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How can we control the ego? || Acharya Prashant (2013)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner: How can we control the ego?

Acharya Prashant: We have this electric fan here, right? And let's say we want to control its functioning. We have so many other machines around, so many other phenomena around. Can you do anything about this fan if you do not understand this fan? Can you do anything about this fan if you do not understand how it operates, if you do not really know what is the reality of that electromagnetic motor inside, if you do not know, what is the significance of the wingspan and the RPM?

To control anything, you must first understand it. Do you realize this? It is impossible to control something—you can destroy it, but you can't control it—It is impossible to control something without understanding it.

This sounds simple but is extremely important because we are habituated to trying to control without understanding. Now, do I really understand the ego? Do I really understand the ego? How do I control something that I do not understand?

Let's say an epidemic breaks out, some disease is spreading like wildfire—a very contagious disease. There is a whole team of doctors and researchers that wants to control the disease. What must they do? They have to first find out what is this disease, right? They have to find out what is this disease, whether it has spread from a virus, is it a bacteria, or is it something else?

What is the ego? The question of controlling the ego, hence, translates into the question of understanding the ego, right? We have to first understand it. What is this thing called the ego? What is the ego?

The ego is something very simple, at least when verbally expressed. It makes things complicated, but we'll try to understand it very simply. We do not know ourselves first hand; all our opinions of ourselves come from the outside. This is called ego.

So, someone comes to you and says, "You're wonderful!", and what do you do? This fellow has come to you and said, "You are wonderful!" and you take that statement and internalize it, and you say, "I'm wonderful!"

Now, you have not really known for yourself that you're wonderful. It's not your own understanding, not your own knowing or discovery. Someone else gave it to you and you just took it, and you started believing in it, that "I must be wonderful." Why? Because he told me that I'm wonderful. This is what is called ego—a self-concept that comes from the outside is called ego.

Your image of yourself, your belief of what you are which is dependent on an external factor, that is called ego. Alright? So, whatsoever comes from outside and you start believing in it, you start identifying with it, that constitutes your ego. That external influence can do nothing on its own; it cannot harm you. Till the time it remains just an external influence, it has no power over you. Ego becomes dominant over you only when you internalize it, that is called identification. You don't identify with it, there is no ego.

Yes, surely the ego comes from outside, but you are the one who take it in. It comes from outside, but you are the one who identify with it. If you don't identify, then the external will just remain external. It cannot become internal.

Now, how does this help if we understand it? If we understand this, we'll surely see the external as external. So, the next time somebody tells you: "You are wonderful!" or that "You are stupid!”, What will you know? You'll know that is what he is saying. I know who I am and how I am. Why must I take that in, why must I become a slave to his opinion? But then, it has become such a habit with us.

In the morning, you come to the college, and someone tells you that you're looking quite handsome today, and you become happy. You don't even realize that fellow has become your master. Did you discover on your own what is this thing called handsome and whether you are handsome? No! Someone just came to you and made a comment, and that was enough to fill up your mind; that comment made your day.

Conversely, if someone comes and says that "You know, you're such an idiot," you get depressed, you feel bad, very bad. Both of these are the same things. The one who feels happy when someone pays him a compliment is bound to feel bad when someone abuses him.

When you realize that this is external, then you have already controlled the ego. But if you remain dependent on other’s opinions and beliefs given by others, you'll remain a slave of others, and the ego will dominate your life.

Ego means a false sense of yourself, just an opinion, not a reality. Ego is that. Something coming from the outside, not your essence, the ego is that. And ego leads to an artificial life, which is totally plastic, has no joy, has no fragrance, has no liveliness, no energy in it, and you'll just remain something, somebody, anchoring after other's approval, dependent upon others opinion. That is no life, there is no fun in that.

To control the ego, just figure out when you are becoming dependent on something given by the outside. The moment you identify it: this is coming from the outside and I'm becoming dependent on it, you're free from its influence. Now it cannot dominate you.

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