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) 


These Will Bring You Peace of Mind Undoubtedly

Swami Sivananda: The following will bring you peace of mind undoubtedly:

1. Avoid the company of evil persons.
2. Live alone.
3. Reduce your wants.
4. Don’t argue. Arguing creates sense of hostility. It is a sheer waste of energy.
5. Don’t compare yourself with others.
6. Don’t lend (an) ear (to) public criticism.
7. Give up the idea of name and fame.

(pg. 272, Mind—Its Mysteries and Control)

Spiritual Groups

A spiritual group needs the inspiration of a living person. Mere rules and printed instructions are no substitutes for it. Without such inspiration, no matter how inspired a group was at its inception, time will draw it down into a mire of mediocrity. The real strength of every group is power emanating from its source. In the case of Christianity, that power derives ultimately from Jesus Christ. It also depends on people’s devotional attunement with him. Finally, however, it depends on the living presence of at least one inspired individual. This person need not be the leader. Even the cook, or the gardener, if he or she is filled with love for God, can function as the actual inspiration for an entire community.

The living memory only of a saint can help to keep devotion alive through those disciples for whom that memory is still fresh. If the disciples themselves lose the immediacy of that memory, however, and assuming no one is left to carry forward the baton of inspiration, the group’s devotion will wither in time like a plant without water.

That religious institutions should contain members of the “scribe and Pharisee” type is inevitable. Most people are satisfied with relative goodness, for their own aspiration soars no higher than the attainment after death of an existence in surroundings of astral beauty. Religious institutionalism is better, certainly, than blatant materialism. A problem religious institutions face, however, is the general tendency of every living thing toward either self-expansion or contraction. It is usually easier to maintain the spirituality of a small group than of a large one, provided that the group has someone of genuine charisma to inspire it. St. Teresa of Avila sought to combat spiritual mediocrity in her monasteries by limiting the number of their residents to eighteen.

As spiritual groups increase in size, they become not only organized, but institutionalized. Their leaders often reason that, since God is the Supreme Good, any increase in membership will benefit humanity itself. Once proselytizing zeal sets in like concrete, it is easy for one to be diverted from his spiritual goals. Mass conversion becomes a general ambition, and fervor for inner communion with God becomes increasingly viewed as, at best, a threat to group spirit.

To inspire thousands is no doubt better than to inspire only a handful, provided those thousands truly are inspired. The sheer effort involved in reaching them, however, cannot but affect one’s own devotion. The attempt to satisfy mass expectations is one way of diluting high aspiration. In the very effort to transform those expectations into love for God, one’s own devotion becomes compromised. The point is finally reached where worldly alternatives—the sale of “indulgences” in Martin Luther’s day; the emotional rallies and “revivals” in our own—become acceptable as a proper means of attracting people to their “higher good.”

Treading at first softly, then arrogantly, on the heels of such compromise comes the desire for worldly power, money, and fame. Justification for these ambitions is sought in the claim that power makes it possible to be more influential for good; that money makes it easier to achieve that end; and that fame can focus people’s enthusiasm and make it possible to draw them to God.

Many religious leaders find this reasoning persuasive, indeed irresistible. Unfortunately, compromise always ends up compromising the compromisers. Power, money, and fame are snares set for the unwary by Delusion. No matter how cleverly one rationalizes these roundabout means to spiritual ends, they become ends, at last, in themselves. A zealous servant of God may feel that he is working for the Lord, but if his activities inspire no devotion in his own heart, how can they inspire it in the hearts of others? If once he recognizes his spiritual dryness, he should ask himself, “What am I really accomplishing?”

Often, even a service that began in a spirit of deep sincerity develops gradually into a tendency—reluctant at first, then accepted with a shrug as a regrettable necessity—to lie, cheat, and treat with ruthless indifference the needs of other people, whose well-being is perceived as being secondary in importance to the greater good. Resignation gradually develops toward destroying people’s reputations for the sake of that “greater good.” In extreme cases, even murder is countenanced—again, always, for the “greater good.” In time, it becomes glaringly evident that the person they serve is not God, but the one we’ll call “that other fellow.”

(pgs. 267-269, The Promise of Immortality by Swami Kriyananda)

Name and Fame

To a group of devotees and disciples, (Swami Sivananda) said, “Some are very anxious to acquire name and fame. They make a show of themselves. They travel in cars, build clock towers and sky-scrapers. They wear costly dress and employ a number of servants. They pose as great servants of society. Every moment they try to get more fame. But the slightest criticism upsets them. They cannot bear opposition. They wish that everyone should respect them. In spite of all this they do not get the fame they seek and hence get upset and restless.

“But if a man is really selfless he will not care for name and fame. He will do his work with great interest but will not expect any reward for it. Work itself is his reward. He has no desire for fame. He can bear abuse. Only such a man will enjoy peace. He will get fame also; it will be his handmaid. But he will not be attached to it. Such a one alone can do real service to society.

“Give up all desire for fame. Work in a spirit of dedication. You will enjoy bliss. You will get fame also. Work with single-minded devotion and dedication.”

An excerpt from “A Great Guru and An Ideal Disciple”