The nature of ego and its annihilation
by Atman Nityananda
To help your understanding about the ego I present you the following excerpts of Swami Sivananda on its nature.
Ego or Egoism or Egotism (Ahamkara in Sanskrit) is the self-asserting principle or Tattva born of ignorance (Prakriti).
The very root of the whole question of spiritual realisation and emancipation lies in the theory of ignorance. They say, ignorance is the root. How does ignorance manifest in the individual soul? As Ahankara (Egoism). The root of the whole problem is the ego in the individual soul, and the moment the ego is removed, whatever is shines forth in all its splendour. That is your essential nature. That is Satchidananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss). To remove the ego is the prime purpose of all Yoga.
It is the ego which has created the idea of separateness from God or the Atman. It is the ego which is the root cause for all human sufferings and births and deaths.
This ego identifies itself with the body, mind, Prana, the senses. Wherever there is ego, there are mineness, selfishness, likes and dislikes, lust, anger, greed, hypocrisy, pride, jealousy, delusion, arrogance, conceit, impertinence, Vasanas (subtle desires), Trishna (cravings) and Vrittis or Sankalpa, clinging to this earth-life (Abhinivesha), agency, doer (Kartha) and enjoyer (Bhokta).
The ego itself manifests as emotion, as attachment ‘this is mine’, (Mamata vritti). In order to remove this manifestation of the ego as attachment, they said, “Attach yourself to the Lord”.
This ego likes his own birth place and district, people of his district, own mother tongue, his own relations and friends, his own ways of eating, mode of dressing. He has his own predilections and preferences. He dislikes others’ ways of eating, dressing etc.
This ego wants to exercise power and influence over others. “He wants titles, prestige, status, respect, prosperity, house, wife, children. He wants self-aggrandisement. He wishes to domineer and rule over others. If anybody points out his defects, his vanity feels offended. If anyone praises him he is elated. This ego says, “I know everything. He does not know anything. What I say is quite correct. What he says is quite incorrect. He is inferior to me. I am superior to him.” He forces others to follow his ways and views.
And then, this ego is also found in another aspect of personality, as superimposition, super-arrogation, pride, taking credit for everything, Abhimana (egoistic feeling)—“I have done that, I am a master of the Vedas, I have attained proficiency in that science.” In everything man begins to take Abhimana, and entertain the feeling, “I am the doer, I am the possessor of everything.”
You must have very clear understanding of the nature of this ego, if you want to annihilate egoism.
The working of egoism is very mysterious. It is very difficult to detect its various ways of working. It needs a subtle and sharp intellect to find out its operation. If you practise introspection daily in silence you will be able to find out its mysterious ways of working.
This ego will lurk like a thief when you start introspection and self-analysis. It will elude your grasp and understanding.
You must be ever alert and vigilant. If you obtain the grace of the Lord through Japa, Kirtan, prayer and devotion you can easily kill this ego. Through Lord’s grace only your self-surrender will become Perfect.