3. The Inner Opponent


The animal soul, while chaotic and self-serving by nature, can be tamed and channeled constructively. But it also contains a lower aspect that can be destructive and seeks to keep us from fulfilling our mission. This is “the inner opponent.” Because of this, our two souls are lifelong rivals, fighting for control over our thoughts and activities.


The inner opponent is a rival that’s tailor made with all kinds of schemes to suit the individual’s unique personality. It is the ultimate challenger: a source of fear and motivation with the ability to bring out one’s best. While its general purpose and arsenal remain constant, the strength, style, and strategies of the opponent vary according to each individual. Understanding the specific desires and habits of one’s inner opponent is crucial to overcoming one’s struggles.


“You are never really playing an opponent. You are playing yourself, your own highest standards, and when you reach your limits, that is real joy.”

 —Arthur Ashe


“Your biggest opponent isn’t the other guy. It’s human nature.”

                                                                                    —Bobby Knight


The opponent can follow you anywhere: One of the unique teachings is that this inner opponent does not always make itself obviously known. The more one seeks personal refinement, the more obscure the opponent becomes. Thus, the battle is not always a head-to-head combat. The opponent is wily and slippery.  It can even enter the spiritual arena, disguised as a good thought or intention. It can make one “feel spiritual” at the wrong time or knowledgeable at the expense of true tolerance and connection with others.


[Instead of the brazen CEO whose arrogance is in your face, the vanity of others may come dressed in more modest garb. For example, as he softly preaches, the adorned religious figure feels as though he is compassionate and humble, all the while feeling morally superior to his admirers and deriving tremendous satisfaction from the honor shown him. This type of arrogance is more dangerous because it is harder to detect; the opponent appears to be asleep while it has never been so alive inside.]


We will provide other examples, discuss the nuances of undesirable qualities, and how to keep them in check as one seeks to become more refined.