Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
Lesson 428 – The Transformation of Ego
Date: August 19, 2010
New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Q: After several years of practices, my perception has become that "ego" is
a sense of self separate from my inner witness (the real me). While I know
that there is no such thing as a separate self, still, I keep running across
it in my life, mainly in the form of "I, me and mine." I can’t help
identifying with this and, while it is not always present, it crops up often
enough. There is no amount of intention I can have that is able to get rid
of it. Moreover, this ego thing seems to have a mind of its own, sneaking
into my life in ways that I do not want, trying to limit the natural
happiness that is in me. I can see now why some teachers say that the ego is
the source of all misery in the world. My question is, how do I get rid of
the limiting ego so I can enjoy the full benefits of enlightenment? Is it
too early for me to be engaging in self-inquiry?
A: There can be no "getting rid"
of the ego, because ego is a product of the mind, and so too is the act of
getting rid of something an act of the mind. We can move things around in
the mind, but we cannot get rid of them, except by transcending the mind
altogether. This is what meditation is for – cultivating abiding inner
silence, that which is beyond the mind. But in doing so, we are not getting
rid of the mind or the ego, we are only illuminating them with our inner
light of pure bliss consciousness. In this way both the mind and the ego are
transformed in their role in the expression of our life, which
radiates more and more from the infinite source of peace and creativity
After a few years of practice, you are finding inner silence and the divine
flow emerging in your everyday life, and it is
natural to want to get on with it, so it can become a full time experience.
It is your bhakti that is driving you forward. Inner silence tends to
amplify our bhakti, and it also moves us toward self-inquiry. It is normal.
When our thoughts and feelings, including the ego, or "I thought," are
becoming objects of perception on the screen of our abiding inner silence
(witness), we are naturally inclined to do something with them, particularly
when they are influencing our perceptions and actions in
life in negative ways, like those acts that are driven by the "I, me, mine"
reflex. We’d like to get rid of that for sure. But doing so is not a doing.
It is an undoing, and that is the trick.
If you are being drawn to self-inquiry, then it is time. But, like with all
practices, self-pacing will be necessary. Self-inquiry can be very helpful
once we are able to release our inquiry in stillness (samyama effect), no
matter what procedure of inquiry we may be using. That requires some abiding
inner silence, obviously. We will know our self-inquiry is gaining traction
in stillness (relational) if we feel the identification of our awareness
with objects fading when we engage in inquiry. If we are feeling strain,
frustration, confusion, headache, etc., then we can be pretty sure we are
getting ahead of ourselves in mind outside inner silence (non-relational),
and it is time to self-pace. Lesson 356 provides
additional perspective on relational versus non-relational self-inquiry, and
technique suggestions as well. We will know self-inquiry
is working when we find our sense of self gradually expanding beyond the
limits of I, me and mine. This is not an elimination of the ego, per se,
but an expansive transformation of it, not an expansion of I, me and mine,
but an expansion of pure bliss consciousness radiating
out through the personality.
What is the ego anyway, but identified awareness? It is the same awareness
that we find in enlightenment when identification has faded. Same awareness
– much happier situation. We have sometimes used the example of the nervous
system being like a window that needs cleaning. On the inside is pure bliss
consciousness and on the outside is the distorted view of that purity seen
through the dirty window. With the methods of
yoga, we are cleaning the window, so what is seen through it becomes
steadily more clear and pure. In this example, the "ego" is the view of pure
bliss consciousness seen through the dirty window.
As we clean the window, the view becomes more clear, and perception and
conduct become illuminated. There may still be
some distortion, but in time even that will go.
Our sitting practices will take care of it, and our entry into self-inquiry
will clarify remaining misperceptions. We come to find that we never
were the distorted view coming through the window,
only identified with it.
