What is Ego? Do Spiritual people have ego?

Question 1: Everyone in spiritual life talks about ego, and that it is the greatest impediment when it comes to attaining God. What, actually, is ego? How does it cause trouble to us?

Answer 1: “Ego… is the self-asserting principle…born of ignorance…It is the ego which has created the idea of separateness from God or the Atman, It is the ego which is the ROOT CAUSE of ALL human sufferings and births and deaths.” (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 2: How do we know whether we have ego? Or, whether we are acting out of egoistic tendencies? Are there are definite signs of the existence of ego?

Answer 2: “…ego identifies itself with the body, mind, prana, and the senses. Wherever there IS ego, there are mine-ness, SELFISHNESS, LIKES and DISLIKES, LUST, ANGER, greed, HYPOCRISY, PRIDE, JEALOUSY, delusion, arrogance, conceit, impertinence, vasanas (=tendencies), trishnas (=cravings)…”   (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 3: How do we get rid of this ego that causes so much trouble?

Answer 3: “…destrouction of thought, DESIRES, cravings, mineness, selfishness, JEALOUSY, PRIDE, LUST is really destruction of mind or egoism. Control of SENSES also is annihilation of the mind or egoism.” ( (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 4: Do people who are in spiritual life or who practise religions have ego?

Answer 4: “This egoism assumes a subtle form. The gross egoism is NOT so dangerous as the subtle egoism.”  (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 5: I have known people who claim that their religion is the truest and the rest are bogus, or they claim that their group, congregation, church, mosque or temple is genuine and the others, although they may belong to the same religion, do not belong to the true path of and to God. Are they actually working under the influence of ego?

Answer 5: “..Institutional egoism is a subtle form of egoism. The man identifies himself with the institution and gets ATTACHED to the institution or cult. He has no broadmindedness or catholicity.”  (pgs. 44-45, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 6: How to easily detect ego as it is so subtle and abstruse?

Answer 6: “The working of egoism is very mysterious. It is VERY difficult to detect its various ways of working. It NEEDS a SUBTLE and SHARP intellect to find out its operation. If you practise INTROSPECTION DAILY in silence, you WILL be able to find out its mysterious ways of working.”  (pg. 44, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 7: In your answer to Question 2 you said if we identify ourselves with the body, mind, senses, etc., it is an indication that we have that lurking ego in us. If this is so, what about our feelings regarding foreigners, strangers and people who do not belong to our society, culture, etc. Is that feeling of seeing the difference between us and others in terms of nationality, attainment, class, status, etc., the work of ego too?

Answer 7: “The seed of this ego is the differentiating intellect or Bheda Buddhi… This ego likes his own birth, place, and district, people of his district, own mother tongue, his own relations, and friends, his own ways of eating, mode of dressing. He has his own predilection and preferences, He dislikes others’ ways of eating, dressing, etc. (pgs. 44, 45 Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda).

Question 8: You see, I have spiritual friends—great spiritual friends, who are excellent advisers, guide and counsels. They have the little tendencies that you have described. Does it mean they too have the ego?

Answer 8: “It is the ego which has created the idea of separateness from God or the Atman… This ego wants to exercise POWER and INFLUENCE over others. He wants TITLES, prestige, STATUS, RESPECT, prosperity, house, wife, children. He wishes to domineer and rule over others. If anybody points out his defect his vanity feels offended. If anyone praises him he is elated. This ego says, ‘I know everything. He does not know anything. What I say is quite correct. What he says is quite incorrect. He is inferior to me. I am superior to him.’ He forces others to follow his ways and views.”  (pgs. 44, 45 Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda)

Question 9: It, indeed, is subtle and dangerous. But how to destroy it?

Answer 9: “This ego lurks like a thief when you start introspection and self-analysis. It will ELUDE your grasp and understanding. You must be alert and vigilant. If you obtain the GRACE of the Lord through JAPA, kirtan, prayer and DEVOTION, you CAN EASILY kill this ego.”  (pg. 46, Jnana Yoga by Swami Sivananda) 


Why Bother to Pray As It Is My Prarabdha Karma to Suffer?

Question: One of my friends who has been in spiritual life for long enough to advise anyone said that Karma or fate has to be experienced—that everything has been foreordained, and therefore, we have no choice but to go through the experience ordained by birth. He said, everyone, including people who are devoted to God and committed to living spiritually, has to go through Karma (=fate) or the results of past actions. He said we should ask God for the strength to endure Fate rather than beseech Him to remove it altogether. If this postulate is right, why bother to pray, and where is the place for God’s Grace? 

