The Illusion of the Ego
By Remez Sasson
Who are you? How would you define yourself? If someone calls your name, would you turn your head to see who called you? Are you the name that was called, or is it just a way to refer to you? What if you changed your name, would you still be the same person?
You change the clothes you wear. You change your hairdo, and may dye your hair sometimes. Does this change who you are?
You change your job, car, house, but yet you still are the same one. These are outside changes. The "inner you" never changes. Most people consider their possessions, dress, name, job etc, as being an inseparable part of themselves. If something of theirs is broken or lost they feel as if they have lost a part of themselves. This is the ego at work.
The ego is the erroneous identification of the limitless spirit with the physical body, the emotions and thoughts. The perfect homogenous spirit expresses itself in the world through these three, and identifies itself with them.
The ego is not an independent entity. It is just the union of the spirit with the other three components, the body, emotions and thoughts. According to the philosophy of nonduality, these components, except the spirit, are not independent and constant, and therefore are not real. They are the products of the mind.
The spirit infuses them with life and expresses itself through them. The identification of the spirit with this trio is so strong that hardly anyone notices this erroneous identification. The spirit is free, perfect and independent. The body, thoughts and feelings are temporary and dependent on the spirit. This mixture is the cause of fear, desire, misunderstanding, anger and conflicts in the world.
When talking about the spirit I don't mean a particular soul, but the True Essence, the One vast and limitless Spirit, which is beyond every manifestation.
Each ego unit considers itself as real, and desires to survive and gain power over the other egos. This leads to clashes between them. Each one is shackled to its belief system, thoughts and ideas, and will do everything to defend them.
People also feel being a part of, and identify with the larger ego of family, workplace, neighborhood, football or basketball team, political party, city, country, religion etc. They identify with a thought, an idea or a common cause, and join together, sometimes against other groups carrying a different set of thoughts.
Look what happens at sport contests. If you support one sport team, and your team loses you get depressed. If it wins you get happy. The same thing happens with political parties or with other kinds of groups.
These units sometimes fight with each other, everyone believing they are right and the other party wrong. Isn't it a bit funny? If we consider that the Spirit is one, but manifests in myriads of forms, why then should we identify with one particular and temporary form? What if we become aware of this Spirit, and shift our awareness into it? Would we stay the same, or will we rise above the ego?
The ego is dependent on the thoughts that the mind thinks. These thoughts evoke feelings and desires, which evoke action. If a desire cannot be fulfilled, anger, unhappiness or hostility arises.
Believing we are this ego, each one of us enacts the role of a specific actor on the stage of life. This ego is the mask hiding the real Spirit that we are. Identification with the role we play makes us forget who we really are, and go on thinking we are this or that.
Forgetting our true essence is due to seeing through the eyes of the ego. This is the reason for suffering, unhappiness, depression, anger, conflicts, lack of satisfaction and every other negative feeling. But these negative feelings and situations are sometime the reason for the awakening of the desire to find who we really are, to come home and to return to what we really are - The Pure Spirit.