The ego. Self-development must always begin with the ego…
Welcome! This is to be my very first attempt at joining in the A – Z challenge and my theme is ‘WORDS…possibly wise’. The ‘alphabet’ of words will all be Sanskrit, but given that Sanskrit has no actual ‘f, q, w, x or z’, the sound equivalents will be used.
We begin with –
Formed from aham = “I, myself” and kaara = the process of doing. Thus, ahangkaara = in the processes of ‘being me’. The subtext to ego is Attachment.
It is a good place to start as, necessarily, it is how we identify. As a Vedantaachaarya, it might have been possible (or made more sense) to have completed this series on the teaching blog, but there are two key reasons for not doing so.
- It has a set flow and ‘curriculum’ and to interrupt it for this challenge, which is purely a personal activity-choice, would be exerting the ego upon that blog
- On that blog, at no time do I, as the teacher, ever refer to myself in the first person pronoun. What I teach is not mine to own. To claim it as such would be highly egotistical – not to mention a flat-out lie.
While the A – Z presents an opportunity to share some insights to Vedanta, it will also be good to have a little more personal freedom, to be able to say ‘I’ in order to relate examples and to point to myself as a ‘work in progress’. Am looking at this challenge not to teach Vedanta, per se, but to give insights as to how life can be viewed through its lens and how that is exceptionally close to how most would wish to live.
When I first went to the Sydney ashram, I was asked by the aachaarya, “Who are you?’ I, of course, responded as almost everyone does (and as you thought right now on reading it) – with my name. When I went to Sandeepany, the same question was asked and the first response was our names. We were asked again, more firmly, and the next response was to fall to a statement of the work we had been doing -‘I’m a homoeopath and counsellor’… then the question would come again, even more pointedly, ‘WHO ARE YOU?’ By the completion of our studies, having peeled away the layers of identity, we all knew we were something other than our small, individualised selves. We are but beams shed by the Source of light. The Source never diminishes, but the beams only have a finite time to shine. Sadly, each individual forgets its Source and thinks that it shines of itself. It identifies with its shape and form. The Source needs to be remembered to make its existence worthwhile.
Overcoming the ego is central to progress not only as a Vedantin but as a human being whose driving force is Love with the capital ‘ell‘. Spreading Love can, however, become an egotistical act. One must always guard against self-serving motivations, even for acts of charity and compassion. The ego seeks approval, it hungers for attention, longs for recognition. It wants and needs to feel good about itself. A balanced self-esteem is important for healthy social interaction, but it is fragile if we attach everything to it. To attach is to open oneself to a sense of loss when that attachment is no longer available to us. We all fall prey to it, some more than others.
To break our attachment to the material world (and, therefore, our ego), we must do it in stages. Gradually shift attachment to something Higher; for example – substitute chocolate with the ideal of rising half an hour earlier each morning, substitute caffeine with the ideal of giving regularly to charity… it is not that you must not have these things, but that you must not have an attachment to them. Attachment is recognised by the ‘I must have…’ which precedes the taking of these things. It is recognised be the feeling of a sense of lack if the objects of our desire are not obtained. Gurudev used to say, “You enjoy the coffee, let not the coffee enjoy you!” It may seem mundane to talk of chocolate and caffeine, but it is to demonstrate how the human psyche grows attached, dependent on so much. If one cannot break these peripheral attachments, how much harder will it be with the deep and powerful attachment to family, and to the body?
Of course, there will be those who are reading this wondering why would we want to do this at all. Mind you, they probably haven’t read this far down the page… if you have, then you have the intellectual curiosity for delving into the human condition. You may not subscribe to ‘God’ – and be clear, neither does Vedanta, in the sense that most think of it – but you almost certainly do subscribe to the concept of ‘being human’, which is something very much ‘other’ from the rest of the existing world.
It is that small spark of deeper awareness which has enthralled Mankind since thinking began and which has been brought down to our level, rather than us raising ourselves to That. All through history are littered the saints and sages who proved time and time again that it was in rising above our physical and mental limitation, in the superimposing of Higher things to quash the ego, that great things could be achieved. Not material things, but purposeful, meaningful, life-assuring things. Just such a sage was Yeshu, the carpenter’s son.
Who are you?
Will you choose to roll away the stone of ignorance of the True You, the Self at Source?
Blessed Easter and हरि ॐ