The ego is a socially/mentally constructed false sense-of-self that is attached to fleeting and illusory “objects“–from thoughts, to roles, to relationships, past and current experiences, to your everchanging physical form, the delusional mental projections of “others,” your accumulation or lack of accumulation of things, and so forth–in the “external world.” And, because of this, your ego is what keeps you bound to Karmic suffering in the world.
To be a bit more specific, the ego is a distorted self-identity tied to your human-animal nature and social conditioning, which is how it keeps you bound to suffering in relationship to objects and people in the first place. The ego is a construct of self that is fabricated from a conglomerate of external, malleable, and temporary factors that one attempts to give validity and make permanent and True through psychic attachment/overidentification to make sense of, and participate in, the socially negotiated world of perceived reality (Maya)/illusion. In short, the ego maintains a false sense of reality; it is not grounded in the eternally unchanging Truth/Absolute Reality, which is why it leads to suffering.
The Ego Is Not Grounded In Reality/Eternal Truth
The ego, which is inherently unstable, since it has no grounding in permeance and Absolute Truth (and is composed of fleeting illusions/perceptions and factors), creates a limited sense of “I” focused on obsessive “self-preservation” (in the sense of both physical preservation and identity preservation), and it maintains a “sense of other” in relationship to all of creation in order to sustain a feeling of separateness and over-importance focused on “staying alive” (in concept and in form). Because of its limited, fleeting nature, not grounded in anything tangible or eternal, the ego sense-of-self feels separate from the rest of existence as opposed to inseparable and unified with everything as one (yes, even in a unique expression that paradoxically stands in its completion alone). And, due to these feelings of separation, the ego-constructed sense-of-self fails to see or live the greater Reality of the True Self that is incorruptible by objects and/or experience and is unlimited, and eternal in nature.
Focused primarily on survival (of the body in the physical world and the “identity” on the mental plane), the ego often compulsively seeks pleasure and avoids pain, and is led by attractions and repulsed by aversions based on unconscious and outdated animal drives developed from past stored memories/experiences (individually and collectively). The ego sense-of-self exists in a state of clouded perception (and acts accordingly) for the sake of maintaining cohesion and perceived, but impossible, “permanence,” and social relevance/”importance,” and or “value” in society.
It’s Just A Construct | It Is Not Who You Are
The ego, no matter how convincing it may seem to most who live their lives as if their ego is who they are, is nothing but a fabrication of the body-mind that is used for sense-making in the world/within Maya. It is a mental tool for interacting in the socially constructed world of projected illusions and perceived/negotiated reality. The ego is not who you are. Humans create suffering when, in ignorance, they mistaken their personal ego (their limited form and perspectives in relationship to external factors and actors) for the True Self.
Settling Into Your True Identity
To make our point clearer, the True Self, as hinted at above, since it is connected to the True (eternal/unchanging) nature of existence, does not feel separate from, nor more or less “worthy” or important, within creation due to eternal/fleeting factors, nor is this “I” obsessed, or overidentified, with fleeting forms or experience to define it within a social context.
The True Self is a stable, unchanging, being/awareness, undefined and unconfined by external factors, roles, and “relationships.” The ego, on the other hand, is a constantly changing distorted sense-of-self created by/in the mind in relationship to “others” that is defined and confined by perceptions and external factors/actors.
Much of your work in Yoga, which is essentially coming back to Union with your True unbounded/connected Self by creating alignment in your body-mind and spirit, is learning how to dissolve your false (and, therefore, delusional) overidentification with the ego so that you can rest in the direct experience of/as who you truly are and free yourself from its ties that bind you to unconscious Karmic suffering in the world.
Only when “you” come into your True “I am,” that is not tied to anything in this world, do you come into your full Self expression.
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