The nature of a person is such that he only enjoys doing that which satisfies his ego.
The subtitle of this post are the words uttered by Bhagwan Shri Swaminarayan around 250 years ago. The ego wasn’t just spoken about then or today, but for millennia, philosophers and thinkers have pondered upon that which affects everyone today…
The biggest obstacle in the journey of our life is our own ego. The ego is distinct from you, and the Katha Upanishad draws this distinction:
In the secret cave of the heart, two are
seated by life’s fountain. The separate ego
drinks of the sweet and bitter stuff,
liking the sweet, disliking the bitter,
while the supreme Self drinks sweet and bitter.
Neither liking this nor disliking that.
The ego gropes in darkness, while the Self lives in light.
The ego is the ‘fake image’ that the mind creates to preserve your sense of being the most important and significant person, who knows it all. It’s your costume; the one that requires constant validation from the world around it. If it doesn’t get the approval it seeks, it will cease to exist. When someone hurts you and you get upset, that isn’t you getting hurt, it’s your ego. When you make a statement that you think is best and no one agrees, you may get mad, but that is your ego again. It operates according to your limited false beliefs, seeking validation from external sources/ It is reactive, fear-based, and committed to keeping you safely confined within the reality you have created based on false beliefs (the comfort zone).
It lives in the past and in the future, believing you are distinct from everything around you. Your ego is the very reason that you think your existence and presence on this earth is greater than others. This is false. You are not greater than anyone, nor am I. Instead, focus on becoming great for yourself.
We buy materialistic things to ‘show-off’ to people who don’t even care about us; we get jealous when someone is earning double what we make annually. Life has become all about comparisons. HH Mahant Swami Maharaj says that the ego is man’s greatest enemy. It stops all rational thinking, compassion, love and understanding. The Sama Veda says: “Pride of our wealth destroys wealth, pride of strength destroys strength, and in the same manner pride of knowledge destroys knowledge.”
Sadly, over time, we have made our ego our very image. We cannot simply get rid of it just like that. Actually, it isn’t you who has made this image. Our ego has made it for us – for its own validation. But now, it is we who are pampering and fuelling it further. It’s easy to notice when someone else’s ego gets hurt because they instantly become reserved and protective. We don't ask things because we want to know; we ask him to put others down and boost our own ego. We want people to acknowledge what we say to be true; we fear being wrong.
It isn't wrong to discuss problems or issues you may be having, or, to discuss with someone else is going through, but don't make it the subject to fuel your own superiority and make someone look inferior to you. Always keep an open mind, hear others out, but don't waste time on people who gossip about others. It is not your responsibility or place to get involved in the issue of someone else's personal life. Bhagwan Shri Swaminarayan says: “One who considers himself to be superior to others constantly remains at unease, day and night. In fact, he constantly smoulders like a half-burnt log. He never experiences peace at heart.”
In order to make ourselves look greater and smarter, we often hide our true nature. We are a different person at home, at work, with family, and with friends. Our image works harder to be more considerate, attentive, generous, positive, but the ego gets in the way. Our insecurities want to convince us, and those around us, that we are special. It presents an inflated self image to others, and we fuel it by doing everything we can to protect the image we want others to perceive.
Bhagwān Shri Swāminārāyan often used the word vanity along with ego, as they both go hand-in-hand. The majority of our effort goes into how we appear to the rest of the world. The ego finds confidence and joy in impressing others. Basically, it seems as though the ego is the internal battle of the passenger.
You might have seen the above picture before. It did rounds all over social media as a meme captioned, ‘$162 billion in one photo and not a Gucci belt in sight.’ Don’t worry, I’m not trying to suggest anything, but, if you are truly satisfied with who you are, you don’t need to prove your worth to anyone else. Think about the choices that you make when no one is around, when there is no one to judge you, and nobody to impress. Who emerges at that time? That is who you truly are. A saying accredited to John Wooden goes: “You are who you are when no one is watching.”
There’s more to come on the ego… But I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too. Fire away and get back to me anytime.
Prayers and Love,
This is an excerpt from my first book, ‘The Keshav Way’. If you’d like to grab yourself a copy, you can do here…