Did you ever wonder- Why are others mean to you? Why don’t they do as you say? Why is your boss so bossy? Why doesn’t your spouse understand you? Why don’t your children listen to you? Why your wife or your mother-in-law doesn’t ever gets satisfied by you? Or ever noticed yourself- When you behave differently with different people? When you seek appreciation for the new watch or dress? When you get upset if you find a friend of yours liking the profile picture of others on facebook and not yours? When you try to end every heated conversation or argument with your remarks? At times we try hard to prove ourselves right or our thinking superior and such an accomplishment gives us a sense of achievement. In other words, we feel satisfied or winner when our self-made image of the self gets an approval from others. To say in even simpler words- our EGO gets satiated.
Dictionary defines ego as – a person’s sense or perception of self esteem. More precisely, it is one’s attachment to the false self image. This false image could be created within my consciousness on the basis of my ‘identity’ or possessions. It could be something really gross or physical like- our body, relationships, house, car or any other material possessions, money etc; or something subtle too, like- knowledge, skills, work, opinion, belief system, respect, societal or professional status or a personality trait. As the attachment to this false image deepens, the feelings generated as a result of this take over and I start experiencing the way I perceived, further deepening the perception or attachment. Soon our whole world seems to revolve around this experience. While we are lost in our wonderland, others too have been busy creating and living theirs and are now revolving around the image they have created. And when their ‘orbit’ of revolution is not parallel to ours, mostly because their perception is not the same as ours, there is rubbing of egos leading to clashes till the time any one of them changes their perception to give up their attachment that has lead to the development of ego… and this is not that easy.
Let us understand how ego works in day-to-day situations or relationships. Each one of us has our own perception of the self. Let us take example of a young lady and a man who are about to get married. Earlier when they met each other, they had a perception of the self- I am a stranger to him/ her. It took time to understand each other and get acquainted to each other. Now, having known each other from sometime, they have come into a relationship of friendship and have a perception of the self- I am a friend to him/ her and they also create a perception for the other person and start looking at them through the spectacles of the self created perception. As a result, there develops a level of understanding and also a level of expectation. Interestingly, if my level of understanding of others rises, then my level of expectation from others will fall and vice- versa. But when we confuse ourselves and others with the roles each one of us are playing, instead of understanding others, we demand others to understand us and hence the expectations also rise. For instance, this perception of being a friend in the relationship demands a certain level of understanding from others and also justifies the right to have a certain level of expectation towards others. And as a result of this higher level of expectations for others, my level of understanding of others declines further as I fail to look at them from their perspective and keep wearing the spectacles of my perception. This replaces love with attachment (to our perception) and gives rise to conflicts. Next, in the case of these friends, who later tie a knot, a new perception is created- I am a husband or I am a wife. This relationship exhibits a greater level of understanding. But when I start looking at myself through this lens all the time- that I am this role, I want the other person to talk to me, behave with me as per my role of a husband or wife. As the relation gets closer and perceptions get deeper, the openness of mind and acceptance of deviation from expected behavior gets constricted. Thus, I develop a higher level of expectations. When not met, these unfulfilled expectations lead to clashes in relationship. So the seemingly possible cause of conflicts or clashes is not really what one ‘does’ but what ‘I perceive’. And this ‘I’, the smallest yet the most powerful and most frequently used word in our vocabulary, has various aspects to it. For example: ‘I am Jane’ or ‘I am his son’ or ‘I am 8 yrs old’ or ‘I am a Hindu’ or ‘I am an American’ or ‘I am the Manager of this organization’, ‘I… I… I…’ the list can go on. To be completely satisfied by the current state of life is, in other words, to be able to stand upright to all these various aspects of ‘I’. If any one of these aspects gets missed out by the self or neglected or overlooked by others, the ‘I’ becomes dissatisfied because of the ego not being met. Under such conditions being truly satisfied seems to be a herculean task.
Hence one who is caught up in its own web of false identity can feel contented under the following conditions:
* When there is no web at all.
* When the web has already been created and all the aspects of ‘I’ have been fed well- i.e. all egos are satiated.
* When the web has been created but the way to be out of it is very well known- i.e. there is no ego.
