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Enlightenment is the Easiest Way in the World to Live
From “The Pulpit” column, featuring the passions and perspective of contemporary spiritual leaders
What Is Enlightenment? Magazine  Sept. – Nov. 2005

By Cheri Huber

Many people see renunciation ashaving to do primarily with sex. But the only thing in spiritual life that we are really required to approach with an attitude of renunciation is ego. The ego wants this and doesn't want that. It is always in pursuit of something—that's what keeps it at the center of the universe. For some people, sex is a really big deal and so that's what they need to renounce. For some people, it's power. For some, it's money. But for all of us, in whatever form it takes, it comes down to ego. And the whole point of a spiritual life is to recognize the ego and then dismantle it, to put it out of commission.

Spirituality is a big business in this country, and it has become easy for people to participate superficially in it. It's as if you're obese and this supposedly "alternative" spirituality is like having all the high-fat, high-sugar food you want. You're going to stay obese! We are so used to everything being easy, but it's not easy to give up the ego. It takes sincerity for transformation to occur.

In fact, people don't even know what ego is; they can't tell when it's in charge. They really believe they are their ego. So we need a structure that enables us to begin to see ego for what it is and to differentiate between ego-that which believes itself to be continuous and real and living outside of life—and the Self—that which was here before we were and will be here after we are not. I don't think it's possible to achieve that awareness without a structure that requires us to not go with ego. And that's where renunciation comes in. The heart and soul of renunciation, or awareness practice, is a structure-without a monastic structure and someone to guide it, it's almost impossible for a person to make that essential differentiation between the ego and the Self.

But it's a rare person who will actually give up their worldly life in order to live a monastic existence, and it's rare because of the ego. I frequently talk to people who desperately want the monastic life, but their ego goes into overdrive about it: "Well, then I couldn't have this, and I couldn't have that . . ." It is the rare person who recognizes, "I already have all those things, and I'm miserable." One of the things I tell people is that I have never given up anything I wanted. When I got to a point in my life where all I wanted was peace and quiet, all I wanted was time and space to focus on awareness and to see how things work, I didn't have to give up family, sex, money, ambition. I didn't want them.

In Buddhism, we say that when you have suffered enough, you are going to get yourself to that which will make the difference. Everybody gets there when they want to. It's perfect. You can suffer for as long as you wish, and when you no longer want to suffer, you can stop. That's a very good thing! And being a renunciate, being a monastic, being a religious person is actually easy! Living from center is easy. Enlightenment is the easiest way in the world to live. What's hard, grim, grisly, depressing, miserable, and oppressive is ego. And when we're identified with that little illusion of a separate self, we don't realize that the whole universe is behind us. That little ego is, in fact, an illusion, and everything that is true and authentic-all of the love, the awareness, the gratitude, the expansiveness, the generosity, the kindness-that's who we are. That spirit is who we are and it's calling us home. But the ego's onslaught, which tries to keep us in its grip, is awe-inspiring. So anything that gives us a little lift up and offers us a clearer view, anything that reveals ego for what it is, is helpful. That's the real value of renunciation.

Copyright 2003-2011 Cheri Huber