In today’s age of spiritual confusion, political instability, social unrest and deep inner turmoil, people are looking everywhere for answers. Many masters and gurus nowadays teach us to renounce the ego, making an enemy out of it, preaching a state of pure egolessness as the path to self-actualization. Nothing could be farther from the truth…
Ego is the most controversial concept in the human mind. It is something we are all born with yet spend our lives trying to get rid of it. If we have an inherent aspect within ourselves, why should we be required to renounce it? Is life some kind of a test to be endured, to see how well we have succeeded in abandoning parts of ourselves? The ego is not the enemy as most people make it out to be. It is in fact our ally because it gives us our sense of identity in this physical world of duality; it gives us our sense of separation and allows for us to create healthy boundaries in our relationships and interactions with others, which we need to negotiate physical life, ensuring our survival. Indeed it is the ego that gives us our sense of self. Without it we would lose ourselves, unable to function on this physical plane.
Yes, in the absolute sense, we are all one and there is no separation between us. But we are a three-part being: body, mind and spirit and although in the spiritual realm all three are one, in this physical realm those three are distinct entities and each has its role in defining our realities on earth. Let me draw a metaphor here. If you think of driving a car, let’s say the car is the body, the steering wheel is the mind that steers the vehicle in whichever direction, and you the driver is the soul that is actually moving the car. But without the car, there would be nothing to drive in the first place. Being in a car is a pleasurable experience, we like riding cars. Similarly being in the physical body has its own purpose and we like riding the body. Although in the spiritual sense, all our souls are connected, but in a body the same soul has individuated into separate selves to have unique, multitudinous experiences of itself, by dint of which it gains knowledge about itself, which you may call self-realization. So just like the example of the steering wheel directing the car, it is the mind which is the bridge between the soul and the body and steers our experience in the direction we channel our minds to. The ego resides in the mind and the mind is there to protect us, caution us, create our physical experiences, conceive meaning in mundane things and give us an understanding of it all so we can know about ourselves and evolve while on earth. The soul is immortal but the body is not, and the body is affected by everything that is on the mind, including the ego.
That said, identifying too much with the ego can in fact be destructive. Why? Because the mind is just one of the three aspects of our being. We must cater to all three: mind, body and spirit in order to have an integrated physical experience. The mind picks up instincts from the soul and communicates to the body. Coming solely from the mind means we have forgotten who we really are. Indeed identifying exclusively with the ego can be devastating especially in relationships, because then we are so much into our own perspectives that we fail to consider other perceptions and myriad realities surrounding us. So like everything in life, a balance must be struck. The soul intermingles with other beings in other bodies to fulfill its purpose, and when its agenda is complete it leaves the body and returns to the oneness once again. It is the driver of our vehicles and uses the mind to steer our physical life in the direction we came here to navigate, which some call destiny. And while it is here, it needs the ego to give it a distinct identity to navigate life. In order for that to happen, a healthy sense of ego is necessary. Not too much, not too little.
When we know the role of the ego we can embrace it instead of denying, and channel it positively in the direction we want it to go so our lives are augmented by it. Any force good or bad can be channeled in a destructive or constructive manner, which determines what reality we encounter. The mind is a powerful tool of creation. Thoughts are things! Thoughts emit energy, which actually create matter. An act of terrorism and an act of compassion both arise in the mind. It is the choice we make and reap its consequences. Similarly, ego could in fact be destructive when used solely to justify one’s bad behavior. But must we renounce the ego for fear of what it might destroy? Just like technology can be used to construct bridges and destroy them at the same time, the ego too is a tool the mind uses to protect our sense of self when threatened.
Extreme ego plays in the mind that fears a loss of personal power. Those displaying this characteristic essentially experience / have experienced in the past (especially in childhood), circumstances where they repeatedly lost personal power, importance, validation, felt taken for granted etc. and in order to eliminate the pain of the feeling of powerlessness, they switched to the other extreme where a false sense of ego in the facade of self-preservation took over. We, however, don’t need to feed this egoistic narcissistic characteristic in anyone nor justify their bad behavior. But when we see this unhealthy pattern in society, the solution is not its opposite. We must understand that we live in a world of contrasts, where one condition gives birth to another. While we have one extreme with people nursing inflated egos, the other extreme is born where the ego is made the enemy and therefore must be renounced. Both in essence emit the same vibration, a sense of loss of self-esteem or personal power. Someone who cannot stand to be challenged and someone who thinks the ego needs to be abandoned in the face of a challenge, are both coming from the same space -a feeling of personal powerlessness. One begets the other; the inner vibration is essentially the same for both. In order to have a healthy sense of ego, we must learn to empower ourselves from within; giving up the ego completely is not the answer. Perhaps because one cannot deal with the strong energies of the human ego or knows not how to channel it constructively, hence believes the solution is to get rid of it, but doing so is in fact more harmful than helpful. And that advice coming from a guru is worse because people actually trust his words to be the absolute truth.
