Surrendering our False Ego.
Question: Our BG discussion group has been rambling for lack of our ability to grapple with the meaning of ‘ego’. All of us generally agree that spirituality is about surrendering the ego or getting rid of ‘I-consciousness’. But understanding it conceptually itself seems a challenge. We discussed ‘I am not the body, I am the soul’, and ‘I am the eternal servant of the lord’ aspects. We also cited the example of sage Valmiki – he must have lost consciousness of body altogether. We would appreciate hearing from you about this topic.
Romapada Swami: There is a distinction between `ego’ and `false-ego’ which I would like to point out — perhaps that would help understand the concept of ego better. Ego is the conception that one has of oneself, a conscious awareness of one’s identity, or as you put it, “I-consciousness”.
The soul cannot get rid of ego, or the conscious awareness of oneself, even with one’s greatest effort. The soul *IS* conscious, and being conscious of one’s spiritual identity is experienced in the liberated state. However, by uncovering our real-ego, or the true and eternal sense of self, we can discard the false-ego or the false identification of the soul with external objects, such as the bodily coverings of the soul, both gross and subtle, and things related to the body.
Getting rid of false-ego does not necessarily mean to `lose awareness of the body or mind’, as was the case of Valmiki during his deepest meditation on Ram’s name. Rather, ridding oneself of false-ego means to change one’s perception of one’s self — to see oneself not as the enjoyer and controller of the material energy, but as a part and parcel
of Krishna and an instrument in Krishna’s hands.
To repeat, a self-realized soul is not necessarily disconnected from sensory perception of the external world; but a self-realized soul *is* disconnected from any mis-identification with matter, as much as the driver of a car is fully conscious of the movements of his vehicle but doesn’t identify himself to be the car. As one’s real-ego or awareness of one’s eternal identity awakens, one becomes transcendental to the pains and pleasures and changes of the body although fully connected to the body, seeing it as a mere instrument.
Here is one final thought on this topic.
Real ego is the consciousness that one is the eternal servant of the Lord, while false-ego is characterized by the mentality of being the doer and mover of material energy (Bg 3.27). Very often, beginners in spiritual life, trying to overcome false ego and the doer-ship mentality, mistakenly suppose that abandonment of false ego means giving up action
or taking initiative. Karma-tyaga is their objective, not just karma-phala tyaga. They think that surrendering or acting as an instrument of God, moreover, is akin to becoming something like a mindless programmed robot. This is not correct. Rather, giving up false ego is to give up whimsical actions and the mentality that one can achieve something
independent of Krishna, replacing this false-ego with the consciousness that one’s actions are to be placed subordinate to and suject to God’s will.
I hope this sheds some light on this topic.