Spiritual Objectivity

There is an egoless objectivity. It is an awareness of the world beyond the concerns of me and mine: my needs, my wants, my fears, my family, my friends, my communities, my values.

Spirituality is living with egoless objectivity. It is to look and be aware of my own life and that of my family, friends, neighbors with a certain detachment, to be able to see that myself as Bharath is a limited awareness, a partial view which, in illusion, presents itself as the whole reality.

This spirituality objectivity is different from physics objectivity. True, the objectivity of physics is egoless. It makes no reference to egos or people (never mind quantum mechanics – that is spiritually irrelevant). But physics objectivity doesn’t imply spiritual objectivity. A physicist can see the world in terms of atoms and quarks, but then still get angry, jealous, resentful – still be driven by the ego in his interactions with fellow human beings. Even the physicist as a human has to do the spiritual work of attaining egoless objectivity – understanding black holes or the formation of galaxies isn’t a substitute for the spiritual work.

The physics objectivity can be a bouncing board for spiritual objectivity. When I feel resentful, I can be mindful of the limits of my ego by remembering, and holding in my awareness, that both me and the person I am resentful of are but atoms in the void. Knowledge of physics doesn’t provide this wisdom. The spiritual skill is to develop the awareness that we are all atoms in the midst of the emotional and mental turmoil I am going through, so that I don’t identify with that turmoil and act out of my ego concerns.

Spiritual objectivity is also not simply helping others. If one cultivates spiritual awareness, then one will help others – one will be a vessel of peace in a turbulent world. But if I seek to help others, and hold onto the perception of the egos of others as what is to helped, I have still not moved beyond ego awareness.

This sheds light on how I was trapped in thinking of my father and academia. I wanted to learn in my classes how to obtain spiritual objectivity. Not quite what is taught in academic philosophy. At the same time, I took my father to be my guru, and so I interpreted my dissatisfaction with academia as, “my father’s worldview is being left out from my classes.” I took this as the natural attitude for me to take as a son, and as a student of my father.

What I didn’t see was that it wasn’t just the classes which weren’t helping me attain spiritual objectivity. I myself was contributing to that by focusing on how the worldview of “my” father and “my” guru and “my” Indian spiritual traditions were being left out of the classes. Or by worrying about how “I” was not getting the philosophical and spiritual education “I” wanted.

The awareness of spiritual objectivity cannot be grasped or gotten through trying, brought about by an affirmation of the effort of the ego. That is a practical contradiction. It is not an issue of trying to do this, rather than that. It is to disassociate from the ego, and the bonds of the ego identity to one’s family and friends and neighbors, implicit in the trying. There is an awareness and a doing and a being beyond the ego trying. That is the space of spiritual objectivity.

Like any skill, the only way to gain it is to keep practicing. There is more to each of us, more potential, more awareness than is captured in our day to day interactions. More even than our highest goals as cognized in thought and efforts. It is not a matter of forceful trying. It is a matter of becoming and being cognizant of the ego concerns wrapped up in the trying, in even the most altruistic trying, and simply holding that in awareness. Then, like water going downhill, the awareness will expand effortlessly.

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