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Freedom from ego is freedom from fear || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2013)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
23 min
77 reads

Speaker: What to do when you encounter a person with lot of Ego? He has used two words: High ego, and bad ego. Lets understand this. When you use the term, ‘bad ego’ you necessarily mean that there is something called ‘good ego’ as well? Correct? Logical?

What is this Ego? And can it have these two varieties, good and bad? What is the Ego?

Listener 1: Ego is when you put yourself above someone, when you think yourself to be superior than other.

Speaker: Is that the Ego? You are putting yourself above someone. What if you necessarily put yourself below someone? What if you are habituated to saying that I am the worst of all? Your conditioning and culture have told you, that when someone says that I am best of all, you immediately say that this fellow is egoistic. I am asking you, ‘What if someone says I am the worst of all’? Is this not a statement of ego?

A common misconception that many of us have is that ego is pride. You often equate ego with pride. Let us be very clear on that, ego is far more than pride. Ego is far more pervasive than pride. Ego is not merely pride. Ego expresses itself in a thousand ways other than pride. The ways of the ego are very settled, and they are to be seen everywhere. You do not keep expressing your pride every time. Your mind is not filled with thoughts of pride every time. But even the other thoughts that you carry, most often are thoughts of ego.

Now what is this ego?

Whatever you have taken from outside and just internalized is ego. As simple as that. And this is the most direct, and the most simple definition of ego that can be given. Every thing that you have taken from outside and internalized, have attached an ‘I’ with it, everything that you hear from outside, everything on outside that you get attached to, all your beliefs that come from outside, all your identities that come from outside; ego is the sum total of all these.

In the world of the mind, the language of the psychology, ‘Ego’ is very much a technical word. You see, a person who has not read science would often use terms of science in very inaccurate ways. He may be confused between what is voltage and what is current, and he may mix up the two expressions. But that’s not what a student of science or engineer would do. He would use the language of science in a very exact way. Similarly the word ‘ego’, has to be used very precisely, very exactly, very accurately. It is a layman’s mind that equates ego with pride. No. Ego is a technical word. And when I say technical, all I mean is that it has a precise meaning. It has to be understood because unless it is precisely understood it will not be useful to you. And nothing matters if it is not useful. It has to be useful otherwise we are wasting our time. If there is no utility, no use.

So ego is this internalization, the sense of ‘I am.’ Now what all do we take from outside and just internalize? I have already mentioned some of them. What all do we take from outside and attach an ‘I’ to that one, give me few examples?

Listener 1: Compliments.

Speaker: Compliments coming from outside by themselves are not ego. When will it become a process of ego? When ‘I’ is attached to it. Now tell me, what happens when a compliment comes from outside, and you attach an ‘I’ to it? Go into it clearly, see what happens. A compliment comes from outside, ‘You are brilliant’, and you attach an ‘I’ to it. Now what happens? What is the statement then? ‘I am brilliant.’ Now have you really known yourself to be brilliant? Is it your own discovery? Is it your own knowing? Somebody has just come over and told you that you are brilliant, and you have internalized it. You have attached an ‘I’ to it and it becomes, “I am brilliant”. Now this is the process of ego, to take it from outside, and accept with your eyes closed. To not to apply intelligence to it. This is ego.

Now do you see how deeply ego permeates our mind, because most of what we think ourselves to be, actually comes from outside. Give me a few more examples. What all comes from outside?

Listener 2: Abuses.

Speaker: Abuses and compliments both are the same point. Besides that?

Listener 3: Identities.

Speaker: Wonderful. Identities like?

Listener 3: Name.

Speaker: When you say ‘identities,’ its such a potent word, go into that. What all constitutes our identities?

Listener 3: Name of our father and mother.

Speaker: When you say ‘father’s and ‘mother’s name, can I say your familial identities? Can I say the community to which you belong? All are coming from outside and you start to believe this is what I am, and this is an utter falsehood because you never chose that identity. You never chose which country or which religion to be born in. It is an external thing that has come to you, and instead of realizing it is external, you develop a great identification with it.

What does identification mean?

Identification means, ‘I am this,’ and if this is taken away, I am nothing. Then how can you be something that has come from outside? You are yourself. You are not a sum total of external influences. Are you a sum total of all external influences on you? No. We have a existence of our own. Right? Even if everything external is taken away, the pure existence still remains. That is the only thing, the only entity, which we really are.

