With palms together,
Good Morning Everyone,
I've been reading a book on Mussar, a sort of Jewish ethical/spiritual practice. It is interesting in that it outlines the dynamic tension between what Jews call yetzer ha'tov and yetzer ha'ra, the inclination to elevate and purify ourselves and the inclination not to. We commonly call these the impulse to do good and the impulse to do evil. As I am understanding this so far, the phrase, the impulse to do evil is a sort of gross exaggeration. Its more an "inner adversary" which is a sort of built in resistance to doing good things. Its easy to see how Sigmund Freud might have followed these ancient Jewish notions in his construction of his psychological model.
The evil inclination is more an inclination against moral or ethical decency, typically self aggrandizing, and pleasure based. Whereas, the inclination to do good is typically morally and ethically directed, often at improving oneself for the greater good of society. It is this last phrase that is important. Mussar is not a self-improvement practice that has as its conclusion a better self for itself. In other words it is not self centered, but other directed.
Mussar has us practice to witness this inner dynamic, see how it plays itself out, and make corrections in our behavior as a result. In this sense it is much like an insight model of either therapy or meditation. But it does so in a religious, spiritual context.
Since I have not completed the book, I cannot say how it ends. My hope is that Mussar will take us to a model of enlightenment that has categories such as inclinations to evil and good collapse to the point that we exist as awakened beings. But here's the rub, as it is in Zen, even though we may see with open eyes, achieving the model, so to speak, we live in a world that has not.
The Buddha achieved perfect holiness, yet he still had to beg for food, feel his feet on the ground, walk with his eyes open. The difference, though seemingly subtle, is a universe apart: he did these for all beings, not for himself. So too Moses and the prophets.
PS The book is entitled Everyday Holiness: the Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar, by Dr. Alan Morinis