Let’s find out the best option of all…
# When there is no web at all
We enter the world alone, we leave the world alone
However, once we are here, it is not possible for any individual to remain completely aloof from any role, relation or responsibility. First of all, we come in the company of our own body, then our parents and family, our religious beliefs, family traditions, and then we consciously create some more relationships and get engaged in other roles and take up several responsibilities and acquire various possessions at every step. Life without these would mean nothing as the purpose for which we have got this life is to express ourselves to our best, through these roles etc. So there is no way we don’t associate ourselves to various aspects of our own identity.
# When all aspects of the ‘I’ have been fed well- i.e. all egos are satiated
This is where most of us are investing maximum of our time and energy. We have seen above how it is extremely difficult, infact almost impossible, to feed all the various aspects of our own identity in the way they demand, especially when the demand is never going to die out. The moment we feel that we have achieved what we wanted in this particular role, a new role or image of the self gets created on top of the older one- a new milestone is created and we embark on a new journey, trying to reach a point where our new ego is satiated.
# When the way to be out of the web is known- i.e. there is no ego
We have understood so far that when I am not connected to our real- true identity, I am connected to myself through the false image, which is known as ego. Others might not have the same connectivity with me as I have with myself, through that same false image. So there comes a gap in both these perceptions, giving space to manifestation of ego in some or the other form. Thus the simplest and infact the only way to let go this ego or win over it, is to ‘fill’ this gap. Since the gap has been created by difference of perception, it can be filled by perceiving things and people as they truly are. There is no end to linking anything or person to a false image as there can be many such false images. However, looking at things as they are gives rise to just one, true, universal perspective.
We often hear people speak- just be yourself, be natural. But who is this ‘Self’ or ‘I’ and what is that ‘natural state’ (egoless state) of the self? Whatever I call ‘mine’ or ‘my’, whether it is something materialistic or subtle like a habit or personality trait, is an acquisition, a possession, has either come to me through a karmic account created by me earlier (could also be a past life) or has been earned through either our conscious choices or created through repeated actions. Like the relationship with our parents is a result of our past karmic accounts accumulated through the actions that were once done by choice. Our sanskars of fear, doubt, anger, etc, with which I identify myself and that are not in our control right now, were created within me through repeated actions which were also a result of conscious choices. Although it is said that I become what I choose, but I am certainly NOT the choices I make as I can change my choices at any point of time. Hence, my feelings, my thoughts, my personality, my style of work, my opinions, my attitude, the quality of my relations or even my relations, my roles can change at any moment. Understanding these as only various colors of my identity and not as supplements to it, while I am a spiritual entity, a Soul which is – pure, peaceful, loving and which has power to steer the direction of my choices and not being governed by them, choices I can easily attach myself to this permanent identity which is my natural state – the egoless one.
Attaching myself to my true identity I can remain detached from the ego and thus be out of the web of my own creation of multiple roles (which were earlier understood as ‘I’). In other words, we are very much connected to and taking care of the self, our body, our family, our various other relationships, traditions, belief systems, roles and responsibilities but at the same time, are not trapped into them. I fulfill them to the best of my abilities; however they don’t rule my life and don’t govern my feelings or actions. The experience that- I have this role, is very much understood and not confused with- I am this role and who this ‘I’ is amongst the many ‘I’s I have created and imposed on the self. Summarized as- being soul conscious and not role conscious; this shift in the mindset can be brought about by practicing and applying this in every thought, word and action. Rajyoga Meditation is a simple tool to practise being naturally soul conscious while playing all the roles that I have.
When this shift from a multiple ego state to an egoless, natural, spiritual state occurs, all the temporary supports we were clinging to, are replaced by an eternal pedestal on which our identity stands. When this understanding develops, we can easily extend this understanding towards others and recognize their true identity under many faces of ego. As already explored, this rise in level of understanding towards self and then others leads to:
• A fall in the level of expectations from others.
• Our relation shifts from a role- to- role to a soul- to- soul relationship which is a much deeper and pious one.
• We do not expect from others and the acceptance fosters.
• We feel contented by the self and also satisfied by other people, situations or events.
• I know that whatever less I have is a result of the choices I had made; but nevertheless it can be modified at any moment by the new choices I make now and whatever more I have is short lived, so that I don’t allow ego to build up.
• This builds up humility which is liked by all
• It gives us power to maintain self respect based on what I have IN me rather than what I have around me and leads to a level of satisfaction that can be sustained as long as I am what I am.