A Pointing On "Ego"

In is common in yoga and meditation circles to assume that it is possible to kill, subjugate, throttle, or otherwise control an entity called the "ego," also known as the "small self." In meditation, it has become clear that "ego" is not actually the ongoing, persistent entity depicted in the annals of psychiatry and psychology, but rather a movement or pattern of thought(s) -- a transient, passing phenomenon that creates the impression of continuity by virtue of deriving its pattern from a template stored in memory. Each occurrence of the pattern records itself back into memory and provides the template for the next occurrence, ad infinitum unto the physical death of the thinking brain.

The ability to form an ego was originally a survival trait -- a sense of individuality with an accompanying nominal identity serves the survival needs of its host human organism. For example, one must manifest an ego to haggle with the fruit vendor, or to complain to the bank manager when the ATM has dispensed one too few $20 bills. This is the rightful role of the ego, a tool wielded in the same sense that one uses foot speed to escape a predator or manual dexterity to peel a fruit for eating -- it is a gift of human incarnation that helps us physically survive in the world.

Ego becomes troublesome when it becomes taken with its own success and fears its own extinction. Having had notable success -- we receive much praise and reinforcement when we respond to our names and when we identify baby toys as "mine" -- ego comes to identify its existence with that of the host organism, it sees itself as the organism's essence rather than as a tool or servant of survival. It is an ego with this "sticky" quality or tendency that is seen as problematic in our yogas and meditations.

The fact is, my friend, that there has never been a functional human being who does not manifest ego as required -- all the revered ones (other than perhaps a few oddities dependent on others for their survival requirements) show evidence of ego. I would posit that what distinguishes a truthful one from a "normal," ego-driven person is not any permanent absence of ego, but rather the falling away of ego when there is no rightful work for ego to do -- for a truthful one, meditation is not a practice or routine, but a spontaneous perceptual shift that occurs naturally as ego falls away in the absence of anything requiring ego! For the truthful one, ego dies in virtually every moment, thus making perceptual "room" for the truly sacred.