When we begin to apply ourselves to the deeper issues of life, we see that the main obstruction to our spiritual development is the egoistic tendency. This is part of our habitual neurology. It makes us indulge in self-serving activities, create unpleasant circumstances for others and make our own life miserable. Many try to control the ego and realize that, sooner or later, it overcomes our attempts to be free. Some of us may sincerely try to understand the neurological basis for egoism and discover whether it is possible to dissolve it. That is the beginning of a truly spiritual journey. In this context, it is good to be wary of the reverse egoism which tries to put up an appearance of non-egoism. That is the tricky monster that is usually recognized as pious egoism. Some examples of pious egoism are given below.
A person may work with another in writing a book. While thinking inwardly that he is the major contributor, he may tell others that the other author did all the work. This is the usual assumed humility that permeates pious egoism. One may also talk low of oneself for the same reason of attempting to impress others with their reverse egoism. ‘It is all due to the grace of God, not due to my efforts’ is one of the usual pious egoistic statements. However, the religious people would find this conclusion difficult to accept. In fact, the piety that marks their statements is the reason for the epithet in the phrase. Generally, the pious egoist is not that aggressive as is the explicit egoist. So, he receives approval. However, there are the dishonesty and the deception behind pious egoism and they would bring in harm in their own way.
An important thing to be noted here is that true spiritual transformation is not aimed at making one ‘perfect’ or a ‘good person’. This may sound strange because, we are told, by everyone around, to become a virtuous person, to have ideals and so on. Such things are directed towards enhancing one’s image and it will meet with ready approval by one’s people and society. As the image is the ego’s prime instrument, approaches like chasing an ideal are clearly sponsored by the ego. It is not suggested that we be wayward or footloose but that we must be wary of pious egoism and its tricky invitations. While its designs are grandiose, it will only serve to keep us arrested in unawareness by focusing our attention on polishing the image. Take for example a person who wants to become humble because humility is a virtue and it is nice for oneself to be called a humble person. After some practice, the person may feel that he or she is the most humble person around – which is nothing but arrogance! That is, chasing an ideal serves only to feed the ego and lands us exactly in the opposite zone. This raises the question as to how humility comes into being at all. Awareness of arrogance is a movement of humility. Awareness is a fundamental virtue and, when it is there, all other virtues fall in place. Thus, humility comes in as a by-product of self-awareness, and then it doesn’t get embroiled with the ego.
People who go through a NDE steer clear of pious egoism because they sense the intrinsic impropriety behind it. They stay candid in their behavior and true honesty permeates their activities. It is good to understand the tricky ways of pious egoism.
The website http://spirituality.yolasite.com deals with related matters.