In spirituality, and especially nondual, mystical, and eastern meditative traditions, individual existence is often described as a kind of illusion. This "sense of doership" or sense of individual existence is that part which believes it is the human being, and believes it must fight for itself in the world, is ultimately unaware and unconscious of its own true nature. The ego is often associated with mind and the sense of time, which compulsively thinks in order to be assured of its future existence, rather than simply knowing its own self and the present.
The spiritual goal of many traditions involves the dissolving of the ego, allowing self-knowledge of one's own true nature to become experienced and enacted in the world. This is variously known as Enlightenment, Nirvana, Fana, Presence, and the "Here and Now".
Eckhart Tolle comments that, to the extent that the ego is present in an individual, that individual is somewhat insane psychologically, in reference to the ego's nature as compulsively hyper-active and compulsively (and pathologically) self-centered. However, since this is the norm, it goes unrecognised as the source of much that could be classified as insane behavior in everyday life. In South Asian traditions, the state of being trapped in the illusory belief that one is the ego is known as maya or samsara.
According to the mythologist Joseph Campbell, the chief reason for the concept of transcending the ego throughout Eastern philosophy is because the ego has never been properly separated from the Freudian id, and so the whole idea of developing out of ego not the pleasure but the reality principle is simply unknown.
Descriptions of the ego
Hindu and Vedanta traditions refer to Ego as Ahamkara (अहंकार), a Sanskrit term that originated in Vedic philosophy over 3,000 years ago, and was later incorporated into Hindu philosophy. It is one of the tattvas, or principles of existence.
Buddhist traditions view Ego not as a single principle, but rather aggregates of conscious energy which create each individual's consciousness. These aggregates, or "heaps," are referred to in Sanskrit as skandhas.
- "The extent of the ego's inability to recognize itself and see what it is doing is staggering and unbelievable. [...] To become free of the ego is not really a big job but a very small one. All you need to do is be aware of your thoughts and emotions – as they happen. This is not really a 'doing' but an alert 'seeing'. In that sense, it is true that there is nothing you can do to become free of the ego. When that shift happens, which is the shift from thinking to awareness, an intelligence far greater than the ego's cleverness begins to operate in your life. Emotions and even thoughts become depersonalized through awareness. Their impersonal nature is recognized. There is no longer a self in them. They are just human emotions, human thoughts. Your entire personal history, which is ultimately no more than a story, a bundle of thoughts and emotions, becomes of secondary importance and no longer occupies the forefront of your consciousness. It no longer forms the basis for your sense of identity. You are the light of Presence, the awareness that is prior to and deeper than any thoughts and emotions." 
- "One of man's important mistakes," he [Gurdjieff] said, "one which must be remembered, is his illusion in regard to his I. "Man such as we know him, the 'man machine,' the man who cannot 'do,' and with whom and through whom everything 'happens,' cannot have a permanent and single I. His I changes as quickly as his thoughts, feelings, and moods, and he makes a profound mistake in considering himself always one and the same person; in reality he is always a different person, not the one he was a moment ago.
- "I am going to read a newspaper," says the "I" of intellect. "To heck with reading," exclaims the "I" of movement, "I prefer to ride my bicycle." "Forget it," shouts a third ego in disagreement, "I'd rather eat; I'm hungry."
(However, the ultimate aim of the Gurdjieff work was not the cessation of the sense of individuality, but the process of making an individuality out of oneself.)
Weor used the terms "Being" (equivalent in meaning to Atman in Hinduism) and "ego." drawing the distinction that the two states possible are that of Being, which is "transparent, crystal-clear, impersonal, real, and true," and that of the "I," which is "a collective of psychic Aggregates that personify Defects, whose only reason to exist is ignorance." He characterized this distinction:
- "Superior and inferior 'I's' are a division of one organism itself. The superior 'I' and the inferior 'I' are both the 'I'; they are the whole ego. The Intimate, the Real Being, is not the 'I.' The Intimate transcends any type of 'I.' He is beyond any type of 'I.' The Intimate is the Being. The Being is the reality. He is what is not temporal; He is the Divine. The 'I' had a beginning and inevitably will have an end, since everything that has a beginning will have an end. The Being, the Intimate, did not have a beginning, and so He will not have an end. He is what He is. He is what has always been and what always will be." 
