Letting go of ego

In philosophy, ‘ego’ refers to the consciously thinking entity, or in other words, the self. In the study of Rajyoga, we understand ‘ego’ to mean the sense of self-esteem or self-importance which, if based on an attachment to a false identity, causes great sorrow and is one of the main forces of obstruction on a spiritual journey. It can be destructive and painful, so we take our time to convert this energy into the opposite. We spend time letting go of the false identity, that of being the body, and nourishing our awareness of the real identity, that of being a spiritual consciousness, the soul.
Ego, based on the false identity of being the body, brings with it hidden, unseen pitfalls. The one thing we cannot see, on our physical body, is the face. It is invisible to the self and can only be seen in a mirror. In the same way, the expression of ego is often not realised by us – but is seen by everyone else. In identifying with just the body, we have a need to hold on to things that bolster the ‘ego’. The word ‘my’ is used ad infinitum – my idea, my story, my talents and skills, my job, my position, my superior understanding, my suffering, my success, my failure. In holding on to these reinforcements, we will be challenged endlessly. With that, other obstacles to spiritual growth, come into play. There will be anger when challenged, there will be a need to refine my physical appearance to present myself in the best light, there will be greed in accumulating possessions or trappings of superiority, and there will be attachments to anyone who can feed my ego.
There are five faces of ego:
The ego of the body. When we are influenced by anything, we become attached and then dependent on it. In the case of the body, it will bring vanity, narcissism, and pride; and when the body ages and becomes infirm, we feel lost and worthless.
The ego of the personality. If we have a personality, for example, of being entertaining and making others amused, we become attached to that facet, and become dependent on it in all social situations. When that is not recognised, we begin to doubt who we are or become angry. This applies to all aspects of our personalities on which we depend.
The ego of the intellect. This is very subtle and insidious. This dependence on our beliefs, ideas, and that our understanding is better than that of others, is complicated and hard to remove. It will manifest most obviously in argument and the proving of one’s self to be right.
The ego of the role. This causes dependence on what we do and are recognised for, our skills and abilities; our position in society; and our achievements. This colours our attitude and behaviour in all our relationships.
The ego of possessions. These define us. The house we buy, the car we drive, the clothes we wear, and the jewellery we use. All of this dependency creates the false impression that our possessions make us somehow a better person.
So, how do we let go of the ego? If the key word to the false identity is attachment, then to let go we need detachment. Detachment is not a cold and distant stance on life, but a gentle stepping back from the false self, and quietly watching what I am thinking, how I am behaving and what I am saying. This stepping back a little, allows me to experience my higher identity, that of being an eternal consciousness that has a higher personality of royalty, dignity, purity, and contentment, and I am able then to attach my intellect to God, the Supreme intellect and personality. It then becomes clear to me exactly what kind of a soul I want to be on earth, and that I am a caretaker and trustee of the body that I have.
When I become bodiless (detached from the ego of the body), I am able to become ‘egoless’, and then it is possible to become viceless and express only virtues in my relationships, and my life will have become truly valuable.
Eric Le Reste is a journalist and producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and coordinates the activities of Brahma Kumaris centres in Canada.

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