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The Transformation of Ego
Date: August 19, 2010
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: After several years of practices, my perception has become
that "ego" is a sense of self separate from my inner witness (the real me).
While I know that there is no such thing as a separate self, still, I keep
running across it in my life, mainly in the form of "I, me and mine." I
can't help identifying with this and, while it is not always present, it
crops up often enough. There is no amount of intention I can have that is
able to get rid of it. Moreover, this ego thing seems to have a mind of its
own, sneaking into my life in ways that I do not want, trying to limit the
natural happiness that is in me. I can see now why some teachers say that
the ego is the source of all misery in the world. My question is, how do I
get rid of the limiting ego so I can enjoy the full benefits of
enlightenment? Is it too early for me to be engaging in self-inquiry?
A: There can be no "getting rid"
of the ego, because ego is a product of the mind, and so too is the act of
getting rid of something an act of the mind. We can move things around in
the mind, but we cannot get rid of them, except by transcending the mind
altogether. This is what meditation is for cultivating abiding inner
silence, that which is beyond the mind. But in doing so, we are not getting
rid of the mind or the ego, we are only illuminating them with our inner
light of pure bliss consciousness. In this way both the mind and the ego are
transformed in their role in the expression of our life, which
radiates more and more from the infinite source of peace and creativity
After a few years of practice, you are finding inner
silence and the divine flow emerging in your everyday
life, and it is natural to want to get on with it, so it can become a
full time experience. It is your bhakti that is driving you forward. Inner
silence tends to amplify our bhakti, and it also moves us toward
self-inquiry. It is normal. When our thoughts and feelings, including the
ego, or "I thought," are becoming objects of perception on the screen of our
abiding inner silence (witness), we are naturally inclined to do something
with them, particularly when they are influencing our perceptions
and actions in life in negative ways, like those acts that are driven
by the "I, me, mine" reflex. We'd like to get rid of that for sure. But
doing so is not a doing. It is an undoing, and that is the trick.
you are being drawn to self-inquiry, then it is time. But, like with all
practices, self-pacing will be necessary. Self-inquiry can be very helpful
once we are able to release our inquiry in stillness (samyama effect), no
matter what procedure of inquiry we may be using. That requires some abiding
inner silence, obviously. We will know our self-inquiry is gaining traction
in stillness (relational) if we feel the identification of our awareness
with objects fading when we engage in inquiry. If we are feeling strain,
frustration, confusion, headache, etc., then we can be pretty sure we are
getting ahead of ourselves in mind outside inner silence (non-relational),
and it is time to self-pace. Lesson 356 provides
additional perspective on relational versus non-relational self-inquiry, and
technique suggestions as well. We will know self-inquiry
is working when we find our sense of self gradually expanding beyond the
limits of I, me and mine. This is not an elimination of the ego, per se,
but an expansive transformation of it, not an expansion of I, me and mine,
but an expansion of pure bliss consciousness radiating
out through the personality.
What is the ego anyway, but
identified awareness? It is the same awareness that we find in enlightenment
when identification has faded. Same awareness much happier situation. We
have sometimes used the example of the nervous system being like a window
that needs cleaning. On the inside is pure bliss consciousness and on the
outside is the distorted view of that purity seen
through the dirty window. With the methods of
yoga, we are cleaning the window, so what is seen through it becomes
steadily more clear and pure. In this example, the "ego" is the view of pure
bliss consciousness seen through the dirty window.
As we clean the window, the view becomes more clear, and perception and
conduct become illuminated. There may still be
some distortion, but in time even that will go.
Our sitting practices will take care of it, and our entry into self-inquiry
will clarify remaining misperceptions. We come to find that we never
were the distorted view coming through the window,
only identified with it.
Is that getting rid of the ego, or a
transformation of it? Because it will be a gradual process for most, viewing
it as a transformation may be more practical. Also,
seeing it as a transformation is less judgmental.
If we see the process as a gradual transformation, we can accept the
so-called ego at whatever stage it may be, without feeling like we have to
shove it out the door, which will only strengthen it in the realm of the
mind. Making an enemy of the ego is as fruitless as
making an enemy of the mind (see Lesson 354).
Instead, we gradually illuminate the ego
from within by cleaning the window, and one day we realize that it has been
pure bliss consciousness expressing in that impure form all the while. That
"realizing" stage is where self-inquiry has its greatest value. Not much
before. Abiding inner silence and the process of inner purification and
opening lead to this condition where self-inquiry becomes highly relational
(in stillness). We have called this stage "ripeness," the point where we are
only a few steps away from falling off the tree into unending peace and
happiness, no matter what may be going on in our surroundings. There can be
regressions at any stage, but once the nervous system (our window) reaches a
certain level of purity, there is little chance of losing it. By then, the
natural momentum of outpouring divine love and stillness in action are
working 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Let us not forget that the
ego is our primary vehicle to enlightenment. Who else besides the ego would
be sawing the limb of ignorance, while sitting on the part that will fall?
For those who might worry about this, the fall is into infinite peace and
happiness. In spite of the "I, me and mine" impulse, the ego is
always looking to expand its power and its view. Once it becomes clear that
all power and knowledge are found by going within, the ego will lead us
there. Nothing else can do it. If ego were not the one cutting the limb of
ignorance off while sitting on it, there would be no limb, because
limitation is what the limb is. We must operate from limitation to move
beyond limitation. That is the rationale for spiritual practices, and it
works. Odd as it may seem, the ego is our vehicle to enlightenment. We have
to operate from where we are. It is not possible to operate from where we
Someone wrote me recently asking
if it was okay to meditate to be more successful in business. I said, sure,
go for it. Meditating for business will be sure to lead to a broader view.
If that person were discouraged from meditating for business, how would he
ever get beyond that need? Meditating and engaging fully
in life is the fastest way to do it, not by condemning or trying to
ignore the attachment to business.
It is the same thing for health.
Millions take up yoga practices for health. Why
not? It works, and it leads
to much more than physical health.
the ego that wants to meditate, and that is great. It will lead beyond
whatever the imagined reason is even the concept of enlightenment. Hard as
we may try, we cannot imagine our way beyond the fact of what it is. We can
only purify the vehicle (this nervous system the window) and become a fuller
expression of our essential nature, which is pure bliss consciousness.
If the ego seems to be sabotaging us at times, it is only lingering habit,
something that will fade over time as we continue with daily practices, like
so many of our negative behaviors have.
Honestly, I can think
of nothing that would want to meditate besides ego (identified awareness).
If that were not the case, there would be only pure awareness, and
meditation would not be about purification and opening, but about basking in
the infinite. Even then, it is the person (the shadow of
our transformed ego) who sits down to meditate. Or is it stillness in
action sitting to meditate? Does it even matter?
We can only operate
from where we are, and there is no practical reason to divide ourselves into
good and bad, ego and non-ego. It's all one thing (one awareness) in the
process of transformation from expressing with identification to expressing
When we talk about human spiritual
transformation, we are talking about illumination from the inside. That is
illumination of the heart, the mind, and all our actions in the world. This
transforms the role of these elements of our nature, including the aspect
that connects us consciously with our expression of
body/mind in time and space. And that is
the ego, even if only a faint remnant of the duality it was before it became
permeated with inner light. The result is abiding inner silence, ecstatic
bliss, and outpouring divine love for the benefit of all on this earth
plane, and beyond.
The guru is in you.
For detailed discussion on the practical
utilization of relational self-inquiry (in ripeness), see the
and the Liberation book.
For detailed instructions on
building and maintaining a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the
Eight Limbs of Yoga book.
Also see and AYP Plus.