Is that getting rid of the ego, or a transformation of it? Because it will
be a gradual process for most, viewing it as a transformation may be more
practical. Also, seeing it as a transformation is
less judgmental. If we see the process as a gradual
transformation, we can accept the so-called ego at whatever stage it
may be, without feeling like we have to shove it out the door, which will
only strengthen it in the realm of the mind. Making an
enemy of the ego is as fruitless as making an enemy of the mind (see
Lesson 354). Instead, we gradually illuminate
the ego from within by cleaning the window, and
one day we realize that it has been pure bliss consciousness expressing in
that impure form all the while. That "realizing" stage is where self-inquiry
has its greatest value. Not much before. Abiding inner silence and the
process of inner purification and opening lead to this condition where
self-inquiry becomes highly relational (in stillness). We have called this
stage "ripeness," the point where we are only a few steps away from falling
off the tree into unending peace and happiness, no matter what may be going
on in our surroundings. There can be regressions at any stage, but once the
nervous system (our window) reaches a certain level of purity, there is
little chance of losing it. By then, the natural momentum of outpouring
divine love and stillness in action are working 24 hours per day, 7 days per
Let us not forget that the ego is our primary vehicle to enlightenment. Who
else besides the ego would be sawing the limb of ignorance, while sitting on
the part that will fall? For those who might worry about this, the fall is
into infinite peace and happiness. In spite of the "I, me and mine" impulse,
the ego is always looking to expand its power and
its view. Once it becomes clear that all power and knowledge are found by
going within, the ego will lead us there. Nothing else can do it. If ego
were not the one cutting the limb of ignorance off while sitting on it,
there would be no limb, because limitation is what the limb is. We must
operate from limitation to move beyond limitation. That is the rationale for
spiritual practices, and it works. Odd as it may seem, the ego is our
vehicle to enlightenment. We have to operate from where we are. It is not
possible to operate from where we are not.
Someone wrote me recently asking if it was okay to meditate to be more
successful in business. I said, sure, go for it. Meditating for business
will be sure to lead to a broader view. If that person were discouraged from
meditating for business, how would he ever get beyond that need? Meditating
and engaging fully in life is the fastest way to
do it, not by condemning or trying to ignore the attachment to business.
It is the same thing for health. Millions take up yoga
practices for health. Why not? It works, and it
leads to much more than
It is the ego that wants to meditate, and that is great. It will lead beyond
whatever the imagined reason is – even the concept of enlightenment. Hard as
we may try, we cannot imagine our way beyond the fact of what it is. We can
only purify the vehicle (this nervous system – the window) and become a
fuller expression of our essential nature, which is pure bliss
consciousness. If the ego seems to be sabotaging us at
times, it is only lingering habit, something that will fade over time as we
continue with daily practices, like so many of our negative behaviors have.
Honestly, I can think of nothing that would want to meditate besides ego
(identified awareness). If that were not the case, there would be only pure
awareness, and meditation would not be about purification and opening, but
about basking in the infinite. Even then, it is the person
(the shadow of our transformed ego) who sits down to meditate. Or is
it stillness in action sitting to meditate? Does it even matter?
We can only operate from where we are, and there is no practical reason to
divide ourselves into good and bad, ego and non-ego. It's all one thing (one
awareness) in the process of transformation from expressing with
identification to expressing without identification.
When we talk about human spiritual transformation, we are talking about
illumination from the inside. That is illumination of the heart, the mind,
and all our actions in the world. This transforms the role of these elements
of our nature, including the aspect that connects us consciously with our
expression of body/mind in time and space.
And that is the ego, even if only a faint remnant of the duality it
was before it became permeated with inner light. The result is abiding inner
silence, ecstatic bliss, and outpouring divine love for the benefit of all
on this earth plane, and beyond.
The guru is in you.
For detailed discussion on the practical
utilization of relational self-inquiry (in ripeness), see the
and the Liberation book.
For detailed instructions on
building and maintaining a balanced daily practice routine with self-pacing, see the
Eight Limbs of Yoga book.