Ego, simply described as ‘I’, self-part of a person, impedes a person’s spiritual progress. The ego often extends beyond the self to a person’s spouse, family, caste, state and even country. Taking immense pride in the accomplishments of our children and feeling disappointed when India loses a cricket match is an expression of ego extending beyond oneself.
Ego is the primary cause for all negative emotions: greed that makes you want more; jealousy that makes you resent another’s progress; disappointment that your expectations are not being met; anger when you feel offended; hatred that comes from strong dislike and pride that makes you feel that you are the best. When a person is full of i, god is absent and when I disappears completely, god is manifest in full splendour, pointed out Osho.
Ego presents itself in different ways. At one end of the spectrum are people who are pompous and so full of themselves. Often, such people are in powerful positions and few can muster the courage to point out that their ego is so evident. Then there are those who believe ego is essential and it is ego that drives a person to success.
Such people are under the mistaken belief that absence of ego is tantamount to lack of goal/ambition in life. The biggest challenge arises in case of people who externally appear humble, as people around them cannot perceive their ego. Such people are also often unable to observe the ego that is deeply buried inside them, which can be called the subtle ego.
An anecdote from the life of Buddha will illustrate the presence of subtle ego. A notorious dacoit, fed up of leading an evil life wanted to become a disciple of the Buddha. One of the Buddha’s disciples who could visualise previous lives of a person was summoned. He informed the Buddha that the dacoit had committed heinous crimes in all his past births and hence even the Buddha cannot transform him.
Seeing the resolve of the dacoit, the Buddha accepted him as his disciple. The dacoit made quick spiritual progress and got enlightened within a short period. The other disciples of the Buddha wondered how the dacoit made such rapid progress, when they had not been able to attain nirvana despite being with the Buddha for long. The Buddha explained that the disciples carried a subtle ego of being pious, which was a roadblock to their progress, whereas the dacoit
harboured no such ego.
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