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The Conflict between Self-preservation and Liberation

By Sadhguru Email By Sadhguru
September 2011
The Conflict between Self-preservation and Liberation The spiritual process for most people comes in their pursuit of well-being. Spiritual process means a conscious self-destruction. Very few people are seeking it consciously. The rest get entrapped in it in their search for well-being. They’re only seeking well-being but slowly they realize that as long as their individual nature exists, there is no such thing as well-being. So, willingly and unwillingly, they begin to destroy themselves. Self-destruction is painful unless there’s a complete dispassion about who you are. It’s painful, but with every bit of yourself being destroyed, you feel more and more beautiful. So, the longing to burn is there. The longing to preserve is there. These are two forces within you, always.

One aspect of you just knows preservation. Self-preservation is a fundamental instinct—in every life form for that matter. So, one half of you is always struggling to preserve yourself. Another half is longing to be liberated from this limitation of who you are. Today it feels like all your material pursuits are stupid. You want to drop it and go to the ashram, to the Himalayas, or wherever. But, three days later suddenly you feel the whole spiritual nonsense is stupid. Somebody who was just making money and enjoying their breakfast, lunch, dinner is smart. These two forces keep functioning within you: one is self-preservation; another is longing to become free.

For a few individuals, spiritual process is effortless. They simply go on it without hesitation. For most, it’s a huge struggle because they’re unable to choose which of these forces they should align themselves with. You’re constantly weighing which is better; you don’t know where you belong. Most people, whatever they choose, they feel they have made a mistake in their life. They choose this, they feel they should have done the other thing—endless conflict within themselves, because this is the nature of the creation. Without the instinct to preserve, there would be no survival process—but if you identify yourself with those forces, you feel trapped and suffocated.

To be rooted in the dimension which is longing for liberation and still effectively handle your survival needs a certain amount of skill and juggling with life—which destroys many people. It need not destroy them, but because people have this idea that they must be identified with something strongly, that’s why they struggle. If you don’t identify, if you just look at life, depending upon how much priority you accord to something that functions and happens in a certain way, the other things can be handled to the best of our ability. That’s all that can be done in life, but people always believe that unless they’re identified with something, things can not happen. They’re afraid to just be here without being identified with any particular dimension of life and just looking at everything.

Even externally, everybody wants to belong to some party, because there is safety, sense of security in belonging. Or at least, there is a feeling of security. So, people always identified themselves with this and struggle with that or identify themselves with that and struggle with this. If you just begin to understand life as various forces working upon you, above all, the fundamental life force which is you, which decides the quality of everything that you do and are, and learn to understand the nature of it and learn to see how to make it happen without identifications, then you see that whatever kind of situations you’re placed in, there is no struggle. As the external situations demand, you function; that’s all.


Named one of India’s 50 most influential people, Sadhguru speaks before millions annually around the globe, including to prominent leadership forums such as the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, TED, and the World Peace Congress. From ground-breaking yoga programs to projects for rural communities and the environment, Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation (www.IshaFoundation.org), serves as a thriving model for human empowerment, which is reflected in the Foundation’s special consultative status with the UN. Designed to enrich every aspect of one’s life, Sadhguru’s introductory program, Inner Engineering Online (www.InnerEngineering.com) now makes this distilled essence of yogic science available to millions worldwide.


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