The following article has been published in "The Times of India", dated 9th Jan 2017
Ego is neither good nor bad. Ego is false. This is what we must understand.
False is given to you for you cannot reach truth without passing through the false. There is no way to perceive the truth directly. That is the sole reason why you have been given the falsity called ego.
When a child is born he is not aware of himself. He does not know himself as a body or a mind or any such entity. It is through his senses that he grows in awareness and creates an identity for himself. But all his senses open outwards be it see, touch, smell … whatever. Thus he develops a concept of himself in contrast to the outside world. Do you see this? There is no way for him to know himself by himself.
Usually a child’s first encounter is with his mother and through her only he becomes aware of his own body. Thus a centre is born which is in reference with the world outside, in this case, the mother. If the mother caresses the child and treats him with love, the child feels he is loveable. If the mother rejects him the child feels he is not good enough and is worthless. This is how his concept of himself develops. This concept of oneself which is based on treatment of the outside world is ‘Ego’. It is not our reality but it is the image of ourselves or the concept of ourselves that has formed based on how we are treated by the outside world. It is a reflected awareness. And that is why it is false.
Gradually this center becomes the kingpin. After all we live and grow up in a society. And society always reflects. If you go to school your teacher reflects who you are. If you be in friendship with other children, they will give opinions about you. When your parents interact with you they exhibit their opinion about you. You see, everybody adds something to your image and it gets reinforced day after day. You start living your life from this centre and believe it to be yourself. It is for this reason that when someone suggests you to drop your ego you cannot. You feel lost then. You do not know where to go? Remember! You cannot drop your ego. It drops by itself. It’s just like a leaf of a tree. When it matures it drops by itself without causing any damage to the tree. As if nothing happened. But if you try to remove a fresh leaf from a tree you will damage it. Do you see this?
Our ego or self-image is our social need. We interact with the world with the help of this friend or foe. If we have a healthy Ego we behave strongly in the society. Whereas, a weak or an ill-formed ego makes us behave either as a victim or a victimiser. Psychologically speaking, all that comes to the conscious from unconscious passes through the barrier of Ego. If this barrier is not strong & healthy then uncensored desires and wishes will come to your conscience and you will be confused. You will be tempted to gratify them uncontrollably and this is what they call a psychological disorder. Therefore, all psychological disorders have something to do with the health of this centre called Ego. And it is false in the first place because it is given by the outside world. No one is born with it. We must see this great fallacy of the human birth.
So the whole story is you come here without an ego, get it here from outside, have to mature it and then let it drop! You have to get over it or see through it for the simple reason that you cannot know the reality unless you see this falsity as falsity! We often miss this last part and spend our whole life without getting an inkling of the real thing. Do you get this? Your pleasures are false as well as your sufferings are false too. They all relate to a centre that is not your own doing. And this centre demands a lot. Its food is attention and you have to keep feeding it. So you make ten thousand efforts to get attention. But however much you get it you are not satiated. Why? For, it’s like trying to be happy with the beauty of a plastic flower. However beautiful an artificial flower may be you always know it’s not real. It’s a dead thing. However fragrant it may be you always know you have put the scent into it yourselves. It cannot come on its own. So nothing really brings you peace! In fact there is one more irony. Your ego helps you stand up in this world and brings you success. Hence, it becomes very dear to you. But you have no guarantee it will always remain strong and friendly to you. It’s just a matter of time. A slight turn of events can change everything and leave you as confused as a pigmy. We all know how Arjuna, a great personality of his time had gotten confused in the very beginning of a battle that was most crucial to him.
Know! O, Sage; that you were always in the state of ‘being’ before your birth and will return to it again after your death. The “Space of Being” is your true centre. The moment you are free of your false centre you are in the space of your being. And that is the true freedom. That is your home. No suffering can touch you here because suffering is irrelevant to the space of being.
Saints try to make you understand but your false centre comes in between.. They want to give you the real pleasure and the real scent, (which if realised once, will never leave you) but you want petty toys only. They say your toys will break soon but you do not want to believe. It’s not your fault. You are living from a false centre.
You have to just explore a little more and see the false as false. By its very seeing it becomes transparent and loses its grip over you. Then ups and downs will not affect you so much.