It is very easy to live deluding ourselves that we are free, when in truth we are in our ego. If we are in our ego we are not free. The false identification with ourselves is very limiting. In other words, the self-conscious state of mind (EGO) does not let us have the vision of the Divine. The Divine is that which is beyond everything that is temporary. The Divine is that which is beyond negative feelings and selfish motives and inclinations. The Divine is constant and consistent because the Divine is Eternal.
Ego prevents us from realizing our own Self. The realization of our Real Nature means to actualize the character of the soul. Merely visualizing goodness is not enough. We need to think and act according to our true nature which is free of ego and everything associated with it.
Ego can be either blatant or subtle, but either way it is still deadly. Ego destroys the experience of our Self. That is, it is impossible to know and experience Reality if we are in our ego. Ego makes us doubt our Self and that self-doubt cripples us. When the mind is crippled by ego, it clings to images. Ego uses images as crutches to support itself. In the process of validating our ego we make our selves invalids, and then we become overwhelmed by the challenges of everyday living.
The only way to strengthen ourselves is to listen to the wisdom of the wise, internalize it, and put it into practice. This is a lifelong process that should never stop. Living a good life is not a hobby; it is a life long commitment to spiritual growth. We need to habituate the mind to make the right choices over and over, again and again, until it becomes our nature to never swerve from the path of Truth.
Spiritual growth is the process of elimination of ego. It is not a religious trip or image worship. It is not an ego adventure or personality play. Spiritual growth is the all-round development of the human spirit on all levels: the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. In search of the Divine, the human spirit seeks to break free of all the limitations of the body and mind. We realize our goal only when we give up our ego.
As long as we are ruled by ego, that long we remain in bondage. The tyranny of ego is something we have lived with for a very long time. That’s why we have gotten used to it. Ego has become our unconscious habit. We are not free if we are living under the tyranny of our ego. We need to revolt against our own ego and in order to defeat it we must arm ourselves with wisdom.
The problem is that ego doesn’t want us to listen to wisdom. Ego doesn’t want to change. Ego doesn’t want to see its own faults, because ego wants to think it is free. Our ego makes us think we have nothing to change, that everything is just fine the way it is, and that everything will be the same tomorrow and the day after. But the truth is that nothing ever remains the same. Every moment is new, and the only way to be happy is to be renewed every moment. That is the natural state of our Consciousness: to be always fresh, free, and imageless. But the way of ego-consciousness is to hold onto our images and imagine that we have everything figured out.
True Love cannot be ‘figured out’. The Truth cannot be ‘figured out’, and Life cannot be ‘figured out’. If we need a ‘reason’ to love, a ‘reason’ to be truthful, or a ‘reason’ to live then we are in our ego, and the only way out is to look within.
Looking within means being really honest with ourselves. We should not be afraid to admit our own faults. First, we need to admit that we are only human. It is our humanity that gives us humility. In other words, our humility is a natural state of our being human. If we are not humble we are inhumane. If we are inhumane with ourselves we will also be inhumane with others. Inhumanity in any form is unnatural for us—because we are human beings.
The fact that we are human beings is the greatest blessing of life. Only as human beings can we really see and rise above our ego. Other living creatures also have ego, but they cannot recognize it or go beyond it. This is the special privilege of human beings, and with this privilege comes responsibility. Lack of humility is irresponsibility. Refusing to see our own ego is irresponsibility. Ignoring good advice is irresponsibility, it is lack of humility. When we lack true humility our ability to handle difficult situations is compromised.
The ability to be ourselves is very natural when we have true humility. When we lack true humility, we pretend to be ourselves, and we even pretend to be humble, but these pretenses will invariably make us tense and nervous. After many years of pretending, people become quite adept at accommodating their own little ego, but in the end they find that there are no accommodations for them in heaven. Death is no free ticket to Paradise. If we die in our ego we are going right back to where we came from.
With our ego we create our own hell and keep going back to it again and again. The self-tormentation ends only when our ego is terminated. To put an end to our ego we must be vigilant, because the subtle ego is very conniving and deceptive. There are many teachers, preachers, mullahs, rabbis, monks, gurus, sadhus, and self-proclaimed saviors who are living in self-deception and don’t even know it (or won’t admit it).
The best way to reduce ego is to work it off. Ego won’t just go away on its own. We should keep doing good actions and remain humble, and not seek any reward or recognition whatsoever. Good action is its own reward; any other reward is only a plastic trophy.
Good repute will definitely accrue to the one who does good action, and this good repute is also a blessing because it reminds us of our true stature as a noble soul. But the deeper meaning of good repute is this: When we do good action without the thought of any reward we repudiate the assertion of our ego—in fact, we are asserting our real nature when we refuse to assert our ego. When we assert our real nature again and again, our mind takes on the qualities of our real nature and the tyrant of ego is ousted once and for all. Ego is removed from the throne of our mind and peace descends upon us.