Seeing Ego, Being Ego

The ego is mostly who we are. Everything about us that is us is based on our ego. Even seeing ourselves as something separate from the ego is our egoistic outlook. The ego is both a misguided friend and dangerous adversary as well as wise counsel and staunch advocate. To only see the ego as bad is only seeing half the picture.

The ego has its use in society. Our society is built on a collection of individuals. We get a birth certificate at birth and a death certificate when we die. We acquire possessions, things that belong to us, we register to vote and are responsible for our crimes. All of these activities of quantifying the individual stem from an ego based outlook. Our ego is that part of us that is us.

Buddhism is based on the idea of no-self. It teaches that when we look into what it is that is uniquely us, there is nothing there. Every bit of us is interconnected with the rest of the universe. Because no-self is a radical and counterintuitive idea, the idea of ego was born to represent what we perceive as self.

Buddhism also claims that the root of suffering is ignorance, which is believing in the ego, believing in a separate self. That gives ego its bad reputation. We live in a world of egos, so it is helpful to be able to live as an ego, but keep looking for the truth of interconnectedness. When interconnectedness makes more sense than separate selves then we get a good look at ego.

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3 comments on “Seeing Ego, Being Ego

  1. Michael Morley

    I have a counselor who insists that the ego is the opposite of the spirit-based consciousness, and it should be completely repressed. How do I combine my ego (self) and my spirit (selfless) to attain the person I need to be? Do I have to make ego based mistakes to attain selfless spirituality?

    How can I explain it to him?

    1. Peter

      What is it that would repress your ego? I think of ego as a set of beliefs that is full of errors, the most fundamental of which is that it is something apart from the rest of everything else. As long as that spirit-based consciousness is a theory and not a lived experience, it is only another of the ego’s erroneous beliefs. To work with your ego to be the person you need to be, practice kindness and compassion. Compassion is looking to the source of suffering and acting to make it more manageable. When you are suffering, practice compassion for yourself. When you encounter other’s suffering, practice compassion for them.

      When you are not at all concerned with yourself, you are immersed in an ego-free moment. When you think of yourself again, then it’s back. Work with your ego with compassion. All mistakes are ego based. Without an ego, everything is just as it should be.

      If your counselor has different ideas about what an ego is and how to work with it, I doubt you will be able to explain to him that he might be wrong. Make your counselor happy by becoming the person you need to be. Everything contains its opposite.

      1. Michael Morley

        Thank you for your reply. I asked him to explain the ego again, and I had misunderstood him. He too admits that the ego is something that doesn’t necessarily need to be repressed or even suppressed. I thought he was trying to show me how to live without it, when actually, he was trying to show me how to recognize ego based actions opposed to selfless, spirit based actions. If I can learn to live with it without feeding it, I might have a better understanding. Thanks again.

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