Missionary zeal infects many of us spiritualesque human-realmers.
From sweet ladies strolling door-to-door brandishing hokey God comix to yogis claiming to be expanding consciousness and ushering in the Satya Yuga to self-appointed pandits gleefully deflating the “unscientific” claims of yogis and declaring Gurus defunct — it’s all on a continuum, folks.
Missionary zeal takes a few characteristic forms, and they are all aggressively self-protective.
- The head-on approach. I have the answer. I am the best. My tradition is the highest. My teachings are the greatest. We are the best. We are the vanguard. It’s up to us. We’re leading the way.
- The fear-mongering approach. You are doing it wrong, making a mistake, in danger of losing it all. Aka: You are in big spiritual trubs. If you don’t follow me/keep following me/listen to me, you’ll have bad karma, end up in a cold hell, never find another teacher, or actually, I’ll come after you.
- The debunk everyone else approach. This is a favorite of the rationalists and sneaky competitors. You have a reasoned critique of everyone else. You can even sound sympathetic toward those you criticize, but you are always finding fault. You are on a mission to debunk everyone and everything until you are the only one left standing. Nuff said.
But the most generalized style of missionary zeal is urgency. Everything you do is urgently important, urgently meaningful, urgently potentially catastrophic (if you don’t do it right, on time, etc.), or urgently amazing. From picking up chia seeds at the grocery to getting into full pigeon pose to figuring out your dharmically perfect purpose in life to saving a toddler drowning in a pool, or the world — your urgency has zero sense of propriety or scale. Species extinction is epic, but so was your weekend.
What these styles of zeal all have in common is the anxious desire of small self to be recognized.
See me! See me! small self cheesily-ceaselessly demands.
If I only have one life to live, let me live it as a selfie.
Here’s the thing: think of the difference between a selfie and enlightened Self knowledge.
Contrived, defensive, manipulative posery vs. spontaneous, relaxed, contemplation of everything you are without exception.
How did we get from there to here, and the reverse?
As above, so below
Everything is made of and by an aware, awake primordial Reality, a.k.a God.
Our experiences of limitation (selfies vs. Self) are experiences of cosmic wisdom virtues under limitation. So, small self’s desperate individualistic drive for recognition is the unsprouted seed huddling and shivering underground in winter, just tryin’ to survive in an environment it perceives to be hostile.
When spring arrives, we pour the water of sadhana on the ground. The seed begins to feel the light of the sun. It reaches out, swells and opens into the beautiful bloom of the primordial Self’s recognition of itself everywhere, in everyone and all circumstances.
When you do lots of sadhana and realize that everything is toi (that’s “you” in French), you discover there is no other to beat out, impress, reject or hide from. There is no selfie-on-a-mission, no urgency.
There is only relaxed, endlessly unfolding Self-expression.
Mission is made out of a sense of separation. Small self feels threatened in its fragility. All of our defensiveness and aggression stems from this.
But eventually we expand our scope; the mission becomes to re-experience the continuity of the Self.
As we become more immersed in natural continuity, the sense of urgency about protecting, defending and defining our small self begins to radically fade. Then we can experience life’s diverse manifestations from the perspective of actors rather than true believers.