With all this praise and adoration, he himself will begin to think that he is great. This thought becomes more and more ingrained in him, and as it gets deeper it also becomes subtler. He learns how to hide it and he pretends that he is great. But it won’t take long for that which lies hidden within to reveal itself externally. Such people are easily fooled by others, and at times they even act foolishly.
Question: Amma, you said that the ego of a spiritual person is very subtle and that it may even push us back into the world. Could you please explain this?
Mata Amirtanandamayi, “Children, just the thought, ‘I am spiritual, I am spiritually advacned,’ or ‘I am a renunciate,’ can be a big stumbling block to your spiritual progress. Such thoughts are also parrt of the ego, but a more subtle form of ego. you may think, ‘I am great because I have renounced everything. Look at all those worldly people out there who are still immersed in the quagmire of materialism. They are so ignorant!’
“You may feel that those who live in the world are far beneath you. If you cherish such thoughts, it only shows that you are mentally immature. It means that you are ignorant. Those who live in the world may be ignorant, but they are not on the spiritual path; whereas, you are supposed to be on the spiritual path and yet you are still spiritually ignorant. Such thoughts are of the ego and need to be uprooted. If you are under the guidance of a real master, you cannot feel this sort of pride.
“….A subtle ego is much more powerful and harder to destroy. A worldly person is proud of his achievements in life and likes to show them off. His ego is born out of his attachment to the objects of the external world. He has a big, beautiful house which he is attached to and feels very proud of. The house is excellent food for his ego. He is also proud of his power, wealth and reputation, and he sometimes expresses this on a large scale. You can experience it in his presence, even the way he walks and talks will have a certain air of pride about it.
“The more wealth and power you have, the more ego you will have. Whether you are wealthy or poor, the difference in ego lies only in degree…. Also, the more thought you have, the more ego you will have. This is why scholars, thinkers and speakers are often more egoistic than others. People who enjoy a high position in soceity are often very egoistical, unless they have an attitude of self-surrender. They are used to being praised by the public, for the exceptional work that they are doing.
“Usually, the more famous you are, the more egoistic you are, because the ego grows with all the recognition. This what happens to many people who are successful in the world. In such people, the ego is quite obvious; you will recognise it by their speech and by their actions. They cannot hide it; they are so full of ego that there is nowhere for their ego to hide. However, there are also people who have achieved fame and recognition, and yet they have remained humble. These are rare exceptions.
“It is quite natural for people who lead a materialistic life to be egoistic. It is pardonable, because they don’t have the proper spiritual understanding. This is is not the case with spiritual people who have dedicated their lives solely for that purpose. It has to be their way of life. They are supposed to be humble and devoid of any ego.
“Unfortunately, it may happen that a spiritual person learns how to hide his ego and pretends to be very humble.He tries not to show that he has an ego, because he knows that expressing it outwardly is wrong as far as a spiritual seeker is concerned. He knows that people won’t appreciate it. It is also like this in the world, but there is a difference. In the world, once you are recognised as an expert in some field, the country needs you and you can afford to be egoistic. You can sepak and act selfishly, but you atre safe because of your expertise.
“Your employers, or those who have appointed you, cannot simply throw you out, unless they have a very good substitute. But in spiritual life, it is not this way. Your spiritual advancement in recognised by the humility, ‘egolessness’ and wisdom that you express. If a so-called spiritual person behaves in a very egoistic way, he will not be respected by people. He will only acquire a bad reputation within the spiritual community. Knowing this, he will learn to suppress his anger and all other negative tendencies, and he will act and behave like a spiritually-mature person. This becomes far too mental and subtle. As long as you express it outwardly, it exists on a gross level. but when you consciously keep it hidden within and act differently on the outside, it becomes subtle and very dangerous.
“You can express your ego outwardly. That, too can be harmful, but it is less so, because at least people will not be deluded. They will realise that you are egoistic and be warned that you may harbour a lot of anger, hatred, and other negative feelings within you. They can be careful of you and keep their distance, if need be. But what if you skillfully learn how to hide your ego and pretend to be a yogi?
“People will then be seriously deluded, and that would to real cheating. But such hypocrisy cannot last. It cannot be hidden for long because soon your ego will begin to express itself. What is hidden within must become manifest sooner or later, no matter how much one may try to o otherwise, it is just a question of time.
“…people who hide their ego, (do so) to win people over and gain control over them. They may succeed in hiding their ego for sometime, but it will soon become manifest. Their real nature will be expressed of its own accord. A person who wears the false mask of a spiritually-advanced person does not know what terrible harm he is doing. he is misleading others, and also paving the way for his own destruction. A number of sincere people may get trapped in his deception. And once they realise that they have been misled, they will lose their faith. From then on, they will be suspicious of everything that has anything to do with spirituality. They will even be suspicious of genuine masters.
“Think of the enormous harm that these so-called spiritual leaders are doing to society and the human race. The ego of such a person is very subtle and is difficult to get rid of. He believes that he is great. This happens naturally because he feels proud of the big crowds who attend his speeches and the praise people shower upon him. People say to him, ‘Oh, you are so great and knowledgeable! What an eloqurnt speaker you are! you have such a presence!’
(pgs. 183-188, Awaken, Children, Vol 7)