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I just chatted with Jay about the mind/self thing that has been bothering me for 2 weeks now. I can't stop thinking about it.

"Self realization has no promise other than to release you from your belief in a separate self or ego."

Regardless of everything Jay, Ray and I have learned about sociology, the ego is still there. Heck Sal has one of the biggest egos ever. He sure as hell has a right to such a big ego because of who he is. But breaking down the ego will not make him any less of a person or get any less respect.


"BANNANJE GOVINDACHARYA: In Indian philosophy, "ego" has different shades of meaning. The ego is not only pride or self-importance or arrogance. In the most basic sense, ego means awareness of the self. This is the subtle ego, what's called ahamkara in Sanskrit. And that is wanted; that is not to be denied, not to be rejected. Awareness of self is a very essential part of practice. First I must know: What am I? In order to have the awareness of God, I must first have the awareness of my own self. This is the required ego. One must have it. It is not to be denied by practice or by any other spiritual pursuit. It is there even in the deep sleep state. Even in moksha you are aware of your own self, with awareness of God simultaneously. So this is one kind of ego.

And then there is the dangerous ego. That ego means self-importance or pride. That is the gross ego. And that is always dangerous in the practice of the spiritual. Krishna says in Bhagavata, "If you've acquired a knowledge, wisdom or philosophy, don't be egotistic." Don't think, "I have learned this, I am a scholar because I did this." No, this should not be there. Even after knowledge, surrender should be there, submission should be there. Then you will be knowledgeable. Otherwise that knowledge is dangerous. If you want to realize God, you must erase this ego, this self-importance or pride."


"AMRIT DESAI: The ego is really the inborn sense of "I am," and that is something that nobody can avoid. The sense of "I am" is an identification that has different expressions through the evolutionary stages. The first experience of "I am" is when we directly identify with the body and is connected with the survival of the body. That's how it begins. And then I realize that I have a body, but I'm not my body. Then I realize that I have a mind, but I'm not my mind. I have my emotions, but I'm not my emotions. I have my self-concepts, but I'm not the concepts I have about myself. I have opinions, but I'm not my opinions. It's an evolutionary process, an evolutionary journey of ego. Ego is a sense of "I am" as an individual being, which nobody can deny. Ego is not something that is useless or that should be gotten rid of. It needs to be purified by clearly realizing who I really am."

This is something that's not understood, I think, by many people that inherent in spiritual experience is a temptation of narcissism, a temptation to be the one, the one who knows, the special one.

AD: Right, that is: "I know, and you do not know." If I'm superior to others, if I believe that I know more than you, then I am already setting up a distance and a separation from you. And that separation itself causes competition and jealousy, blame, shame, guilt. These are all the manifestations of that separation. Fear and all those human drives begin to come in. Once I believe that I am better than you, as soon as that takes over, I'm using the Source power to develop resourcesmore people loving me, more people understanding me, more people respecting me, more prosperity, more power, more knowledge, more skillsbetter than anybody else. That is a separative force taking over. And that separation is called "ego."


"JACK ENGLER: In the psychoanalytic tradition, ego has a very positive connotation. It's a collective designation for a whole set of very important psychological functions. Functions from thinking to feeling to reality testinga whole set of capacities that are essential to human life. And very often people have deficits in these different areas of functioning. In therapy, one thing you're trying to do is develop what's traditionally called "ego strength." As a psychologist, part of my effort is to help people develop capacities that may be underdeveloped or may have been derailed earlier in development or may have been compromised by subsequent trauma. So ego, in this sense, is a positive thing. That's the way I think of it in psychology.

But a lot of people who come to me for therapy don't think of ego that way. They think of ego in a spiritual context, where it's a bad thing. But talking about ego in a spiritual context, to me, is even more problematic. It gets talked about almost like it's an alternate personality within me that is bad; it gets reified as some part of me that I have to battle with, that I have to transcend. I think spiritual language reinforces a lot of dualistic thinking when we talk about ego that wayunless we're really careful in how we define it. Now instead of "self versus other" it's "self versus ego." And so the struggle just continues in another guise.

If you ask me what I think ego is in a spiritual sense, I guess I would say it's our attempt to grasp ourselves. It's the myriad forms of self-grasping that are doomed to endless frustration and disappointment. I think that's the root of what ego is, and everything else follows from this, whether it's preoccupation with self-image or whether it's attempts at self-aggrandizement or whether it's experiencing self as separate and over/against others. The core of it seems to be this attempt to grasp the self and fix it. Or fixate it, that's a better word. And where does the self-grasping come from? I think it mostly comes out of fear, out of this core, chronic, anxious sense that we don't exist in the way we think we do."


"TAYLOR HACKFORD: Well, if you're ultimately asking: Do I think we can live in an egoless society?no, I don't, and I'm not trying to say that. Without ego, you don't have individualism. And I would certainly say that ego is responsible for many works of artistic genius because you have to have people who say, "I can do it differently; I can do it better." You may say, "People can be individuals without having to feed their egos." But in reality, in order to step out and really make a stand, in order to walk out on the precipice and say, "I can do this better," you have to believe it, and that means your ego is being developed. However, once you do step out, there is a support system in our culture that comes into play that starts to say, "You're a genius." But you're not a genius. You may be right on certain things, and you may be very talented in certain areas, but that doesn't mean that you're God. Our society gives power to people who are successful. All of a sudden, if you've created something unique and interesting, you're set apart. That's okayyou should get some recognition. But, unfortunately, sometimes that affirmation creates a sense that you deserve special treatment and recognition in areas where you're not so talented. And then self-importance starts to take over, and you find that you're making decisions that are destructive, making decisions that have nothing to do with your talent but have everything to do with your narcissistic desires. I mean, these are the things that we are faced with every day. The problem is that we have a society and a worldwide capitalistic system that are there to satisfy your narcissism on every level and give you a sense of yourself as larger than what you really are."

"Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water."

Hmm. I'm soooo confused. I love it!

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