Anyone who has taken even a few steps on the spiritual path has come across the debilitating dangers of… ego. Oh, how we've been warned against its self-centered illusions that lie at the root of so much of our sorrows and heartaches.
And yet, we had to develop an ego if we wanted to survive and find our place in the world. So, from a very young age, we were taught our names, what we can and cannot do, and the dictates of society. Quickly, we were able to declare my family, my country, my opinions, and my dreams, and taught to reason, make judgments, and… formulate an ego. So trained, we could function reasonably well in society.
But, in time, we felt unfulfilled and unhappy. What happened? "Ego," proclaimed all the pundits. Though many could accept this to be true, we wondered why it has been so difficult to throw off? One reason is because we hadn't distinguished that part of ego essential to a life in society from that part that can become tyrannical and take over our lives. Until that distinction is made, we were forced to instinctively cling to our ego to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Furthermore, it does not serve us to simply rid ourselves of our ego even if we could because some of its key attributes (like self-identity for self-transformation) are essential if we want to fulfill our deepest desire and gain personal freedom. On the other hand, some of its qualities must be thrown off if we ever want to be truly happy.
This next map, Formation of Ego, shows clearly the principle elements of ego, what it is, and what it isn't. Only by first knowing its blessings can we transcend its pitfalls.
Formation of Ego diagrams further development of the Mind as it meets the ever-growing challenges of life. The large yellow-orange oval dominating the map depicts the Ego and its territory of control. In the midst of Reason, two squares, one red and one black, represent a Judge and a Victim, respectively. On both sides of the brown line of the Physical Body are two wavy green ones of Self-Image and Public Image that monitor interactions between the Interior and Exterior World.
The thick red arrow, Impulse of Desire launches from the yellow area labeled Reason. Its path is distorted by the Self and Public Image on its way towards its Object of Desire. The thin red arrow marked Reaction to Outcome depicts one's reaction to the response from the Object of Desire, and reveals a complex path in its "Bounce-Back" between various components of the Ego. Its ending in a red spiral represents a desire unfulfilled.
To seriously explore the pros and cons of ego, the first question that arises is, What is it?
The ego is a mind-created complex of ideas from which we
constitute our self–identity.
With ego, we gain self-identity, and the miracle of becoming conscious of ourselves as an individual in the midst of the vast continuum of life. Though our essence is eternal and infinite, thanks to ego, we can experience the richness of time and the intimacy of the particular. Furthermore, a fundamental aspect of the "mind-created complex of ideas" depends on language, essential for communication and self-expression. Self-expression? Thanks to ego, we have a "self" to express. So far, so good...