Adi Da Samraj, spiritual teacher, writer, and artist, describes the ego as an activity of "self-contraction":
- "The ego is an activity, not an entity. The ego is the activity of avoidance, the avoidance of relationship. The root of all suffering is called the "ego", as if it were a "thing", an entity. But the same ego is actually the activity of self-contraction—in countless forms, endured unconsciously. The unconsciousness is the key—not the acts of concentration themselves (which are more or less functional). Apart from present-time conscious self-understanding, the self-contracted state is presumed to be the inevitable condition of life. That unconscious self-contraction creates separation, which manifests as identification (or the sense of separate self). The root of True Spirituality is not some kind of activity, such as desire, that seeks to get you to the "Super-Object". The genuine Spiritual process that I Offer to you requires the "radical" understanding of the entire process of egoic motivation. That process requires the observation, understanding, and transcending of the root of egoic motivation—which is the activity of self-contraction, of separation. Therefore, what has traditionally been called "the ego" is rightly understood to be an activity. And "radical" self-understanding is the direct seeing of the fundamental (and always present) activity that is suffering, ignorance, distraction, motivation, and dilemma. When that activity is most perfectly understood, then there is Spontaneous and Unqualified Realization of That Which had previously been excluded from consciousness awareness—That Which Is Always Already The Case.
Dada Bhagwan, Spiritual Scientist of Akram Vignan describes the journey towards the freedom from egoism.
- "Dada Bhagwan has said that the person who knows his own egoism, his ‘Self’ (Pure Soul), is always free of egoism, the knower of egoism is the Self (Pure Soul) only!
“I am john”- this is the egoism. “I am his father, his maternal uncle, his paternal uncle” - It’s all egoism. Where there are clashes, know that, your own egoism has been wrong!
It is the ego, which has been created through false impositions that binds karma, and it is the ego that experiences the fruits of karma. You are the pure Self (Soul) and yet you claim that you are John claiming to something you are not, is called the ego. This is the false imposition of the ego. Egoism is to usurp someone else's space and call it your own. When this ego leaves, you can return to your own place, where there is no bondage.
Only if the awareness of I am Pure Soul is there, exhausting of ego will be there.
Ego versus God
||This section may contain original research. (December 2012)|
Ego is the characteristic of the age, at least as far as the West is concerned. Freud can possibly be regarded as a turning point in Western orientation from the infinite to the self. While religion had regarded the self as something to be overcome, it now became the central goal. The effect on society has been profound, from a diverse range of theories that stem from Freudo-Marxism to the evolution of advertising via trend-leaders such as Ernest Dichter; as well as changes of perspective via the Sexual revolution toward regarding sex as "self gratification", rather than an institution of marriage ordained by God. Almost universally these changes are seen as "liberating the self". Freud can be said to have created both a science and a cult of ego.
The focus on ego in the West may be the key point of difference generating conflict with the Muslim world, as surveys show Westerners are viewed by Muslims as "selfish, immoral and greedy". (For their part Muslim countries are seen as lacking individual rights.) But rather than just being about "self", this focus on ego may lead to a search for identity and loss of social responsibility; effectively a loss of self. While many struggle to subdue ego and find God, perhaps the answer is a balance between; neither all ego nor all God.
Finally, if man is created in the image of God , or the ultimate truth the Monad (philosophy) the essence from which all Gods and created existence was spawned (Pleroma), then there is no duality between ego and God as ego is a window of God which is conciousness and life. How something can be all and nothing at the same time is beyond language. From this perspective ego is the limited self and God as Monad the whole or greater self. This type of reasoning is described as Monism.
- Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic, Thelema Press, 2003, (1960)
- Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Ending of Time, HarperSanFrancisco, 1985
- Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology
- Tolle, A New Earth, pp.117–118.
- P.D Ouspensky, In Search for the Miraculous
- Samael Aun Weor, Revolutionary Psychology, Thelema Press, 2005 (1974)
- Samael Aun Weor, The False Sentiment of the I (available online)
- Samael Aun Weor (1974), The Secret Doctrine of Anahuac (excerpt)
- Samael Aun Weor, The Elimination of Satans Tail (available online)
- Samraj, Adi Da. (2005). "My 'Bright' Word" (pp. 76–77, p. 82). Dawn Horse Press. ISBN 1-57097-205-2
- "Dr Niruben Amin, (2003) "Science of Karma" (p.9) ISBN 978-81-89725-11-2 Dada Bhagwan". (available online)
Read in another language
This page is available in 1 language