Friday, June 13, 2008

The Kabbalah of Love and Ego

By: Bnei Baruch

What is love? Everyone thinks that it exists in our world – after all, we all want to feel it. This most profound human emotion has been pondered, philosophized, analyzed and dissected by humanity’s greatest minds for millennia, but it still mystifies us.

When we think of love, it seems that it should be the most altruistic human emotion, that love is something we give unconditionally without any thought of ourselves. Yet life also teaches us that love is often selfish, and hence is the source of our deepest agonies. It seems to be a paradox.

And another paradox is this: Although many of us desire love, we push it away by being critical, judgmental and angry with others. Why do we do this?

The wisdom of Kabbalah provides a straightforward answer: It’s because our nature is the ego, or a will to receive. Our ego plays the central role in our lives, and by definition, it is focused on oneself and does not have the power to love others.

In our ego-based world, love is the sensation of pleasure we get from an object that makes us feel good. Stated simply, we love what brings us pleasure. And vice versa: If something causes us pain, we hate the source of that suffering.

Often this feeling of pleasure can feel like love, yet in fact it isn’t love, but a form of reception. It’s because love can never come from the ego.

The fact is, we identify ourselves through the ego. Have you ever really thought about all those inner dialogues you carry on with your ego? Most likely not, since it happens all the time from the moment we are born. These unconscious thoughts and conversations fly around in our minds constantly, controlling everything we do and think. We judge others, comparing ourselves with them, saying things like, "I’m better than him/her, I’m smarter than that, I wish I could be like that," etc.

Many teachings and religions say that the way around this paradox is to suppress the ego through various "ego-suppressing" techniques. Buddhism, for example, teaches that you can achieve inner peace through eating less, drinking less, talking less and removing sources of outside stimuli through meditation and prayer.

On the contrary, the wisdom of Kabbalah teaches us that in order to achieve inner peace and true altruistic love, one needs the ego. The idea is to learn to use our human inclinations and our nature correctly - not to eradicate them. Hence, the method of Kabbalah utilizes and accepts all the facets of a person, and only develops one’s awareness and use of them.

It teaches that the general law of Nature is the altruistic connection among the separate egoistic elements. These two contradicting elements – altruism and egoism, giving and receiving – exist in every particle of matter, in every creature, phenomenon and process.

On the material level, the emotional level, or any other level, you will always find these two forces. It’s because Nature aspires to bring us to perfection, to unlimited bliss, and hence, Nature has instilled a desire to enjoy in us – or the ego. There is no need to cancel or eradicate the ego; we need only to correct it, or more accurately, change the way we use our desires to enjoy, moving from an egoistic approach to an altruistic one.

Through the study of Kabbalah and the conscious awareness of the ego, we learn how to work with these forces of Nature and achieve love. We learn that by correcting our use of egoism, or our intentions, we can actually transcend our own nature, self-love, and begin to love others the way we love ourselves. And in doing so, we do not eliminate or replace our ego, but only learn to use it differently.

Through this process, called "correction," we reach a place where everyone can love to their fullest. And all it takes is changing the aim of our egoism. Instead of aiming its expression at ourselves, we can aim it at our common goal of attaining love for one another and for Nature - the quality of bestowal and love.

Bnei Baruch is the largest group of Kabbalists in Israel, sharing the wisdom of Kabbalah with the entire world. Study materials in over 25 languages are based on authentic Kabbalah texts that were passed down from generation to generation.

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