Ego means to forget it, and to identify with the external. All ego is this forgetfulness. All ego is this lack of intelligence. Thus I could say that all ego is stupidity because lack of intelligence is stupidity. Now you tell me could there be good stupidity and bad stupidity? You said ‘good ego’ and ‘high ego.’ Could there be high stupidity and low stupidity? Is there something called a good disease and a bad disease?

There is nothing called a ‘bad ego.’ All ego is forgetfulness.

That is the first part of the question. Second part- ‘What do we do when we come across an egoistic man?’ What do you do when you come across a diseased person, or a mad man? Do you become like him? ‘He was mad, so will I become equally mad. He is abusing, beating his chest, throwing stones in the air, tearing his clothes, I will also do the same.’ Will you do that? How does a healthy man look at a diseased man?

Two things. One: Avoid being deceased yourself. That virus is contagious. Do you understand the meaning of contagious? It means, it can easily come from that man to you. Ego provokes ego. Have you not experienced it?

Forgetfulness provokes forgetfulness. Stupidity provokes stupidity.

First thing, see that you are not getting affected.

Second thing, if possible, if you are really healthy and you can assure that your own health is not at risk try to help him. He does not deserve your anger. He actually deserves sympathy, compassion. Don’t you see he is suffering? Don’t you know that an angry man suffers? Don’t you see that if ego is a disease, it leads to lot of suffering in the egoistic man? But don’t be too eager to help. Because only a healthy man can help others. Don’t be too eager to help. The first thing is to preserve your own health. Unless you are healthy, how can you help others? Can a mad man help another mad man? No. Can a sleeping man help another sleeping man? No. You need someone awake to help a sleeping man.

So first thing, avoid getting provoked, let him perform a solo. Don’t let it become a duet. You just watch it. That is the only thing that will prevent you from being provoked. Just watch what is happening. Don’t get involved. Do you understand the difference between watching and getting involved? Understand not with hatred, not with fear, not what is discussed, but watch just as an intelligent man does. How does he watch? He watches without prejudices, he watches keenly so that he can understand.

This world is full of disease and you will soon move out into this world, and then this question will become more and more significant, as you encounter more and more disease. Because decease wants to spread. Disease wants to take you in its hold. You will suddenly find that basic things, basic virtues like innocence, simplicity, directness are being threatened.

It would be very important to you, to not to get involved then. It is important even right now, to not to get involved, to not to get entangled but to understand as an intelligent being and that does not mean in action. When I say just watch, don’t get entangled, that does not mean in action. From your understanding, from your intelligence will come just the right action; an intelligent response. There will be great energy in that but that will not be the energy of a mad man. That will be a well-directed, well-channelized, constructive, creative flow of energy. Whereas if you allow yourself to be provoked, if you allow the disease to come to you, there will only be a dissipation of energy. Do you understand dissipation? A general, random loss, amounting to nothing.

Ego comes from outside, the more you come in contact with the world. The more susceptible you are to these outside influences, the external influences. That is the reason I said that the more you will move out, the more you will venture out, the more you will be at risk because ego is nothing, it is the outside acting upon you.

This surely must be raising, questions, doubts, within your mind. Your responsibility is to enquire. I am not sitting here to preach something. I have not come here to convince you of something. This is not a lecture. We are interacting. So whatever comes to your mind, please speak.

Listener 1: Sir, how is ego a disease? I find it rather a better way of exploring oneself.

Speaker: Anup says that it is not clear that how is ego a disease, or how ego is harmful. His query is that why cannot we say that the ego is actually beneficial.

What happens when an external force acts upon you, when an external entity comes to you, and you start identifying with that. Let us take an example, and that example has come from you. Let there be a compliment as, ‘I am brilliant.’ To take a compliment from outside and then to internalize it amounts to ego. What is the danger when we say something is a disease. All we say is that it is very harmful. Whatever takes away your ease, comfort, peace, is a disease. Now what is the harm in internalizing this kind of comment, that I am brilliant, when somebody has suggested that I am brilliant? My identity, now is that ‘I am brilliant.’ Who has given me that identity? Someone else. If someone else can give me that identity, surely he can also take it back. Now I have believed myself to be brilliant, but that brilliance is based on a comment by others. So I will be always afraid, because the same others can now declare to me that I am stupid. You see, I don’t have any resistance, there are no gates, anybody can enter and declare anything to me. First one comes to me and says, ‘You are brilliant’ and I start believing that ‘I am brilliant.’