Swami Turiyananda: “A devotee is NOT afraid of prarabdha [the results of past actions]. As we have heard from from (Sri Ramamkrishna Paramahamsa), ‘Because of his karma, a man was supposed to be pierced by a pike; but by God’s grace, his foot was pricked by a thorn instead.’ ” [Letter dated 22.1.1916, pg. 137, Spiritual Treasures)

Swami Sivananda: “Prarabdha can be OVERCOME by the Grace of the Lord. The Lord’s Grace descend when there is sincere devotion and when Man does Purushartha (effort). Purushsharta is possible when the mind is pure… the laws of nature do not operate when there is the Grace of the Lord. His Grace is all-powerful. (pg. 38, May I Understand That?). 

Yogananda Paramahansa: “Even the fate of DEATH can be changed. Jesus demonstrated in a most dramatic way that there is NO SUCH THING thing as an UNALTERABLE FATE.” (pg. 50, The Divine Romance).

Yogananda Paramahansa: “…if we have faith in God, all things are possible…” (pg. 204, The Divine Romance).

Srila Prabhupada: “Prārabdha can be changed. [Lecture on BG 2.24 — Hyderabad, November 28, 1972.]

Paramahansa Yogananda: “Fate means that a cause has operated to produce an effect. You can change it, if you know the way…:

1. You can MINIMIZE the effect of an action.
2. You can RESIST the effect.
3. You can COMPLETELY STOP it.

“…Why do people go to doctors? Because that is one way to MINIMIZE the effects of wrong actions. The physical way to lessen an illness or overcome it may be found in such remedies as proper diet, exercise, or medication….

“…To RESIST the effects of karma is to use commonsense remedies, but rely more on the power of the mind. Refuse to accept any limiting condition. affirm and believe in health, strength, success, even in the face of contradictory evidence…

“…The only way that you can PERMANENTLY STOP the undesirable effects of past wrong actions is by removing the cause of those effects. Harmful past-life seed-tendencies must be CAUTERIZED from the BRAIN; then there will be no recurrence of ANY type of illness or other troubles arising from them. Roast them in the fire of wisdom…seek the wisdom born of meditation, which removes forever from within you the darkness of ignorance. Krishna said: ‘As fire reduces to ashes all wood, even so, O Arjuna, does the flame of wisdom consume ALL karma.’ [Gita 4:37]” (pg. 49, The Divine Romance)

How to Earn God’s Grace?

Question: The scriptures and the enlightened ones have declared that the way to happiness, success, peace and meaningful living is to earn God’s Grace: all our efforts, including spiritual practices, will come to naught without it. Now, how do I get God’s Grace?

Swami Brahmananda: “His Grace and His blessings are NOT lacking. But how many are there who set their sail to catch His breeze of Grace? How many bend their heads to receive His blessings? People’s minds are busy with trivial things; who wants the REAL treasure? They talk big, but they don’t STRIVE to earn anything. They want to get everything without effort. People can manage to do all kinds of worldly work, but when it comes to keeping recollectedness of God, they say, ‘But where is the time to do it?’ ” [pg. 211, Swami Brahmananda As We Saw Him] [Note: Swamiji was a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa].

Who is Fit to Receive the Lord’s Grace?

Swami Chidananda Maharaj: “…The very first factor of significance which seekers have to realise is that the Grace of the Lord, which was instrumental in leading one party to victory, came out to support the Devas and it was the fitness of the party that dictated the descent of the Grace.

“Herein the first truth is revealed that if the aspirant in his struggle should become fit to approach the giver of Grace for the bestowal of Grace, he must first make himself of Daivi-Prakriti and possess Daivi-Sampat.

“The accessibility to this fountain-head of Grace from which we may draw support is conditional upon the nature of the one who approaches it. Because they were Devas, they could approach the Gracious Lord in order to ask for His Grace. We have to become Adhikaris, if we may approach the one who is to bestow grace upon us and who is to provide us with the necessary leadership and the strength to overcome the evil forces with which we are trying to battle. This is given out by all Acharyas, all great seers and Mahapurushas in the form of the Sadhana-Chatushtaya, the Yama-Niyama or the Sadachara, the acquisition of Daivi-Sampat. This is an indispensable prerequisite for every seeker who wishes to get the better of the lower self and set foot on the path of Yoga. 

