By Suma Varughese
In order to realise our real Self, we need to free ourselves of the illusory self otherwise known as the ego. How does one do that? Suma Varughese explores the plethora of techniques available
Last Sunday, I had just completed holding a workshop on writing. I was going home with a young friend who had been kind enough to help me. Basking as I was in the satisfaction of having finally got the structure right, and in the success of the workshop, I felt a tinge of resistance and irritation when she told me that she had some suggestions on how to make it better. How could she, so much younger than I, have anything to teach me, was the ego’s reaction.
I have just returned from spending a holiday with a young relative who, in every way, is the exact opposite of who I am. While I love waking up early, nature, and the outdoors, she prefers waking up late and spending her time watching TV or shopping. I like soft, lightly spiced food while she loves hot, spicy food. I am vague, distrait and disorganised. She is formidably capable, efficient and organised. Usually our differences work for us, but in this particular case, our egos made the other wrong, and we ended up squabbling with each other.
Some days back, I had rushed to a bus that was rapidly filling up. A few people were standing outside the queue, waiting for the queue to file in before they entered. I saw a woman break in and enter. I have an ingrained notion in my head that women always break queues. I therefore confronted her, only to be told by others in the queue that she had been part of it all along.
The ego. It is the lens through which we view the world. And what a distorting, illusion-making lens it is. It casts a lurid light on all it touches, converting ordinary Joes and Janes into monsters out to get us. It can convert the most innocuous of events into a grand tragedy, horrible calamity, or the best thing since sliced bread. It is almost incapable of seeing things as they are, for it is based on separation, rifting the world into I and the other.
“Ego is a thought-structure based on separation where the brain takes itself to be ‘me’ and looks at the world as the ‘other’”, says a writer called Sen who runs a blog called Calm Down Mind.
“It is our ego which makes us feel we are a distinct separate entity. It provides identity to our functioning, and also creates feelings of separation, pain, and alienation. It is a part of our four-fold inner equipment (antahkarna) consisting of the mind, intellect, memory, and ego,” says Maa Gyaan Suveera, a spiritual guide and mentor, whose ashram, The Kirti Hermitage, is based near Rishikesh. Eckhart Tolle, the world-renowned spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Nowand A New Earth, echoes the same thing, “Vanity and pride are what most of us tend to think of when we think of ego, but ego is much more than an overinflated sense of self. It can also turn up in feelings of inferiority or self-hatred because ego is any image you have of yourself that gives you a sense of identity—and that identity derives from the things you tell yourself and the things other people have been saying about you that you’ve decided to accept as truth.”
He adds, “One way to think about ego is as a protective heavy shell, such as the kind some animals have, like a big beetle. This protective shell works like armour to cut you off from other people and the outside world. What I mean by shell is a sense of separation: Here’s me and there’s the rest of the universe and other people. The ego likes to emphasise the “otherness” of others.”
Source of suffering
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