Listener 2: There should be a fact in it that is why somebody has said so.

Speaker: The fact itself comes from outside. Where does the fact come from?

Listener 2: One must have done something, that is why he is saying so.

Speaker: You have done that thing, then you must know by yourself whether you are brilliant or something else. You will not require someone else to come and say that. What is meant by fact? You use the word observe. Take the two words together, fact and observe. What do you mean by a fact? The fact is that which is real, which is the truth, and you can know it only by yourself, it is not someone else’s opinion. To know it for yourself, that’s how an intelligent mind works. That’s what all your labs are there for. Have you just wondered that why can’t you just be taught the laws of gravity, or those of electrostatics, or those of optics? Why do you have labs? So that you can observe the fact, the truth for yourself without an intermediary. Nobody is telling you the value of gravity. You find it out for yourself. So you take a ball from the height, and measure the time it takes to hit the floor, and using these observations you find it out for yourself. Do not depend on Newton. I will find the fact out for myself. That is what is real observation, and that is what a young man specially does. Finding out the reality for himself using his own eyes, not depending on others, not bothering what the world has told him, what the society has told him. I will go and find out whether it is truly this way because I am intelligent. I am not just a dustbin where everybody comes and throws his garbage. I will discover, I will explore, I will know, and only in this knowing is the truth.

Truth is nothing to be borrowed, truth cannot be taken from someone, and if you have taken something from someone, and assume it to be truth, that exactly is called ‘ego’. No truth is a truth unless it is your truth. When I say ‘your’ that does not mean ‘personal’, I mean whether you have discovered it by yourself. You see ever since we are this big or this small, we have been told a lot of things. Parents tell us, and everybody’s parents always tell to speak the truth, respect the elders, be nonviolent. You all are intelligent people sitting over here. Do you never wonder why the world is like this?

Every kid is taught, to be truthful, every kid is taught to respect others. Every kid is taught to be nice to the environment, not to hurt others, not to harm others. Specially in India, non violence is of such big value. Every kid is handed over that value, and still you have the world in which people are raping, stealing, killing, and are totally corrupt, and afraid. Don’t you see this? It is because those truths have been handed over to us by somebody else. We have never discovered them on our own. What ever will be given to you from outside, will be of very little use unless it comes to you as your own knowing, own attention.

Do you want to live a life like that? A borrowed life?

There surely are facts. Facts of life cannot be borrowed. They are to be discovered, they are to be found out. Do you see why the ego is a disease? Because it prevents you from finding out. Once you believed in something, what is the need to find out? Till a very late stage, just a few centuries back, the entire humanity kept on believing that the earth is flat, and the sun moves above the earth. Now was it such a difficult thing to find out? But how can people find out, when they have already believed in something? Believing is the enemy of knowing. Hence ego is a disease, because ego makes you believe in things that you have not found out, somebody else has given you. Ego will mean ignorance, ego will mean you will keep on believing that the earth is flat.

Listener 3: Isn’t this our duty to evaluate it before believing?

Speaker: Yes, and how come the evaluation takes place?

Listener 3: By self-evaluation.

Speaker: Yes, and that evaluation cannot take place till you believe. You have used the word ‘observation’ before, that’s a better word than evaluation. Though you are trying to mean the same thing this observation, all this evaluation that you are talking of is itself the function of the intelligent mind, to not to take anything on face value, to find out. And once you find out, the whole flavor of living changes. Then your decisions are totally yours. Then you do not enter into engineering because every one else has told you to. You do not pick up a particular stream because the society says that it is a good stream or because someone in your neighbor hood got a chance to go get admission in a particular stream. You will find out what you really love. Then you will not take up a job just because the society considers it prestigious to be in this kind of job, then only you will understand the real meaning of love. Because if you are taking it from outside, there can be no love. And that is specially disgraceful for a young person.

Can you be told to love some body? How many of you want to be told to love somebody?

But this society is full of people whose love is dependent on external situations, and various external considerations; caste, religion, goals, preferences of parents, economic status and what not, all external things. Choice of livelihood, passions, hobbies, all being dictated by the external.