“…we have first to recognise the presence of the lower self and that we are distinct from it; and that the lower self is an obstacle within us, an undesirable element within our nature. And we must align ourselves not with that force but with the divine forces. The second is the truth that mere recognition of this or acceptance of the fact that the lower self is undesirable and must be overcome is not enough; we must put this recognition into dynamic action. We must manfully set about trying to do this process of breaking down all these elements of the evil, lower nature with all our heart and all our might.

“God helps those who help themselves, is a well-known old adage. This is very true upon the spiritual path. Unless we demonstrate our sincerity and completely rid ourselves of the impurity, unspiritual and undivine, by means of practical effort and actual striving, we have not yet attained the fitness to ask for grace. We must exert; then we become deserving. Then we can desire to obtain the help of the higher powers.

“This is a law which the majority of seekers are prone to disregard because recognition and acceptance of this law is very uncomfortable and inconvenient. For, it implies that we have to strive and to make effort, and the lower nature will not easily sanction this, inasmuch as in the beginning of the spiritual practice, to a great extent, the personality of the seeker is under the habitual dominance of the lower nature, its old tendencies, old habits, inclinations, etc.

“There may be a desire or even sincerity; but it is all theoretical and the Tamoguna which is the prominent feature of the lower nature will not easily allow the aspirant to put forth right exertion. To bring out this law in a telling manner, we are told that the Devas again and again gave battle to the Asuras, not once but time and again; and it was after repeatedly being worsted in battle that they found that, in spite of their earnest and sincere practical efforts to overcome the evil forces, they were yet not crowned with victory. Then it is that the celestial hosts turned to the Supreme Lord and prayed for His Grace. And, it is only when these conditions are fulfilled that the Lord will hear this prayer and bestow His Grace.”

(pgs. x, xii-xiii, Lord Shanmukha and His Worship by Swami Sivananda)

You Will Never Get God!

“You have to individually make love to God,” (Paramahansa Yogananda) insisted to us. “Keep your mind at the Christ Center in the forehead. As you work, remember also that you are working for God and Guru. always chant mentally: God and Guru; Guru, Christ, and Guru.

“Many come here, then pass their time in idle gossip and joking: Well, they won’t get God! There are many rats and mice living in the canyon on this property also, but they aren’t advancing spiritually; they aren’t finding God. It isn’t just being here that will get you to Him. You have to make your own effort. Each of you , in the end, stands alone before God.”

(pg. 319, Conversations with Yogananda)

Does God Answer Our Prayers?

Swami Chinmayananda: “If God were to fulfill the desires of people according to their prayers then the Impartial Lord would become ‘partial’ towards those who pray.

“Then how does God fulfill the desires of His devotees?

“Lord Krishna says ‘Whatever form a devotee seeks to worship with “faith” that “faith” of his I make firm in him’. (Bhagavad Gita 7/21)

“From the material Standpoint, when we pray, and deter¬mine to achieve something we develop a ‘faith’ in the goal and confidence in ourselves to do so. Faith is a, growing belief rooted in understanding. As this ‘faith’ increases, the mind becomes more and more efficient. A single-pointed mind is indeed a mighty force against which no obstacles can stand for long. This “faith” irrespective of the chosen goal, is that which ultimately takes each one of us to our success.

“Then what? How does one gain the fulfillment of his desire?

“Reinforced with that ‘faith’ in his chosen field man works harder. The Lord admits that by ‘His’ grace that ‘faith’ increases and consequently the efforts also increase with the increase of ‘faith’. We put forth more and more efforts and as a result our desires are fulfilled. So, to say that we have been praying for years and our prayers have never been heard is the complaint of not those who pray but those, who only beg, without
constantly striving hard to achieve.

“From the spiritual standpoint, this verse is a very important one as it has carved out a distinct character for the Hindus—their unbelievable sense of tolerance towards all other religions in the world. The Hindu knows that ‘Truth is one; sages call it by different names.’ In what¬ever form man worships his God with ‘faith’, in that form God shall be revealed to him.

“Both in material and spiritual successes the secret of achievement is one and the same. If one desires the worldly things one gains them; if the spiritual experience, then one gains that too. If one’s desires are materialistic then one will seek them through worldly ‘devatas’ (powers) and find one’s immediate fulfillment.

