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The three types of ego || On Vivekachudamani (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
13 min
330 reads

Questioner (Q): All reflections are coming from my limited mind. And when you shower pure nectar in every session, it seems my words would just pollute everything. I do acknowledge that I am related or connected to money, family, position, etc. and for me, Dṛṣṭā or Ātman is merely a concept at this moment. I am using my intellect to type this and would like to know, does the ego always shadow the intellect? Whenever I use intellect, is some type of ego always associated with that? Like sāttvika anger, does something like sāttvika ahaṅkāra also exist?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, what is the ego? We are responding to the question, “Does a sāttvika ahaṅkāra exist?” What is ahaṅkāra ? What is ego? Ego is a sense of impurity, incompleteness, hollowness. Ego is a longing. Ego is a restlessness. Ego is a continuous tension. That’s what the ego is.

So, the ego says, “I am in danger. I am incomplete. I am not yet settled. I have to reach somewhere.” That’s what the ego says. And man is born with the ego, and to be born is ego. The seeds of ego themselves are born, and every child is carrying the seeds of ego. So, ego is there, which means the sense of incompleteness is there; it is an inevitability. It is necessarily there. So, he is incomplete, he is incomplete, he is incomplete, she is incomplete, she is incomplete, he is incomplete—all, because all are body forms. To be a body form is to have that sense of incompleteness, right? There is a hollow here, there is a hollow here, there is a hollow here, there is a hollow here and there and here (pointing at the listeners in the audience and himself) ; everywhere there is a hollow.

Now, that gives us a hint. The hollow is common; there are no differences in the hollow. The hollow is the mūla-vṛtti ; the hollow is the primary tendency. But people differ on what they use to fill the hollow. He is hungry, he is hungry, he is hungry, he is hungry; the hunger probably is the same, but he will eat junk, he will eat salad, she will order fruit, and he will say, “I am not hungry at all, I am not eating anything,” and obviously faint after a while.

So, people look at their hollow, their hunger, their incompleteness differently. That tells you what the different kinds of egos are. When you are not even prepared to accept that there exists a hollow, then it is tāmasika ahaṅkāra . You do not even want to accept that you are suffering; you have made a pact with suffering; you have come to an agreement, an adjustment, a comfortable coexistence with suffering, and now you are saying, “I am not suffering at all,” like he said, “I am not hungry at all.”

And this is the condition of a large number of people. If you go and ask them, “Are you suffering?” they will say, “Ah, come on! Who is suffering?” In fact, they find it insulting to read Buddha, because the Buddha begins with: life is suffering. So, their beginning of the Buddha is the end of the Buddha. They open the book of Buddha, and what is the first sentence? Life is suffering—and the book is closed. They say, “No, this is false. Life is not suffering at all! Life is jacuzzi, and life is a big car on a Goa beach. So where is suffering? There is no suffering! Come on, honey.” The book of Buddha is closed forever.

This is that type of ego that has made its house at the wrong place and is neither intelligent nor humble enough to acknowledge that it is at the wrong place. It is the man on the sinking ship who is enjoying while the ship sinks. And the ship takes a while to sink, and he is saying, “No, the ship is not sinking at all! And who says that this is a ship? This is a very firm house made on firm ground; it cannot ever sink!” That is the lowest kind of ego. It does not even seek fulfillment, because to seek fulfillment first of all you have to accept that you are unfulfilled, incomplete and hollow.

A large proportion of people, I repeat, find it humiliating to accept that their lives are all botched up and severely wrong. To be fair to them, we could say that they are so traumatized that they have lost all sensitivity towards themselves. They have become numb; they have stopped experiencing pain. They have been hit hard and so hard by life that they have lost all sensation. Or you could say that they have become so afraid of losing what they have, even if they know what they have is harmful, that they don’t want to accept the obvious. Probably their inner argument is that “We at least have something. What if we drop this and end up with nothing?” So, even if they have all the wrong things, they refuse to drop. “Even if it is stale food, bad food, contaminated food, poisoned food, we still have something to eat or at least console ourselves with.” The logic of this afraid mind is: a plate full of stale food is better than no plate at all.

So, this ego refuses to acknowledge that it is incomplete and therefore seeks no salvation at all. Then there is the kind of ego that acknowledges that it is incomplete but wants to gain completion while remaining itself.

The ego is a very flexible thing; it can get attached to anything. In its own dimension, the ego can get identified with anything and yet remain. So, the ego can change forms, names, colors, shapes, sizes; the ego can appear to change totally, and the ego can still remain. So, the ego has a lot of flexibility. Today the ego is attached to this thing, tomorrow the ego is attached to that thing; it may appear that the man has totally changed, but the man has not changed. The core is the same. In the worldly dimension, the ego has the option to get attached to anything— anything .

So, now we come to the rājasika ego. The rājasika ego is very flexible. It says, “If I do not get satisfaction in this thing, then I will quickly move beyond and try to gain satisfaction in that thing. I purchase a new dress; if I do not feel fulfilled in it, then I will go and purchase a new chair. If one relationship doesn’t work, I will enter into a new relationship. I will be very flexible.”

