The ego sense-of “I” needs “others” and things to survive and to exist; it is born, dies, and is reborn based on shifting “markers of identity” tied to body-mind experiences, “accumulations,” “relationships,” and “losses,” and it is inherently bound to suffering as a result of this in the world. The Real Self is Self-Sufficient and Self-Luminous and exists independently onto itself. The Real Self simply exists, and needs nothing to create nor define it; the Real Self is not dependent on, nor made more or less by, relationship to objects, people, roles, and or experiences in the world.
What Is The Ego?
The ego is a social-mental construct, and false sense-of-self, that is attached to fleeting and illusory “objects” in the world.
And these attachments will be to everything from ideologies, to roles, to relationships, past and current experiences, monetary income and other accumulations, your (and other people’s) everchanging physical form, the mental projections of “yourself” and “others” that you (and/or “others”) formulate in your head (in the form of societal conditioning, social pressures, expectations), and so forth.
Using these attachments to define/make sense of who/what “you” are, the ego sense-of-self is often “valuated” by its accumulation, or lack of accumulation, of things that the world considers to be markers of “success,” like possessing a certain amount of shiny objects, a particular job in society, a certain number of followers, having a particular look that is socially “favorable” at any given time, sounding/speaking a certain way or in a certain language, etc. And, because of this, the ego is what keeps “you” bound to Karmic suffering with others and in the world, chasing after things for a sense of “worth,” and/or “happiness,” “survival,” and so forth, and/or fighting for “importance,” “relevance,” or “influence” for most (if not all) of the time that “you” are alive.
To be a bit more specific, the ego is a common and distorted sense-of-self identity tied to your over-identification with human-animal attachments and fears and to a psycho-social false identification with any given perception/story that you and/or others project onto/into the “world” as “real” at any given point (with you playing a role in that projected story). This story (of how you “fit into” any particular narrative of ever-changing negotiated perceptions of “reality,” at any given point) is how “you” get, and remain, tied to suffering in relationship to objects and people in the first place.
Since you, in Truth, are not an object, nor are you ever defined by any object–nor by any number of objects–no matter how “fun” any ego-role may appear to be at first, these roles will always end up confining, oppressing, and depressing “you,” because becoming anyone or anything is inherently restrictive to your True Nature as unbounded Spirit, which is simply free to be.
To make this point clear so that you do not think that I am somehow advocating that you do/accomplish nothing at all in the world because you are simply “be-ing,” I will give a few examples. When you say things like you are skinny, fat, smart, dumb, pretty, ugly, rich, poor, etc, as opposed to recognizing that these things are ultimately perceptions/mental projections (and sometimes falsehoods) that can change with time as minds change, or that these things can change with time as bodies change, or that circumstance can change these things, it is a sign of ignorance. At your core, you probably understand that you are none of these things, especially since none of the things mentioned (nor unmentioned) are grounded in any fixed unchanging/unchangeable reality. If yesterday you were a “student,” and today you are a “doctor,” who are you? Obviously, you are the being that “holds” student and shifted to doctor, but that “you” never changed. Your body can be skinny, and skinny will change over time, as will your young body turn to an old one with time, but “you” are not skinny, young, nor old. “You” just are the plane upon which these things appear and disappear.
The Stories That “You” Tell And Play Out
Again, the ego is a socially-bound (and often “negotiated” for the specific purpose of maintaining illusory–since none of its roles/identities are real–personas and personal narratives/stories about “self” and “others” in relationship to the mentally perceived world that it creates for itself, and the collectively fashioned society that it co-creates with “everyone” else) mental-emotional construct/fabrication of identity that creates a false sense-of “I” from a conglomerate of (ultimately irrelevant) external, malleable, and temporary factors that one ignorantly attempts (consciously or unconsciously) to give validity and make permanent and “True” about his/her personal expression in the world through psychic attachment and overidentification in order to cope with the spiritual dis-ease that comes from ignorant overidentification with objects, experiences, and form, causing mental distraction and fear that is fueled by uncertainty about the ever-changing form that a particular “person” needs to “survive.”
To make sense of, and participate in, the socially negotiated world of manifested and perceived reality (Maya)/illusion, and to play/maintain certain roles of “distinction” (meaning “to be different”) from others due to physical form/appearance/experience, and so forth, the ego is created around your particular body-mind to carry out the necessary character functions (thoughts, words, actions–or karmas) that help validate/reinforce its “individual” and “distinct” manifestation in, and relationship to, material existence. In short, the ego maintains a false sense-of-identity/reality that supports the appearance of “duality” and separation in existence; it is not grounded in the eternally whole and unchanging Truth of the Absolute Reality, which is “oneness” with/in the Pure Self that exists, Liberated, beyond form and experience.
Why The Ego Is Bound To Suffering
The ego, which is inherently unstable, since it is composed of fleeting illusions/perceptions and fluctuating external factors for its “existence,” creates a limited sense of “I” focused on obsessive “self-preservation” (in the sense of both physical preservation and identity preservation), and, due to fear and craving, it maintains a “sense of other” in relationship to all of creation in order to sustain a feeling of individuality and over-importance focused on its own existence and “survival” (in both concept and form) above all else.
Because of its limited, fleeting nature, not grounded in anything tangible or eternal, and tied to an ever-changing/fluctuating body-mind, the ego sense-of-self experiences only separation from “the rest of existence” as opposed to knowing its inseparability and unity with everything as one, even in its relationships to others who it feels “connected to” for its own sake of survival and pleasure fulfillment. This makes the ego sense-of-self highly insecure and inevitably neurotic.
Due to its over-identification with one personal body-mind and its needs/desires, the ego only forms attachments to people, places, and things in the world in ways that maintain or “boost” its social “validity,” “pleasure,” “relevance,” “success,” or “value” (either running toward or away from certain things to maintain its sense-of-self) due to its fear and insecurity. The ego fails to see, or live, the greater Reality of the True Self that is beyond form and incorruptible in essence, unchanged (not made more or less) by objects and/or experience and is unlimited and eternal in nature, boundless without death (since the ego is too distracted by its constant death and rebirth with every superficial shift in “identity” that is ultimately extinguished with the final dissolution of the body that it is tied to with the inevitable process of physical death).
Survival-Mode Enabled: Watch Out World–Here It Comes!
Again, focused primarily on survival (of the body in the physical world and its “identity” on the mental/social plane), the ego, as mentioned before, 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) within its species, culture, society, and so forth. The ego sense-of-self exists in a state of clouded perception, and, tied to the body-mind, compels the manifested form that it identifies with to act accordingly for the sake of maintaining cohesion and perceived, but impossible, “permanence,” “importance,” and/or “worth” in reference to “others.”
It’s Just A Construct | It Is Not Who You Are
To recap, and ensure that this point is clear, the ego, no matter how convincing it may seem to most who live their lives as if their ego body-mind is who they are, is nothing but a fabrication created by ignorant attachment to the body-mind that is used for sense-making in the world/within Maya. The ego 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 (tied to their limited form and perspectives in relationship to external factors and actors) for the True Self.
Settling Into Your True Identity
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 eternally-fleeting factors, nor is this “I” obsessed, or overidentified, with changing 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, mental projections, and external factors, experiences, expressions, creations, and so forth.
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 your ego, and other people’s egos, so that you can rest in the direct experience of/as who you Truly are and free yourself from the 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, and rest in True joy.
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