Where To Flip Your Main Switch
Baal HaSulam writes in the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot that if a person is engaged in the Torah (and Kabbalah) for the sake of some reward for his egoism, then it is like "a maid who inherits the mistress." What does this mean?
There is an opportunity to draw the Surrounding Light upon oneself through engaging in the Torah. However, its impact could be two-fold, depending on my intention. Instead of correction, it can make me even worse, as a "handmaid who inherits her mistress." Instead of ascending and becoming similar to the Creator, the quality of bestowal, I submerge myself deeper and deeper in egoism and love for myself.
Why are we given these opportunities? Isn't it enough to simply study Kabbalah or the Torah? It isn't enough to simply study. The intention defines what will become of a person, and it is the most important. It is here where the freedom of choice lies, where to switch myself under the influence of the Upper Force: either downward, to the reception, toward my egoism, or upward, toward bestowal, toward the Creator.
The Torah itself (the Upper Light) is neutral; it can be either the elixir of life or the potion of death. (A person doesn't perceive that he is spiritually dead.) As you decide and choose, so it will be!
It all depends on my attitude to the Upper Force; for instance, the force of electricity can either heat or cool. The choice is yours. You can study Kabbalah (the Torah in general) only if from the very beginning you establish an objective to attain bestowal (Lishma). Otherwise, you should not even open the book. Naturally everybody starts this studying egoistically (Lo Lishma). We don't have any other choice; we were born in this egoism. However, we must be clear that we desire to attain bestowal. The Torah is given to us solely for this purpose: "I created the evil inclination and handed down the Torah for its correction."
This is what we must teach first of all. This is the prime directive in the upbringing of a person, in kindergarten, school, and society. He has to understand that he is growing up in order to unite with all the others as equals, in absolute mutual bestowal. And when, gradually, his desires become disclosed, he has to start learning Kabbalah in order to learn how to correct his egoistical intentions into altruistic ones. This is called to come from Lo Lishma to Lishma.
This concerns adults and children alike. Primarily, we must explain to a person that Kabbalah and the Torah are handed to us solely for the purpose of changing our nature. There isn't any other purpose! Otherwise, a person will only increase his egoism with its help, wishing to receive this world and the future one for himself.
-from the 3rd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 6/03/10