“Efforts remaining the same, the results depend upon whether we strive out-worldly for the passing joys, or dive inward to reach the permanent Bliss in the Self. In short, we can have what we wish for, if only our powers of wishing are powerful enough. Prayer brings about the necessary mental integration in ourselves, and assures our success in any field of endeavor.

“Remember, prayer is not beggary. Nor is it merely an exaggerated glorification of some unknown entity called God repeated mechanically by the mouth in a language which is unknown to the devotee. Prayer is invocation with the mind contemplating on the greater Reality of Life, the Essential Life that energizes, activates, thrills the inert world of matter into living creatures, expands itself and in this expansion it soars higher into kingdoms of joyous experiences and true unfoldments.”

Source: http://www.chinmayamission.com/scriptures-details.php?scriptureid=29&more=19&catgid=19

God’s Greatest Gift to Mankind

Swami Sri Chinmoy: “God’s greatest gift to mankind is His Compassion, and man’s greatest gift to God is his surrender. When man surrenders to God soulfully and unconditionally, when he surrenders to God’s Will cheerfully, at that time God’s Capacity, God’s Reality, God’s Infinitude become his. Compassion is the magnet in God, and surrender is the magnet in the seeker. When God uses His compassion, it is like a magnet from above pulling us up to the Highest. And when we use our surrender, this magnet immediately pulls God down into our living breath,. So, when our magnet and God’s magnet come together, the Hour of God dawns for us in our life of aspiration and self-dedication.” (pg. 96, God Is)

>God’s Greatest Gift to Mankind


Swami Sri Chinmoy: “God’s greatest gift to mankind is His Compassion, and man’s greatest gift to God is his surrender. When man surrenders to God soulfully and unconditionally, when he surrenders to God’s Will cheerfully, at that time God’s Capacity, God’s Reality, God’s Infinitude become his. Compassion is the magnet in God, and surrender is the magnet in the seeker. When God uses His compassion, it is like a magnet from above pulling us up to the Highest. And when we use our surrender, this magnet immediately pulls God down into our living breath,. So, when our magnet and God’s magnet come together, the Hour of God dawns for us in our life of aspiration and self-dedication.” (pg. 96, God Is)

Take Refuge NOW! By Sri Swami Atmaswarupananda

For most devotees the religious or spiritual life is part of their ordinary life. It may be the most important part of their life, but it is part of their normal living. It is only when God’s grace comes into our life that our spiritual life takes on another dimension. We could call it a vertical dimension because we seem, in one way or another, to be lifted out of ourselves. It may be the result of a meeting with a teacher; it may be some book we read; it could be a spiritual experience; but something changes. Something new has come into our life.

The result may not change our outward life very much, or it may change it so dramatically that we leave our old life and go to an ashram, even seek permanent entry there. But whether the result is that dramatic or less dramatic, it seems to be inevitable that after a period of time we settle down into a mundane life again—whether it is in an ashram or still in the world. We somehow seem to have lost that vertical dimension, that dimension that was changing everything for us. And the truth is that unless we can somehow regain that vertical dimension, that dimension of grace, our spiritual life will not really move.

But how can we bring God’s grace back into our life again? When it did change our life, it was not something that was under our control. It happened spontaneously. Does that mean then that there is no hope for us? Fortunately, Pujya Swamiji tells us that God’s grace is always blowing. But it is up to us to put up our sail. Originally, God didn’t care whether our sail was up or not; He just came into our life. But it seems that at some point He says to us, “Now it is time for you to put up your sail.”

But how do we put up our sail in order to catch His grace? The Lord gives us a secret in the last teaching verse of the Gita: “Abandoning all dharmas take refuge in Me alone.” Our problem is that even when we want to take refuge in God, our fundamental reliance remains with ourselves. We’re scared of letting go. We don’t really want to leave the results of our life to God. We want to keep firm control of the rudder of the boat of our life, and we’re reluctant to put up the sail in case God’s grace blows us in directions that we don’t want to go.

So it is our choice. Do we want to continue our mundane life, or do we want to have the adventure of God’s life? Do we want to keep our life the way it is, or do we want God’s grace in our life? Do we want to keep control over our life, or do we want to take the risk of going God’s way, to put up our sail and let Him take us where He wants to take us.

The spiritual life is always now. It is not in the future when we are ready. It is always now. So, if we want to bring back that original thrill, that original grace into our life, the answer is to put up our sail, let go of the rudder and trust God now. The need is to take refuge now!

Early Morning Meditation Talk given in the Sacred Samadhi Hall of Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh