Ego Removal as part of individual spiritual practice to progress in Spirituality

The futility of man’s ‘I’-ness or ego can be realised from Sant Jnaneshwar’s quote in Marathi which means – ‘He who claims I have attained it, knows nothing’. Ego is a major obstacle in the path of man’s worldly and spiritual happiness. Since the seed of ego is present only in human birth, it is definitely present in everyone, irrespective of age, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, etc. in varying proportions.

Ego is similar to weeds in a field. Until the weeds are uprooted completely, we cannot harvest a good crop. The weeds have to be uprooted regularly. Similarly, until one’s ego is completely eliminated, one cannot obtain God’s grace. The very purpose of performing spiritual practice is to eliminate ego; yet, it is so deep-rooted in mankind that its elimination is not easy even while performing spiritual practice. Hence, instead of thinking that the ego will be eliminated automatically by performing spiritual practice, we should make conscious efforts for ego removal.

1. Definition and meaning of the word ego

A. Ego means considering oneself to be distinct from others and Brahman (God Principle) or God, due to the physical body or due to sanskars (Subconscious impressions) in various centres of the subtle body.

B. In general, we can define ego as pride related to ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘for myself’, etc.

Thoughts such as ‘my body & mind’, ‘my intellect’, ‘my life’, ‘my wealth’, ‘my wife and children’, ‘I should obtain happiness’, etc. arise only from ego.
If we keep peeling an onion, all that we get are the peels and nothing at the core. Similarly, we will not find anything called ‘I’. Eventually what remains is the soul – the experience of Chaitanya (Divine consciousness).

2. Synonyms for the word ‘ego’

Egotism, vanity, conceit, pride, arrogance and ‘I’-ness are words associated with the word ‘ego’ at the psychological level.

3. Types of ego

3A. God’s ego : The Sanskrut word ‘Ahankar’ is derived from the words ‘aham (Ego)’ and ‘akar (Form)’. When the ‘akar (meaning, the body)’ perishes, only ‘aham (Ego) remains. This ‘aham’ is a state where ‘I’-ness (the soul) remains without any ‘You’-ness (worldly association, meaning, the body). At that time, only Brahman, God exists.

3B. Human ego

3B 1. Pure ego : This can be explained as follows.

A. Considering oneself to be distinct from Brahman, that is, having awareness of one’s original self through dvait (Duality).

B. Having awareness only of one’s own existence.

C. Having the bhav that ‘I belong to others and others are mine’. Pure ego continues to exist in an awakened state until the body exists.

3B 2. Impure (Associated with the triguna) ego : ‘When the mind, subconscious mind, intellect and ego are created, and when their creation reaches a peak, we can assume that the antahakarana has fully developed. All activities for obtaining worldly happiness take place with the help of ego.

With regards to the intellect and ego in the present phase of Kaliyug, we can say – complete development of the intellect implies that we identify ourselves with the body (meaning, we have body-awareness). To reach the height of physical pleasures, the intellect plays its role. Ego refers to the complete development of the intellect.’ – H.H. Kane Maharaj, Narayangaon, District Pune, Maharashtra, India.

Awareness of the existence due to the physical body or due to sanskars in the centres of the subtle body such as temperamental characteristics, desires, likes and dislikes is called ‘impure’ ego. Depending on the thoughts and emotions, this ego can be either sattvik (Sattva predominant), rajasik (Raja predominant) or tamasik (Tama predominant). These three types of ego are known as aham-traya or trividha aham.

3B 2A. Tamasik ego : Tama predominant ego is called tamasik ego; for example, taking credit for actions performed by the self.

3B 2B. Rajasik ego : Raja predominant ego is called rajasik ego; for example, constantly striving for happiness.

3B 2C. Sattvik ego : Sattva predominant ego is called sattvik ego; for example, ego about sacrificing something is sattvik in nature.

3B 3. Type of ego depending on its proportion : The proportion of ego in an average individual is 30%. Depending on the proportion, ego can be classified into 3 types.

Proportion of ego (%) Type of ego
20 to 30 High
15 to 20 Medium
10 to 15 Less

3C. Panchatattva and types of ego : Pruthvi (Absolute Earth Principle), Apa (Absolute Water Principle), Tej (Absolute Fire Principle), Vayu (Absolute Air Principle) and Akash (Absolute Ether Principle) are the Panchatattva (The Five Cosmic Principles).

The table below lists the various combinations of Panchatattva predominant in an individual and the type of ego associated with them.

Combined Principles Type of ego
Tej + Pruthvi Tamasik
Tej + Apa Rajasik
Tej + Vayu Sattvik

3D. Colour and types of ego : Other than Supreme God, everything else is made up of trigunas (Sattva, Raja and Tama – the three basic components). Blue and yellow are sattvik colours. Hence, we feel pleasant looking at them. Orange is rajasik, hence, we experience Shakti (Divine Energy) while looking at it.
Black is tamasik, hence, we do not feel like looking at it. Therefore, black has generally been considered inauspicious in Hindu Dharma; for example, black clothes are not worn during an auspicious event.

Depending on the trigunas, ego is also of three types – tamasik, rajasik and sattvik ego. Tamasik ego is denoted by black, rajasik ego is denoted by orange and a sattvik ego is denoted by yellow.

A person who is tamasik in nature has high ego, one who is rajasik in nature has medium ego and one who is sattvik in nature has less ego. Therefore, one who has high ego emits Tama predominant vibrations and we do not feel like looking at or speaking with such an individual.

A seeker received Divine knowledge on association of colour with ego as follows : ‘On 10.2.2004, during the prayer session of a Bhavsatsang (A spiritual discourse conducted by Sanatan Sanstha to increase spiritual emotion in seekers towards God, is known as a Bhavsatsang), I saw black shade clearly in the form of an outline around myself and I realised that it meant ‘ego’.

– Mrs Ranjana Barve, Dattawadi, Pune, Maharashtra, India.

(Ref.: Sanatan’s Text – ‘Spiritual practice for ego removal’. )

Ego is similar to weeds in a field. Until the weeds are uprooted completely, we cannot harvest a good crop !

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