By J. Das
In the study of spiritual life the subject of the ego occupies a prominent position. But do we really know what the ego is? We often speak of the ego, or egoism and egotism, but I wonder if each person who uses the word understands it in the same way as the other person hearing it. Because the ego is an abstract concept, it is quite possible that different people will have different interpretations of it.
The dictionary will say that the ego is the self, either applied to the person as a whole, or to something within the person, such as the soul. The word for ego in Sanskrit is Ahamkar which literally means ‘I’. Freud, an Austrian Physician, who introduced psychoanalysis, said that the ego is the rational part of the personality which mediates between the ID, or the hidden inner impulses, and the Super Ego, or the conscience of the person. If we limit our understanding to ego according to these various definitions then we are not obtaining the proper mystical meaning of the term.
To our ordinary understanding, the term ego implies a separateness of the individual from others, whether from other human beings, or other forms of living beings. In the teachings of India there are five cardinal sins that are lust, anger, attachment, greed and egoism. Egoism here indicates a separateness, as stated, for ego. Ego is one of the stumbling blocks in spiritual growth and advancement. Let us try to understand what this ego really is. What is separated from what? What is the ego, and what is it separated from? In reality the ego does not exist, but because we do not understand our true nature, i.e. our spiritual nature, we use the term ego, but when we understand our true spiritual nature, then we will see that there is nothing that we can remotely say that is an ego, or a self which has a separate existence from its source.
Let us use the example of the sun and its rays of light. Would it be sensible to say that a ray of light has a separate existence, either from the other rays, or from the sun? We know that each ray of the light exists by virtue of the sun, and without the sun there is no ray of light. Similarly, we can say that the wave in the ocean has no existence were it not for the water of the ocean. Every wave exists by virtue of the ocean being present, and each wave is part and parcel of the ocean itself.
As we have seen in the above examples, whatever separation there appears to be was, in reality, no separation at all. Similarly, when we speak of the ego, and think of it as the self being separated from the source, which is God, then we are not inquiring deeply enough, in order to understand and know, that no real separation can exist between God and any of His creation. If this were not so, then how can we say that God is omnipresent? God is not limited by time, or space, and He exists simultaneously everywhere. No one can search for, and find, God residing in any particular place, for He is in the heart of all beings everywhere. He is the very life, the very consciousness, the very source and manifestation of all beings. When there is thus no separation between the self and God, then where does ego fit in? We can clearly see then that the term ego is used only as a matter of convenience for discussion of certain aspects of our personality, and as long as we think that we are separate beings, then we are not developing spiritual enlightenment. Spiritual enlightenment occurs only when all sense of ego has disappeared, and one directly experiences the connection between God and the Self, realizing that there was in fact no separation at all, or, more correctly, that it is God alone manifesting everywhere in all forms, as in the beginning there was God alone, and all manifestation proceeded from the Being of God.
Dr. J. Das is a Surrey-based spiritualist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.