The ego’s an innate aspect of our consciousness that can be used for benevolence or malevolence. Most people who hear the word ‘ego’ associate it with someone who’s full of themselves; who brags about their accomplishments or acts like they’re better than the people around them.
The ego’s usually associated with people who are so confident in themselves that they tend to be overbearing, but there’s much more to it and its mechanisms than simple self-centeredness. As strange as it might sound, the ego’s actually necessary for us to survive and function in the lower realms, and it can only fill us with selfishness if we let it.
I think the mind can be used for good when the ego’s overbearing influence is transcended, and here, I’d like to examine what some of our spiritual teachers have said about it.
I’ve probably done a report on the ego before, but I wanted to talk about it again because I’m fascinated with the idea of transcending it and using the mind for positive purposes.
As you can probably imagine, our teachers encourage us to transcend the ego and its constant wants and desires, and I agree that we’ll have to transcend it if we want to feel, anchor or express spirit with any degree of purity.
One we transcend its influence, we can work with it to produce helpful works that benefit others. We can express unhindered spirituality from right here on earth (as opposed to striving to evolve into a higher realm to feel it), but only when the ego’s transcended will we express it properly.
Sadhu Arunachala describes his experience of ego death, which came in the form of an intense fear he started to feel after meditating for months.
“After I had been meditating in the presence of Bhagavan [Sri Ramana Maharshi] for some months, I reached a certain stage when I would be overcome by fear. … [Bhagavan] explained that it was the ego that experienced the fear as it felt that it was gradually losing its grip.
“It was, in fact, dying, and naturally resented it. He asked me, ‘To whom is the fear? It is all due to the habit of identifying the body with the Self. Repeated experience of separation from this idea will make one familiar with this state and fear will then automatically cease.’” (1)
Paul Ferrini tells us that the ego puts all of its effort into sustaining what’s already known.
“Your ego is terrified of the unknown. No matter how terrible the known past is, the ego prefers it to the unknown present.
“All of its energy goes into trying to make the present into the past. It thinks that this creates safety, but in truth it creates continued terror, a constant aggravation of the wound until the pain is so intense that it must be dealt with. You see, everything, even your ego, conspires toward your awakening!
“So living the past over and over again creates the ultimate terror. Outwardly, life seems safe and predictable. Inwardly, the dynamite has been lit.” (2)
The more we ty to live in the past by sustaining an experience we remember or understand, the more we trap ourselves in the ego’s confines.
Some of you who are on the path of spiritual evolution might notice that you’re sometimes tempted by the desire to fall back into old habitual patterns and ways of living/being that no longer serve you, and this could very well be because the ego’s striving to maintain its grip.
The ego will start to feel like its dying as we continuously fade into our sacred center. It’ll fight, fight and fight some more to postpone its inevitable transcendence, and it’s our duty to stay as centered and materialistically unfocused as we can in an effort to constantly embrace spirit.
If we can embrace spirit, the ego will have less and less control over our ability to think and discern. Let’s feed spirit as much as we can and go out of our way to deny the wants and demands of the ego, which fights to save its own life and influence over our consciousness and the decisions we make.
Adyashanti affirms what Paul told us about the ego’s need to sustain itself.
“The psychological self seeks to continue, to survive. Simultaneously there is a compelling, driving urge to break free of this self.
“However, to break free brings the end of time. When it happens, past and future will be over for you. Questions and answers will cease, and there will be nothing. Out of that nothing, something fresh will flower. You will have to become that flower.” (3)
Paramahansa Ramakrishna advises that to see ourselves as finite humans, and not as Source, is to limit ourselves and feed spiritual ignorance.
“‘I’ and ‘mine’ — these constitute ignorance. ‘My house,’ ‘my wealth’, ‘my learning’, ‘my possessions’ — the attitude which prompts one to say such things comes of ignorance. (4)
We’re much more than the meat suits we embody here on earth, and we can’t take our material possession with us into the higher realms. We can’t even take our physical bodies with us on our journey back to Source.
All we can take with us is our consciousness as it’ll exist when we’re ready to leave this sphere, so we’ll want to make sure we cultivate a wholesome life for ourselves in the realms beyond by living as much in love and centeredness as we can on earth.
It’s easy to fill our heads and hearts with material possessions and concerns, but we’ll make life much harder for ourselves when we’re back in the higher (or lower) realms if we do.
Where we go when the physical body perishes depends entirely on the choices we make in life, and if we make choices that are in alignment with our spiritual paths, I’m sure we’ll experience pure bliss when we’re back in the higher realms.
We’ll experience exactly what we create for ourselves, and if we create love and joy here on earth, that’s exactly what we’ll experience.
- Sadhu Arunachala (A.W. Chadwick), A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1961, 40.
- Paul Ferrini, Silence of the Heart. South Deerfield, MA: Heartways Press, 1996, 22.
- Adyashanti, http://www.members.shaw.ca/adyashanti/, 16 May 2004.
- Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 105.
Continued in Part 2 tomorrow. Head here to read the full article.