Friday, March 08, 2013

Everything You Know Is Wrong (About Your Ego)



This piece was published in the Huffington Post on March 8, 2013


"All through the day I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
All through the night I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Now they're frightened of leaving it,
Everyone's weaving it,
Coming on strong all the time,
All through the day I me mine."-- The Beatles (George Harrison) "I Me Mine"

The definition of ego is the "I" or self of any person; a person as thinking, feeling and willing, and distinguishing itself from the selves of others and from objects of its thought. In the Vedic literature (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.4.10) it is said, ahaṁ brahmāsmi: I am Brahman, I am spirit. This "I am," the sense of self, also exists in the liberated stage of self-realization. This sense of "I am" is ego, but when the sense of "I am" is applied to this false body it is false ego. When the sense of self is applied to reality, that is real ego. There are some philosophers who say we should give up our ego, but we cannot give up our ego, because ego means identity. We ought, of course, to give up the false identification with the body. False ego means accepting this body as oneself. When one understands that he is not his body and is spirit soul, he comes to his real ego. Ego is there. False ego is condemned, but not real ego. The false ego makes us think we are the controllers or the doers, but actually we are acting under the control of nature. In Bhagavad Gita 3.27 Krishna says, "The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature."

The person in material consciousness is convinced by false ego that he is the doer of everything. He does not know that the mechanism of the body is produced by material nature, which works under the supervision of the Supreme Lord. The materialistic person has no knowledge that ultimately he is under the control of Krishna. The person in false ego takes all credit for doing everything independently, and that is the symptom of his nescience.

Intelligence is the immediate next-door neighbor of the spirit soul. Lusty intelligence influences the spirit soul to acquire the false ego and identify itself with matter, and thus with the mind and senses. The spirit soul becomes addicted to enjoying the material senses and mistakes this as true happiness.

In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna told Arjuna to fight, but he was reluctant to kill his kinsman because of family attachment. So Krishna instructed Arjuna, "One who is not motivated by false ego, whose intelligence is not entangled, though he kills men in this world, does not kill. Nor is he bound by his actions" (Bhagavad Gita 18.17).

This verse inspired Emerson to write his poem Brahma:
"If the red slayer think he slays,
           Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
           I keep, and pass, and turn again."

In this verse the Lord informs Arjuna that the desire not to fight arises from false ego. Arjuna thought himself to be the doer of action, but he did not consider the supreme sanction within and without. If one does not know that a supersanction is there, why should he act? But one who knows the instruments of work, himself as the worker, and the Supreme Lord as the supreme sanctioner is perfect in doing everything. Such a person is never in illusion. Personal activity and responsibility arise from false ego and godlessness, or a lack of Krishna consciousness.
Now, I can already hear the wails of objection from detractors accusing Krishna of ordering killing, and when ordered by God, no one has any responsibility, so Krishna devotees are turned into members of a mindless murderous cult. This is patently ridiculous. A soldier on the battlefield is not subject to punishment for killing the enemy, even if it is an unjust war, based on lies, ordered by the likes of George W. Bush, what to speak of a just war, arranged by the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

This is the essence of the Bhagavad Gita. We are not the doer. When one realized that, so much anxiety is lifted from our shoulders. Krishna dictates from within our heart, and that is confirmed outwardly by the guru/spiritual master. Then we are free to act.

A person acting in Krishna consciousness (or, in other words, in the service of Krishna) with his body, mind, intelligence and words is a liberated person even within the material world, although he may be engaged in many so-called material activities. He has no false ego, for he does not believe that he is this material body, or that he possesses the body. He knows that he is not this body and that this body does not belong to him. He himself belongs to Krishna, and the body too belongs to Krishna. When he applies everything produced of the body, mind, intelligence, words, life, wealth, etc. -- whatever he may have within his possession -- to Krishna's service, he is at once dovetailed with Krishna. He is one with Krishna and is devoid of the false ego that leads one to believe that he is the body, etc. This is the perfect stage of Krishna consciousness.

In material existence one is subjected to the influence of the mind and the senses. In fact, the pure soul is entangled in the material world because the mind is involved with the false ego, which desires to lord it over material nature. Therefore, the mind should be trained so that it will not be attracted by the glitter of material nature, and in this way the conditioned soul may be saved. The false ego of the living being trying to lord it over the material nature is something like the moth's falling in a blazing fire. The moth is captivated by the glaring beauty of the fire, and when he comes to enjoy it, the blazing fire consumes him. In the transcendental state the living being is pure in his consciousness, and as such he has no false ego to lord it over the material nature. Rather, his pure consciousness directs him to surrender unto the Supreme Lord. That is the conclusion of Bhagavad Gita 18.66:

"Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear."

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