What is ego? || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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Quote: “The only way to find yourself is to lose yourself.”

Listener 1: (Passionately) Sir, I read this quote somewhere and really liked it.

Speaker: Good, what are you doing with this quote?

Listener 1: I have been trying to lose myself.

Speaker: How?

Listener 1: I am trying to remember this quote and lose myself.

Speaker: And who is trying to lose?

Listener 1: Me

Speaker: What is the quotation?

Listener 1: The only way to find yourself is to lose yourself.

Speaker: And what are you trying to do?

Listener 1: I am trying to work on it.

Speaker: Then pay attention to the quotation. Quotation is saying, “Lose yourself,’ and you are exerting yourself.ego2 Why are you doing the opposite? When you want to understand something, do you understand that thing by going close to it, or by doing its opposite? You are doing the exact opposite of what the quotation is saying.

Quotation is saying, “Lose yourself,” and you are strengthening yourself by toiling. How will you ever understand the quote?

Listener 1: So I should not try to understand the quote?

Speaker: Who will not try to understand? Who will not try to understand, in your case?

Listener 1: Me.

Speaker: What is the quotation saying? The quotation is saying, “Lose yourself”.

So don’t do anything. Let the quotation be there. Whatever you will do, will take you further away from the quote. This way or that way, you will go further away. There is no need to try. Neither there is a need to tell yourself, “I won’t try.” Let it be there, and then see what happens.

Listener 2: Sir, as you said, “Do not ‘try’ or ‘not try’.” But in order to learn a skill, one has to try.

Speaker: But he is not trying to learn a skill. He is trying to understand. There is great difference between acquiring a skill and understanding. That’s why with skill we use the word ‘acquire’, with understanding we are saying ‘lose yourself”. Don’t you see that they are opposites? Acquiring a skill versus losing yourself, don’t you see they are opposites?

Listener 2: But am I not strengthening the ego by trying to acquire a skill?

Speaker: First of all don’t use the word ‘strengthening’ the ego. We have repeatedly said that ego means – “I am.” This ‘I am’ – will always have an attachment to something. Right? It will always find some kind of an object. Don’t say “Strengthening the ego” or “Weakening the ego.” Say, “Displacing the ego.” Say, “Showing it its right house, its right position.”

Ego will be there right till the last moment. The question is not whether the ego is strong or weak. In fact, ‘strong ego’, ‘weak ego’, these are very misleading words. The question is – the quality of ego, the position of ego. Where does your “I am” stand? “I am what? Pounds of flesh, a social creature, a religious affiliation. What am I?”

There will always be an answer. Till the last moment, the ego will always have an answer. The question is: what is the quality of that answer?

Ego means – your position, your locus, where are you, who are you. Ego means, your answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’ What is ego? Ego is your answer to the question, “Who am I?” That is what is ego. Now this question cannot have a strong answer or a weak answer. This question can only have a subtle answer, or a gross answer.

So don’t say, “He is very egoistic. He is less egoistic.” Everybody is egoistic. I don’t know what you mean by ‘more’ or ‘less’ ego. There are no quantities that can be associated with ego. Only a quality can be associated.

You too know that you are there. I too know thatIMG-20150526-WA0004 I am there. But there is a difference in the way I look at myself, and in the way you look at yourself. The one who looks at himself as pounds of flesh, has ego. The one who looks at himself as a bundle of ideas, has ego. And the one who knows himself as the understanding shining behind everything, he too has ego.

In this, there is no question of ‘smaller ego’ or ‘larger ego’. The right question to be asked is: where is the ego located? How far is the ego from the source?

– Excerpts from a Clarity Session held at Advait Sthal. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session at: What is ego?

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