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How to overcome the ego?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Question: How do I overcome ego?

Acharya Prashant: You do not overcome anything if you do not understand it. You do not overcome anything without understanding it. No problem can be solved if you do not understand the question. Am I right? If you do not understand the question, can you get an answer?

Listeners: No, Sir.

AP: I want to make certain modifications in the design of this projector. Can I make those changes without understanding how this projector works?

L: No, Sir.

AP: So, the first step is to?

L: Understand.

AP: Very good, understand. Now, do we understand what is the ego? Before we have asked how do I get rid of it? Do we understand? And if we do not understand why have we decided that we must get rid of the ego? If I really do not understand what the ego is why have I already decided that the ego is something to be gotten rid of? Probably just because everybody else has been telling me.

Please, listen what I am saying. Avinash (Questioner) says how do I get rid of ego? I am asking, we cannot get rid of anything if we do not understand it. And if I do not understand what the ego is why am I already admit that I need to get rid of it. After all Avinash didn't ask, “Sir, what is the ego?” He didn’t ask, “Sir, whether should I get rid of the ego?” What he asked? “How should I get rid of the ego?” Am I right?

And if the question is, “How to get rid of the ego?” That means that you have already decided that the ego is harmful and that he need to get rid of it.

But I don't understand what the ego is? Still I have decided to get rid of it. This exactly is called the ego. Then I do not know yet I am doing things. Just because somebody else has told me, so I am proceeding with life based on the beliefs given by others.

Now, Avinash surely you're asking this question because your teacher has delivered an entire session on the topic? Ego. Which makes me feel that ego is dangerous and you must get rid of the ego.

But surely, you didn't understand. This is a good demonstration, a good examification of what ego is. Somebody tells me something and I accept it without understanding. I have not learning myself but because somebody has told it to me, so I've accepted it. Now, what about we accept without understanding?

You see, since we are a kid there is so much that is given to us that we just take. You are given a religion, where you have nationality. We are given all kinds of beliefs. We are given a lot of views about how the world is. About how life is. And we take all of these without really understanding because we were small, we were helpless, we can’t do much.

Additionally there is another thing that we from others without understanding. That thing is really-really very powerful, very dangerous. What is that?

L: Identity.

AP: Wonderful. Not only, do we take religion and nationality and beliefs and world views from others, we even take our identities from others. This taking of identities from others called ego.

Are you getting it?

I do not know who I am? Others have provided a relevant answer to me and I have internalized that answer. This is called ego.

Ego is an image of yourself coming from others.

Is that simple enough? Ego is an image of yourself coming from others. You do not bother to understand how your life functions? You are, but you conveniently in a very lazy way, just take your identity from somebody else. Your whole self-concept, your whole image about yourself, is what yours but given by somebody else.

So, somebody comes to you and says, “You are brilliant.” And what you start believing? “I am brilliant.” Now, this is the statement of ego. Because you have not known it for yourselves whether you really are brilliant and what the word brilliant really means? You have not investigated, you have not known.

Somebody just came and told you that you are brilliant and you accepted it. What could be the result? The same fellow could come a little later and tell you that you are stupid and you have to accept that well.

So, you will always live in a fear. A fear that your image can be destroyed. Because this image has been provided by somebody else. What has been given by somebody else, can also be taken back by that person or somebody else.

Ego means a second hand life.

Ego means a lot of fear. How do I get rid of it? Simple, by seeing that my identities are coming from outside. The moment you realize it, really understand that what I am believing to my identity that is not really mine. It has been supplied to me as somebody. And I have eyes of my own. I have intelligence of my own. I can look at myself and I can find out How I am? What I am? I need not be dependent on others.

And the moment you realize this, in that moment you are free of the ego. Yes, Avinash? Simple?

So, how do I operationalize it? When someone comes and say a few good thing about you, trigger little alert. Do not start feeling good. Because in feeling good, do you know what you doing? You are internalizing his opinion of yourself. You are making his opinion as your opinion.

Now, this is development of ego. He has said, “You are handsome” and you have internalized it and said that “I am handsome.” Become very-very alert in that moment.

At the same time when someone comes and says a few hurtful things about you, do not start feeling offended immediately. He may have said that you are an idiot that does not make you idiot. To be have hurt, implies that you have accepted what he has said. These are the moments you must watch out against. You must be careful in these moments.

When you are working, do not work for the sake of others. You know, if you are working just to get appreciation from somebody else, be careful to see what you are doing? What are you doing? You are working so that fellow may say that you are nice, you are hard-working, you are capable.

So, all your work is aimed at only one thing, what? Development of favorable self-image from somebody else. Getting a favorable image from somebody else. We are not cautious in those moments, we are not careful, we forget.

Are you getting it?

It is in these moments that we must remain very-very cautious. When your results were declared, do not seek appreciation in the eyes of others. Have you seen, how people rush and tell everybody if they get nice result? Now can you look sharply at what they are trying to do? They are trying to generate their image in the eyes of others. This is ego.

And have you seen how people shingled and shame and keep themselves into a corner when they do not get favorable results. They just avoid meeting people. They close themselves up. Do you see there, this is ego?

Both are aspects of ego; to announce to everybody that I have gained a wonderful result and also to hide from everybody when you do not get favorable results, both are ego.

In fact, this very desire for result is ego. Are you getting it?

So, Avinash if you can be careful in these moments you will be your own master. Otherwise, you become a slave of others. You deserve to be your own master.

Was this clear to all?

L: Yes Sir!

AP: Alright.

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