The ego is a friend not a foe and if you observe a lot of people in the spiritual community who try in vain to renounce the ego are in fact completely lost and confused. They have the hardest time in relationships too where their sense of self is compromised and constantly challenged as they fight to keep the ego at bay. And in an attempt to satiate the warring parts within themselves, they often display passive-aggressive behavior. Life functions according to the law of attraction, which basically reflects our internal vibrations back to us. To understand this, watch my video titled, mechanisms of the law of attraction. The universe is like a giant photocopy machine, mirroring our own internal vibrations in our external realities. So anyone trying to renounce their ego, will constantly get into relationships where their individuality is continuously challenged by their partners, until they can reclaim back some of the lost ego that they have been brainwashed to renounce by masters who they trusted with their lives to lead them to the path of enlightenment. Relationships are our biggest mirrors and reflect back to us our own inner states of being.
Being an Indian, I have seen many gurus, those babas from renowned ashrams and their disciples engaging in human worship, kirtans and bhajans, perpetuating thoughts like we should prostrate in front of another human who apparently is an enlightened being, or has achieved a state of divinity and therefore knows more or better than others. The proof of his enlightenment lies in his capacity to perform a few miracles perhaps, or preach out-of-the-world gyan (knowledge) or even better, his divine sacrifice of the family life and adopting the sanyasi garb…! While there is some benefit in kirtan or holy chantings as it attributes to channeling our mental energies towards a peaceful state of being and connecting with the divine within, however, most of these kirtans directly involve reciting the name of the baba the ashram is built around, in a plethora of melodies and tunes, selling music CD’s and other devotional items to their followers in an act of selling peace, love, harmony and enlightenment!
Okay so he has done a few miracles and donned the sanyasi garb, so he is fit to be worshipped? In our society blind leading the blind, these gurus and babas flourish in ignorant states, where people love to disown their personal powers, not think for themselves and believe someone outside of them can lead them to enlightenment; “tell me what to do and I will do anything so I don’t have to do the hard work of thinking for myself or questioning your teachings because I am your disciple and I believe you can lead me to the same state of nirvana which you have attained.” Thoughts like these perpetuate, bowing down at the feet of the guru, chanting kirtans in their name, human worship and all sorts of dvotional arrangements are created, even temples & monasteries built for their worship.
Anybody who is truly enlightened, who knows the path and wants to show it to others does so by example; they will never accept self-worship, not even out of devotion or respect from their followers, because they know intrinsically that whenever another is doing it, the act itselt is symbolic of giving away their personal power to the guru. And a true guru will never admonish techings like self-sacrifice, self-abandonment, selflessness, self-sabotage all of which happen in the name of worship and prayer, whenever one human thinks another is somehow higher than them and holds the key to their salvation.
The divine flows through all of us, not just any guru, master or baba. We don’t need to bow our heads at the feet of anyone because by doing so we renounce the fact that God is within us also. We must learn to tune in to our internal guidance system, our own emotions which constantly inform us about our states to being. Whenever you seek external help and meet a guru, always connect within first and ask yourself: does it feel good to believe his teachings? If it does then go ahead and adjust your internal vibrations; if it doesn’t then he cannot lead you to your truth. Run! Why should we bow our heads to any guru if we are all the gurus ourselves having a multitudinous individuated experience of ourselves here on earth?
I will get a bit biblical here. When Jesus demonstrated his miracles and people thought he was son of God, he said: why are you so surprised by this? This and more you shall do! That is a true master who will remind you of your own power. When people thought he could heal them, he said: by your faith you shall be healed. Faith is a kind of meditation. Why does it work? Because it is channeled mental energies towards a positive outcome. You don’t need a guru to tell you that. A true master will always give people back to themselves. They will teach you to own your power instead of making you dependent on them for your power. When Sai baba did his miracles in India and people began to build temples for him, his mission was not really successful. Because people thought someone outside of them could perform miracles for them. Instead what he really tried to tell people was that, if I can do this, you too can! But in a religious, superstitous country like India, people love to make someone outside of themselves the God and build temples around them, so they can worship and pour gallons of milk on a stone idol, crawl to pilgrim places and yet refuse to own their personal powers of manifestation. Momentarily, they might experience some miraculous results due to their faith in the act of praying but in the end, they still have to come to terms with the divinity within themselves, and own their inherent power. It is okay to have a guide, but always tune within to see if what they teach resonate with your inner being and only after follow their guidance. Remember, that inner ding is always right!
We did not come to the physical realm to be dictated solely by the soul or the principles of the absolute realm; we in fact individuated from our sense of oneness into this world of duality in a body that is separate from all other, to experience a sense of individuality, giving each a unique identity during our journey here on earth. That is why no two fingerprints are alike. Yet we intermingle with other souls in other bodies recognizing ourselves in them becasue in the absolute sense we are all one. When we leave the physical plane we re-emerge into that non-physical oneness. Remembering this will help us navigate our time here on earth better, instead of trying to reject any aspect of ourselves altogether.
Namaste: the god in me honors the god in you!