“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~Rumi
Spiritual Bypassing, Using Religion to Build Up Ego
As westerners who chose to be involved with eastern religion, it is safe to say, we were looking for something greater. Tibetan Buddhism took root in the United States during the 1960s where people were spiritual seekers and often involved in the psychedelic movement. A lot of us came from a great amount of curiosity, disappointment and loss. A large portion of us came from dysfunctional families, divorce or even outright abuse. We were told that if we were to take complete refuge in this religion that all of our cares would cease. We could follow a very tried and true graduated path that would bring meaning to our lives, quell our emotional, spiritual and psychological problems and result in us attaining enlightenment, if we devoted ourselves to it sufficiently.
The problem is, is that unless we come into the spiritual path with having a basis of feeling well, a basic sense of warmth, well-being, groundedness, and the harsh barbs of our trauma being resolved, there’s a tendency for ego to slip in and use even positive methods of liberation for its own constructs. If we use the dharma to feel superior, pretend that we are more knowledgeable, spiritually evolved than others, hide, cower and escape from our vulnerability, our fears or our deep karmic wounding, the dharma itself becomes a method to spiritually bypass and therefore itself, a worldly dharma. Spiritual bypassing is akin to hopping over our issues, our deep karmic blocks by denying, projecting them into others or ignoring, and then using one’s religion or spirituality as a faux front.
We will have devoted our lives to something wheres it is impossible to make any progress because the fundamental obstacles have never been touched, opened and routed out. Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. It is like my teacher would say-clearly explains this process in his book
“If we don’t practice properly and really use these methods to evolve, it’s like going to an island of diamonds and coming back empty-handed.” Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche
84000 Methods Can Be Absconded By Ego
Ego is very slippery, like a shapeshifter, and can use these methods in the dharma to build itself up. We often see fluctuation between pompous credential or an opiated escape, neither are enlightened. For example, if the way that you hide from pain is that you have some type of avoidant personality disorder and withdraw, will you find a particular part of the vast body of Buddhist teachings to confirm your propensity. You will then withdraw from society and hide and consider yourself really spiritual and in concurrence with the scriptures.
If you happen have a propensity for hedonism or sexual addiction, we have a controversial Saint named Drukpa Kunley who would unhesitatingly sleep with whomever he wanted to. You could use Dharma teachings to say that “morality is relative” and everything is part of the absolute manifestation of sacredness, and thereby justify sexual misconduct. How can this be spiritual? Both are sides of the same type of spiritual ego, and none of these propensities, I believe, can make any progress in this life until they breakdown the constructs of what they’re using to cover. Sadly, for many I see no sign of hope as of yet, it is all about “virtue signaling,” being “spiritualistas” or “spiritual slactivists.”
Guru Devotion as a Weapon
One western Tibetan reincarnated teacher called a “tulku” recently said to me:
“The intense mind control and hierarchical culture of obedience is something I’m really uncomfortable with now. I actually think more people got hurt through that than from sexual abuse itself.”
Yes we have a religion where we offer the guru absolute control and blind obeisance. You can imagine if anyone has seen the miniseries Wild Wild Country, how well that works out. We have this unbreakable vow that we take with the teacher, that if we break or leave the teacher or community or speak ill of them or even have a negative thought, we’re supposed to go to this terrible mind torture hell in the afterlife, and/or be riddled with personal obstacles and punishments. This vow which is supposed to help us to make spiritual progress is often used as a weapon of control and ownership of students. This does nothing but create cult-like communities and spiritual, psychological and emotional harm to so very many.
We can credit a lot of this social dysfunction to the term toxic masculinity. Human society has a very long history of the suppression of the feminine, considering emotionality to be weak and women to be subordinate, unstable, second class citizens or even, in some cultures, property. Many men to this day, often believe that they are far superior to women with an undercurrent of continued social misogyny that exists in all cultures. I personally practice in a very male-dominated religion in Tibetan Buddhism where we are instructed to worship these men as divine. In that culture they have a word for women which literally translates as lesser human. Very few women have any power or real voice and it is disheartening to see this panel of colored robed, throned men telling us how to live. Many know that behind the scenes there are volumes of power, control, sexual misconduct, financial and ethics issues galore. I say it is high time for women to take leadership roles in both religion, spirituality and politics, to clean up a lot of this toxicity and corruption.
A study in the Journal of School of Psychology uses the following definition to explain toxic masculinity: “the constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.”
In modern society, people often use the term toxic masculinity to describe exaggerated masculine traits that many cultures have widely accepted or glorified.
This harmful concept of masculinity also places significant importance on ‘manliness’ based on:
- lack of emotion
- sexual virility”
Real Spiritual Work Is Dirty
Karmic knots, emotional issues that we hold keep us stuck, however there is hope. By touching the wounds, our tears and fears, we can wholly liberate them. This is the crack of light that is possible. People come in to a tradition with trauma, loss, in pain and longing and are instructed to apply these high eastern yogic methods. It is not working; we need a new way of real liberation which includes deep fundamental trauma work and the base of healing before embarking on any spiritual path.
My Teacher’s Advice
I was practicing meditation in Denmark and really reflecting about my life. I’ve mentioned before, that I came from pretty serious child abuse and neglect, and I was crying about how it would ever be possible for me to feel happy and healed in this life at all, ever. Then, during my meditation practice an insight came to me. I could take the foundation of this pain and the abuse that I experienced early on, and try to heal from it and then use it later on in life as a way of deepening compassion for others that might have experienced something similar. That was the impetus for why I started to teach meditation in prisons, and learned so much about human growth, regret and real hands-on spirituality. I think if anyone wants to do any type of real spiritual work you have to get down and dirty, here are 4 steps to get started:
- Spend time with yourself in a very raw and honest way and feel where you’re stuck.
- We can journal about where our strengths and weaknesses are and look at ourselves with tremendous honesty.
- If we notice that we have some type of these dormant fears and wounding and pain, take the time to honor stuck places.
- We can use the retreat time that we have to face our fears head-on, cry out all the tears until there are no more, like a sponge ringing out dirty water.
It is so helpful to make the effort to cleanse these psycho-spiritual and emotional blocks built up from our lifetime or more. In this way, we can truly become a clear vessel that’s capable of wisdom. Without having gone through this messy, difficult dark night of the soul process, there’s a strong possibility that we are using our spirituality or religion in a deluded way, to cover the deep-seated blocks that we’re unwilling to face.
East Meets.. West
I think these Indo-Tibetan methods used 2500 years ago in India and in Tibet, were exceedingly valid and powerful methods of transformation and spiritual development. In our materialistic west, which allows no time for grief, we have often a lot of gross trauma and imbalances to heal before we can even start sitting meditation. If we don’t do the trauma work and we just sit alone with ourselves, let alone do any of the higher tantras which involve powerful methods of yogic practice ritual, those methods become ways to make us further imbalanced and can be actually dangerous. So this trauma work, taking time to delve deep into what has been hurtful, processing fears, going very deeply to core childhood or karmic wounding, is an essential step before we embark upon any more lofty spiritual path. Many often benefit from personal or professional support for this healing process. We could say that this is the basic foundation of the spiritual path. Real human strength and evolution is forged through bravely facing fears, heartbreak and tears, not bypassing or some renunciant escape. So go ahead, get curious about the cracks in our deepest, hidden wounds. Our hearts long to emerge from the shadows and see what type of welcome light can eventually come in. I have faith that with effort, we all have a capacity to learn, grow and heal, no matter what we have experienced. The human heart is forever fundamentally bright, and sometimes, the accumulated tarnish, just needs a bit of polishing.
Written By Dawn Boiani-Sandberg
image from pexels