How many of you want to live a life like that? And how many of you want to live freely in your own intelligence, how many of you think you are capable of that?

(Some listeners raise their hands)

Good. And what are the others afraid of? Don’t you see that even this fear, this comes from outside? You are not born afraid. Even this fear is coming from outside. Even the fear is ego. You are being told that if you try to fly too high, you will be shot down. That’s why you are afraid. This fear is not real, get rid of it. It is an unreal fear put in to your mind by those who themselves are afraid. Only a fearful man tries to scare others. He himself is afraid.

Listener 4: Fear is helpful.

Speaker: Yes, fear is very helpful. True, but in what sense? You discovered that there is a snake close to you, and you jump up. That much is alright, but what if the snake becomes a permanent stain in your mind? A permanent mark? And when ever, where ever in your life, if you are about to sit on a chair, you are always looking around for snakes? You goes to a Chinese food shop and you are wondering, whether these are snakes, what if that happens? Fear is wonderful, but only in the moment of danger.

Like a mirror. What is the difference between a mirror and a photographic plate?

A snake comes in front of a mirror, and the same snake comes in front of the photographic plate, and then the snake goes away. Will anything remain in the mirror? But what will happen to the photographic plate? A permanent image will be mark there.

Fear is all right if your mind is like a mirror. Respond to the danger, when it is actually there, when you are actually experiencing a physical danger, respond to it, it is all right. But most of us do not react to real dangers. Our mind is carrying images of imaginary dangers. That’s like a photographic plate that once saw a snake and is permanently afraid of snakes, imagining snakes when there are none. That’s how our minds become. That kind of fear is not useful, that fear is very harmful. Others will use this fear to enslave you. In fact you cannot be enslaved, if you are not afraid. A free mind cannot be a slave to anybody.

Listener 4: There is a also a kind of ego that motivates us.

Speaker: Yes, most of our motivation comes from our ego.

What is a motivation? A drive to do something, a motive, a desire, an end, something to be obtained.

I am saying that most of our motivation comes from our ego, that means ego is external. Right? And if the motivation is coming from outside, that means that motivation is external. There is something outside, that is motivating us. The motivation is not mine, somebody else has shown me something and told me to do it, that motivation is totally an external motivation, there is nothing internal about it. Like a slave, he has been told to do something and he does it. What fun is there in that? There is a particular motivation which takes place not out of somebody’s command or dictate, but out of my own understanding, and that motivation is totally rare, find that out.

Have you ever wondered that why do you feel motivated towards doing one thing at one point and suddenly after few days or few weeks you feel motivated towards something else, the first thing holds no more attraction, you are no more motivated? You make a new hobby, you pick it up and then leave it. A new semester starts, you take a resolution to study for these many hours and suddenly the motivation is gone. Have you never wondered why there is no perennial source of motivation in your life? The reason is simple. All your motivation comes from outside, and hence goes back to the outside. Someone comes, gives a very motivating talk to you, and you get motivated, he will go away, and your motivation will also go.

All your actions are nothing but reactions to external situations, and hence your actions which is actually reactions, have very little energy behind them. Hence there is very little achievement in your life. Your movements are random, you are moving in one direction, and then you move in another direction. Have you seen that happening, or am I just imagining? Does that happen, that you move in one direction for a while and then suddenly change course, something or the other happens, and you are confused, you don’t know? Don’t you see all these things happen because all your motivation comes from outside. Someone is motivating you to become a software professional, somebody else is telling you to get into civil services, someone else is motivating you to get into MBA. You do not know what to do because you do not have any intelligence of your own.

Can there be a life, which knows on its own? It will take information from outside, true. But if it is known on its own, it will not require any external motivation. We haven’t lived a life like that, but it is possible. And only that life is worthwhile, only that life is beautiful. Right now when the examination date-sheet comes, it motivates you. Now this motivation is external, and hence you do not approach your books with love. Because an external event has motivated you to go to your book. And you go to the book only when you are scared of failing or only when you are desirous of getting marks? You do not go to them, out of real love.

All motivation is external, and external motivation is useless. There can be something called internal movement, that is coming out of understanding, not dictated action, not motivated action, direct motivated, forceful action coming out of your own understanding, and there is such great joy in it; that you will know only when you taste it. This makes worth living. You will not be confused for sure. When you taste it, you will know this is it.You will no more be confused.

Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

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