Ego is Nature’s instrument to limit universal energies in individual life. So, ego plays a paramount role for the unfolding of life centered in individuals. But as the individual life evolves, ego stands as stumbling block to the ascent to the spiritual life. So, ego must be passed over for life’s spiritual fulfillment.
Ego Is Individuality, a Wall Protecting Individuality
What is Ego?
The ego, simply put, is the sense of I-ness, a normal state of our ordinary consciousness. Due to this I-ness, we think ourselves as individuals with independent existence, separate from all others, all that is other than ourselves being experienced as the not-self. The ego therefore expresses our individuality: it is the lynch-pin that holds our multi-shaded, multi-faceted personality intact.
Human personality is nothing short of an enigma even for the psychologists. Multiple selves from the pure physical to the pure mental constitute it. In comparison with it, ego is a simple thing. It is always there in the background as a bulwark of individuality in whatever we do or whatever we think, helping us not to drown in the immensity of Life.
Ego Is Nature’s Amazing Instrument of Individual Identity
Nature & Ego
Ego is an instrument of Nature, a focal point of our sense of identity that remains stable amid the flux of Nature. The ego-centrism is the fundamental base of our individuality that helps us remain what we are in our awareness while we are experiencing, confronting, coordinating the multitudinous influences of the world-life, “our rock of safety against the cosmic and the infinite, our defence.” (Sri Aurobindo)
In the Nature’s complex scheme of creation starting from absolute Inconscience- the Matter- and progressively evolving from plants to animals to man, ego along with desires plays a vital role, the role of stimulant for man. It prods him to get out of the animal grooves of remaining contended with food, lust-satisfaction, reproduction and sleep. If there were no desire-self based in ego, man would not have been able to challenge Nature and Life that are often hostile to his progress to become the conqueror, the ruler, the statesman, the scientist, the writer, the poet…
Ego Must Dissolve for Reaching Soul
Ego Unreally Real
But when viewed deeply, ego seems to be a temporary, makeshift arrangement that is unreally real. It is real as a focal point of our sense of identity required for the play of our ordinary consciousness in the world-life. But it becomes unreal when the ordinary ego-consciousness expands and then dissolves to become the Consciousness of the Self that is neither individual nor separate from others- the Universal Self or the Cosmic Self.
Though ego is a pragmatic device of Nature to centralize our ordinary life activities within limits of I-consciousness, a stage comes in one’s spiritual evolution when it becomes an obstacle to further spiritual progress. We then feel as though we are imprisoned in the body-life-mind complex and yearn for freedom.
This transition from the surface to the deep self comes inevitably in course of one’s spiritual progress. For, though the individual, tethered to ego, is a part of the Cosmic Existence, he is more than an ego-bound individual. He is Soul that is unbound by ego.
Cosmic Consciousness: Bliss of Oneness
What After Ego Dissolves?
What happens after ego dissolves? The mystics say that after ego goes, mind becomes Cosmic Consciousness that feels others as part of oneself or as oneself, the same in all, the Infinite One being seen in the finite Many, separateness dissolving in a vibrant, blissful Oneness.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsha while in trance which would come to him often experienced the all- immanence of the One Brahman. Everything appeared to him as full of Consciousness-the image, the altar, the water vessels, the marble floor… all seemed pulsating, fully awake, dancing in the One Consciousness.
Freud Rejects, Vivekananda Affirms
Cosmic Consciousness a Reality
Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist and discoverer of the Unconscious, rejected “oceanic consciousness” attributed to Ramakrishna Paramhamsha. But the mystics affirm that this “Oceanic Consciousness” or Cosmic Consciousness is a reality of spiritual life.
Let us see what Swami Vivekananda, the most loved disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, said about cosmic consciousness. When he was speaking to others in the presence of his Guru, doubting the possibility of the water pot becoming God, Sri Ramakrishna walked up to him. “What are you two talking about?” he asked his disciple softly and then he touched him and lost himself into samadhi or spiritual trance. “At the marvellous touch of the Master, my mind underwent a complete revolution. I was aghast to realize that there really was nothing whatever in the entire universe but God,” Swami Vivekananda recounted later.
God’s Instrument in Life
Sri Ramakrishna spoke about two types of ego-the unripe ego and the ripe ego. The unripe ego, while remaining enmeshed in sense enjoyments, avers, “I am great and I have made myself great by my own efforts unaided by God or anyone else.” And the ripe ego says, “I am nothing in myself, just an instrument in God’s hands, God alone the operator while I am a machine; God the indweller while I am the house, God the Driver while I am the carriage.”
Sri Ramakrishna defined this ripe ego as the servant ego, the ego of the devotee of God.
Static Bliss, Dynamic Bliss
Supreme Bliss of Existence
As the servant ego, the devotee ego, the knowledge ego gets settled in one, bliss begins to overwhelm him. He first experiences the static bliss and then the dynamic bliss.
Sri Aurobindo explains: “This Self has two aspects. One is static, a condition of wide peace, freedom, silence: the silent Self is unaffected by any action or experience; it impartially supports them but does not seem to originate them at all. The other aspect is dynamic and that is experienced as a cosmic Self which not only supports but originates and contains the whole cosmic action- the supra-physical as well as the physical ranges of the universe.”
The static bliss is thus the bliss of extinction of self in the Self- the static Brahman– which signifies liberation, moksha, nirvana. The dynamic bliss is, on the other hand, the bliss of oneness with all existing in this world or beyond this world -the dynamic Brahman that is immanent in All: the originator, the upholder and the one Being that has become the Many.