I find that many people have very confused and erroneous ideas concerning the terms "the overcoming of self," "the eradication of desire," and "the annihilation of the personality" which I frequently employ in my writings. Some (particularly the intellectual who are prone to theories) regard it as a metaphysical theory altogether apart from life and conduct; while others conclude that I teach the crushing out of all life and energy and action, and thus attempt to idealize stagnation and death. These errors and confusions I cannot remove, as, arising as they do in the minds of the individuals concerned, they can only be removed by them; but perhaps I may make their removal a little less difficult (for those who are seeking Truth) by presenting the matter in another way.
The doctrine of the overcoming or annihilation of self is simplicity itself: indeed, so simple, practical, and close at hand is it that a child of five, whose mind has not yet become clouded with theories, theological schemes, and speculative philosophies, would be far more likely to comprehend it than many older people who have lost their hold upon simple and beautiful truths by the adoption of complicated theories. The annihilation of self consists in weeding out and destroying all those elements in the soul which lead to division, strife, suffering, disease, and sorrow. It does not mean the destruction of any good and beautiful and peace-producing quality. For instance, when a man is tempted to irritability or anger, and, by a great effort overcomes the selfish tendency, casts it from him, and acts from the spirit of patience and love, in that moment of self-conquest he practices the annihilation of self. Every noble man practices it in part, though he may deny it in his words, and he who carries out this practice in its completion, eradicating every selfish tendency until only the divinely beautiful qualities remain, he is said to have annihilated the personality (all the personal elements) and to have arrived at Truth.
The self which is to be annihilated is composed of the following ten worthless and sorrow-producing elements: lust, hatred, avarice, self-indulgence, self-seeking, vanity, pride, doubt, dark belief, and delusion. I teach the total abandonment, the complete annihilation of these ten elements; they comprise the body of desire. On the other hand, I teach the cultivation, practice, and preservation of the following ten divine qualities:—Purity, Patience, Humility, Self-Sacrifice, Self-Reliance, Fearlessness, Knowledge, Wisdom, Compassion, and Love. These comprise the Body of Truth, and to live entirely in them is to be a doer and knower of Truth, is to be an embodiment of Truth. The combination of the ten elements produces what I call self or the personality; the combination of the ten qualities produces what I call Truth; the Impersonal; the abiding, real, and immortal Man.
It will thus be seen that I do not teach the destruction of anything that is noble, true, and enduring, but only of those things that are ignoble, false, and evanescent. Neither do I proclaim the deprivation of happiness, gladness, and joy, but the constant possession of these things by living in the joy-begetting qualities. I proclaim the abandonment of the lust for enjoyment, but not of enjoyment itself; the destruction of the thirst for pleasure, but not of pleasure itself; the annihilation of the selfish longing for love, and power, and possessions, but not of love, and power, and possessions themselves.
I teach the preservation of all those things which draw and bind men together in unity and concord, and, far from idealizing stagnation and death, urge men to the practice of those qualities which lead to the highest, noblest, most effective and enduring action. He whose actions proceed from some or all; of the ten elements wastes his energies upon negations, and does not preserve his soul; but he whose actions proceed from some or all of the ten qualities, he truly and wisely acts and so preserves his soul.