years of running after love and burning in hate, if a person remains a slave of these tendencies, then one can safely conclude that he has not progressed even an inch. The maturity in the personality comes after transcending the Egoic tendencies. In the absence of such tendencies there is no opportunity to overcome them, and no learning or knowledge takes place. One must touch the fire to know how hot it is.

So how to overcome these afflictions? It should be easy to recognize them because of their intensity. Once you have tasted them enough, see them as clouds floating in the clear sky of the ever present Self. Turn the love into Unconditional Love. The hate disappears on its own. It is a piece of cake for those who abide in the Self. What about those who are still seeking and those who have no path at all? It helps to cultivate Detachment and Forgiveness. Forgiving destroys hate. Forgiving does not mean forgetting or accepting defeat, it is just removal of hate from one’s own Mind, nothing to do with others. Detachment does not mean indifference. Indifference means an absence of love, detachment means a presence of knowing. See that love is just a means to gain what one lacks. When one lacks nothing, the need should disappear and instead one starts giving in a non-attached way. Expect nothing in return when you love, and it will soon turn into Unconditional Love, a source of eternal joy and peace.

Love expects no reward. Love knows no fear. Love Divine gives - does not demand. Love thinks no evil; imputes no motive. To Love is to share and serve.    
- Swami Sivananda

12. Self-Pity
One of the strategies of Ego to ensure survival is to seek the help of others. It may seem OK indeed, humans, especially civilized ones do help each other in survival or in any other matter, and this is also a higher function of the Mind (aka Cooperation), but the Ego uses a more primitive function to achieve this, namely that of pity. When we see someone in a bad or dangerous situation, we tend to extend our help. This has obvious survival advantages for the whole group and thus this behaviour has evolved into an Egoic tendency.

This is a social tendency, obviously, one cannot ask for help if one is all alone. Well one can, if the object of pity is oneself, and it is here that this useful tendency turns into an affliction. The Ego learns very early in its infantile days, that it gets ample attention, affection and things such as food, toys or security etc. whenever it is suffering. Everyone around a child rushes to fulfill his demands whenever he is under strain. When he shows no signs of suffering, he is usually left alone. This behaviour of others gets impressed deeply on the Ego, so much so that it continues into adulthood. The Ego occasionally fakes suffering in order to get whatever it wants from others. But that behaviour comes under deception. Self-pity is an attempt of the Ego to evade real suffering by turning itself into a victim of suffering.

As you must have guessed, we are into the domain of borderline psychoses here. I shouldn’t go there, but this behaviour is so common that it is not generally considered a mental illness until it becomes acute. Such a person is always in depression, loses all desire to act and becomes suicidal. Instead of trying to get out of the suffering, he embraces it, identifies with it and even feels it as an essential part of his life. The self-pity provides a kind of false support to the Ego, as it tries to emulate the past, somehow expecting a support. The Ego perpetuates it, refuses external help and even perceives those trying to help as threats.

Self-pity is caused by major suffering such as childhood traumas, abuse, failures, failed relations and extreme poverty etc. Whatever is the cause, such a person engages in odd behaviour. If one is mostly sad, plays the "poor me" game often, hates others generally, tries to evade help and falls into the trap of substance abuse or odd beliefs (such as "I'm cursed" etc.), then one can conclude that he is afflicted with self-pity.

 I don't want it to end, and so, as every therapist knows, the ego does not want an end to its “problems” because they are part of its identity. If no one will listen to my sad story, I can tell it to myself in my head, over and over, and feel sorry for myself, and so have an identity as someone who is being treated unfairly by life or other people, fate or God. It gives definition to my self-image, makes me into someone, and that is all that matters to the ego.
― Eckhart Tolle

It can be very difficult to come out of self-pity, external help is needed. If one has some inkling of his situation, a hint by a friend or direct pointing out by a teacher whom he respects, can trigger a recovery. Note that sympathizing with such a person makes things worse. One can get rid of self-pity by getting rid of the underlying suffering or past traumas. Without the support of the underlying structures, the Ego loses its hold on it. We learn a very important thing by studying such borderline psychoses, which is - the Ego is a very powerful thing and should not be underestimated. There is a reason majority of the humanity is under its strong grip. Self-pity is only a sample of what Ego can do to a person, there exists a full gamut of psychoses, neuroses and mental disorders, most of which can be traced to Ego. The conundrum is, you can't survive without an Ego and you can't be totally free with it.

The primary task for a seeker is to learn the nuts and bolts of Ego and to enslave it. This is depicted in ancient renderings of great Yogis, where we can see them sitting on the skin of a tiger, or even riding a tiger. Tiger being a symbol for the Ego, lower Mind, animalistic tendencies, and their strength. It should be obvious from such symbolism that taming of the Ego is a major achievement in itself. We are struggling with the abnormalities of the Ego since ages, and it still wins most of the time.

I can think of more abnormalities of the Ego such as patriotism (a tribal tendency), religious associations and warfare (again tribal) and the oddness of parental, sibling and other procreative tendencies. But that will be straying too far from the main theme and interested readers shall find good content online or in books that covers Ego in more detail. We now move on to the even lower realms of the Mind, where it descends into relative solidity, inertia and inactivity - the structure called body or organism. Note that the terms "lower" or "descend" do not imply that these structures are inferior in any way, they are just below the Ego in hierarchy when viewed from the top. One can view it from the bottom if one likes with the Self at the base and everything else built upon it. Ego is perfect too. It is a beautiful creation of the Mind and its very amusing to watch it in action.


  1. Hello Tarun! One more brilliant article. Thank you for sharing and for helping to understand myself better.

    1. You are welcome, and thank you for your comment.