And there are a large number of people with such flexible egos. They keep achieving one thing after the other. They never make one definite target; they are very flexible. They say, “Whatsoever appears to fulfill me, I will rush after that.” And they have to rush after a lot of things, because ultimately nothing fulfills them. This is the achieving ego. This is the ambitious man’s ego. It is not stupid enough not to acknowledge that it is hungry; it has intellect. The achiever’s ego has intellect, so it acknowledges that it is hungry. But it says that “I will fulfill my hunger through a thousand things available in this world, because whatsoever it is that I use to fulfill my hunger, I remain the same.” ‘I’ remains the same. ‘I’ plus shirt, ‘I’- shirt; ‘I’-house; ‘I’-success; ‘I’-respect; ‘I’-travel; ‘I’-family; ‘I’-money. The objects of attachment change—what remains the same? ‘I’. So, the ‘I’ is secure.

And superficially there is great flexibility. This ‘I’ is going around trying one thing after the other, but all those things are in the same dimension, the dimension of world. And why are all those things necessarily in the same dimension? Because that dimension protects the incomplete ‘I’. The ‘I’ is safe getting attached to this, safe getting attached to this. None of the objects that this ‘I’ is getting attached to have the capacity to change it. So, the ‘I’ very safely keeps getting attached to this or that. This is the ambitious ego, the rājasika ego. Try this, try that, and rest assured that none of what you are trying is going to change you. Happy, very happy! And if you don’t change, what doesn’t change? Your hunger doesn’t change. So, your happiness is stupid. You are sharp enough to acknowledge that you are hungry but also stupid enough not to know what you are really hungry for. That’s the ambitious man’s ego.

And then there is another ego that sees that it is dissatisfied, discontented, and also sees that remaining discontented is the very prakṛti (nature) of the inner being, the ego. This ego quickly realizes that nothing that can be obtained in the world is going to fulfill the fundamental incompleteness, so he doesn’t proceed on the stupid adventure of trying to gratiate himself, satisfy himself. He says, “That kind of adventure will only lead to tiredness and frustration. This inner thing has it in its core to remain unfulfilled; I cannot fulfill it. Whatsoever I may try will fail. I cannot fulfill it.” So, he says, “Rather than trying to fulfill it, let me get rid of the attachment to the thing itself”—which thing? The inner thing, the inner ‘I’.

He tries that, but finds that he is too conditioned for this thing to happen. He can now see that there is no fulfillment in running after the world. He can now see that he must now drop the very tendency to run, but he also sees that the dropping is just not happening. He has some kind of knowledge, but that knowledge is not translating into action. So, this ego then gets into a relationship with an entity that has been called as the Guru. It says, “Before I can drop the ego, before I can disassociate myself from the incompleteness, I, the one attached to incompleteness, have to first get attached one last time.” And this last attachment is the attachment to the Guru. It is the end of all attachments. That’s the Guru. That’s the process: to use one last attachment to destroy all your other attachments, and then this last attachment too vanishes. This is sāttvika ego: to be hungry for knowledge, to be hungry for learning, to be hungry for God, to be hungry for the Guru.

And then after this last kind of ego lies freedom even from knowledge and learning and God and Guru. Now you can say that the ego is fulfilled, or it would be better to say that you have let the ego be. You and the ego are different now. That’s what the Guru has blessed you with: he has snapped the unnecessary cord between you and the ego.

You identified with Prakṛti (physical nature) is the ego. The moment the unnecessary relationship, the destructive identification between Puruṣa (consciousness) and Prakṛti is broken, the Puruṣa merges into the Ātman and Prakṛti plays on her own, solo. She has a beautiful dance when she is solo, and Puruṣa has a beautiful rest when he is solo, resting in the Ātman . Now there is no ego at all to be fulfilled. You could say that the hunger has been satiated, or it would be better to say that the hungry one has disappeared.

Q: It is said that millions of dollars have been spent to find the God particle, and still they are not able to find it. And on the other side are the spiritual masters, like Osho and others, who have found it but cannot express it. This one acknowledges that he is unsatisfied, but neither science nor spirituality have given an answer. They both have failed. So, what kind of ego could this be?

AP: Spirituality does not ever give an answer; spirituality only tells you to look at the questioner. There are no great or wise answers in spirituality. Answers are just tricks for a while; answers anyway are no big deal. As far as science is concerned and things like God particle are concerned, particle is a particle. A particle is an object; a particle is something that you can think of, you can experience, you can write about. There is nothing called God particle. God is not a particle; particle is not God. Particles are particles. Just a while back we said, let stuff be stuff, let Self be Self. What is this conflation—“God particle”?

So, all that is, you know, not something that even scientists will take seriously. All this is science fiction. All this is stuff that naïve journalists write about, who want to create some sensation among people who are not serious students of science. You would not find this kind of a thing mentioned in a science journal; you would find this kind of a thing getting readership in some ordinary newspaper. A serious science journal would not say that the mystery of the universe has been solved because one particle is discovered. Just jokingly, they may call some particle as God particle. Just jokingly, just as you call that thing as ladyfinger—and then chop it. Just as the ladyfinger is not a lady’s finger, similarly the God particle has nothing to do with God. It’s just a funny name.

Q: So, is it coming from a rājasika ego?

AP: Ignorance. Forget about deep meditative depths of realization—even knowledge is still not sufficient. This person probably needs to gain some more knowledge. I am not talking of meditative realization; I am talking about worldly scientific knowledge.

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