It is not unusual to read or hear mention of the idea that in order to progress on the spiritual path that we need to destroy the ego, or at least to somehow rid ourselves of it. But the unreality of this possibility was expressed by Adyashanti when he wrote "Trying to get rid of your ego would be like trying to get rid of your shadow," suggesting it's not something we can hope to dispose of.
The ego in its common usage can be understood as that which we call the ordinary self. The product of childhood conditioning, it is the collection of perceptions/experiences of thoughts, memories, feelings and activity that seem to be limited to, or associated with, one's physical body. Because of this body reference the ego/self seems to be separate from other ego/selves and our perspective on reality appears to be limited by this view. Thus, the usual human condition is to identify with the ego/self and assert that "this is me," effectively denying the possibility another, greater, perspective.
However, there seems to be agreement among sages and teachers that we wrongly identify the ego as who we are, and we have the potential to recognize this false identification. A.H. Almaas says: "Since the beginning of man's experience as separate ego, and his resulting alienation from his true being, there have been teachers and religions whose purpose was to help people maintain a connection with or return to essential Being. . . Many of us have benefitted from these efforts, have felt our suffering decrease, and even found some peace and fulfillment. And humanity as a whole has benefitted. . . . The soul informed by the ego is asleep. This is why enlightenment is called awakening -- your soul wakes up to what is really here. . . . The most evident manifestation of the soul being asleep is one's unshakable conviction in conventional or consensus reality, and in the content of one's overall social conditioning."
The word ego is used within a variety of contexts so there are some variations of definition that the reader should keep in mind when reading the following quotes. With understanding and practice we begin to view ego as having no substance or form - it's more like an aquired mental structure of believed thoughts. Recognizing this can lead to a dissolution of our belief in its reality, and in doing so become liberated to know and experience our true self.
Fighting the ego, the mind, is precisely what the ego wants. You cannot fight the mind. You cannot suppress the ego. Fighting, resisting, controlling is an impossible action. What is really needed is to yield, to see things as they are.
~ Ramesh Balkesar
The ego is another word for the separate self. It’s the psychological sense of ourselves as a person in the world with a given identity. This identity is a collection of stories, memories, beliefs, desires, fears, judgments, and feelings that we believe to be true about ourselves.
And when we believe this identity to be true, it becomes the distorted veil through which we view ourselves, other people, and the world.
~ Gail Brenner
All suffering is caused by the ego, which is personal identification with the body, mind and conditioning. Realizing this and consequently dropping the false identity, one is immediately and permanently freed from the wheel of all sorrows.
There seem to be two kinds of searchers: those who seek to make their ego something other than it is, i.e. holy, happy, unselfish (as though you could make a fish unfish), and those who understand that all such attempts are just gesticulation and play-acting, that there is only one thing that can be done, which is to disidentify themselves with the ego, by realizing its unreality, and by becoming aware of their eternal identity with pure being.
~ Wei Wu Wei
If one considers oneself the doer, one has to reap also the fruits of karma. When the (identification with) ego is destroyed through Self-enquiry, there is neither the doer nor karma. The ever-present State of Liberation alone remains
~ Ramana Maharshi
There has been a lot of interest in Ramesh’s (Balsekar) concept of the working mind and the thinking mind.The working mind is, as the name implies, the aspect of the organism that does the work of keeping the organism functioning. It is the repository of genetic heritage, memory, knowledge, culture, identity, all of those qualities that are essential for day to day living. The working mind functions in accordance with its programming. This programming is dynamic; it’s an ongoing process whereby new information is being added to the mix all the time.
What Ramesh calls the thinking mind is another term for what is commonly referred to as the ego. The thinking mind’s sole function - the ONLY thing it does - is to claim the operating the working mind as its own doing and become involved in that operation to the extent of preserving itself. It’s a false claimer of primacy or authorship which arises in virtually every human at about the age of two and half. The ego/thinking mind authors nothing. There is no such thing as ego-created action.
The body-mind organism that is popularly called a sage is one in which the thinking mind has died.
~ Wayne Liquorman
"One day I will be free of the ego."
Who is talking? The ego.
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.
~ Eckhart Tolle
The ego isn’t who you are. But it makes so much racket you can’t hear who you really are. If you keep it going, if you feed and water the ego, it’s madness.
~ Jan Frazier
The biggest obstacle to discovering the truth of who we essentially are is the belief that I am a cluster of thoughts, memories, feelings and sensations. Together these form an illusory self or entity. The belief that I am this entity is the only obstacle. All our psychological problems are due to this imaginary self. It always comes down to mistaking ourselves for this.
~ Rupert Spira
Stop identifying with the 'ego'. If you can convince yourself: "This 'little self' is not really me", it will just disappear. The 'ego' is something which only appears to be real. If you can understand that it has no real existence, it will disappear, leaving behind it the experience of the real and only Self. If you can understand that this 'ego' never at any time had any existence outside your imagination, you will not be concerned about ways and means of getting rid of it.
~ Annamalai Swami
Don't worry about the ego. Just know, you are not the ego. The most important thing is to discover that it is watched, which means: You cannot be it. Therefore, don't identify with it. Then it starves from lack of attention and soon falls away.
Before enlightenment I believed my ego was me, then enlightenment comes along and no more ego, only the underlying reality. Now it’s after enlightenment and this ego might be slightly uncomfortable or ill-fitting at times, but it’s all I’ve got. The idea that your ego is destroyed in the process of becoming enlightened is roughly correct, but it’s not complete. Before enlightenment, you’re a human being in the world, just like everyone you see. During enlightenment you realize the human being you thought you were is just a character in a play, and that the world you thought you were in is just a stage, so you go through a process of radical deconstruction of your character to see what’s left when it’s gone. The result isn’t enlightened-self or true-self, it’s no-self. When it’s all over it’s time to be a human being in the world again, and that means slipping back into costume and getting back on stage.
~ Jed McKenna
The illusion does not go away - you need to disconnect from believing the illusion. If you return to the “I” it shows there’s something not yet worked out.
~ Jac O’Keeffe
It is said that the ego must die in order for you to truly live. But nothing need die; you simply need to grow up. A child does not die in order to grow into an adult. The child simply grows up; it evolves and leaves behind what is no longer appropriate. See that the ego is no longer useful or appropriate and leave it behind. Only the ego makes its own demise seem dramatic.
The saint is a man who disciplines his ego. The Sage is a man who rids himself of his ego.
~ Wei Wu Wei
If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It's very important to be aware of them every time.
~ Deepak Chopra
Accepting the ego and not fighting it all the time, is a big step. One of the astonishing laws of the universe is that where there is no resistance, there is no conflict. If you don't put up the fight, the ego can't either. The ego must be terribly frustrated if it does not find resistance.
Ego is non-existent, otherwise you would be two instead of one - you the ego and you the Self. You are a single, indivisible whole. The ego or separate soul is a concept. God, the world, the mind, desires, action, sorrow and all other things are all concepts. The ego-self does not exist at all.
~ Ramana Maharshi
When the ego does not obstruct your vision of the self, you can honestly see what it is, you are supposed to be doing in life.
~ Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
The very desire to seek spiritual enlightenment is in fact nothing but the grasping tendency of the ego itself, and thus the very search for enlightenment prevents it.
~ Ken Wilber
The ego is the defense against enlightenment. I'm not saying that ego is bad or evil because it's not. I'm saying that ego is a social and personal construct and therefore an illusion. But there's nothing wrong with an illusion. A painting is an illusion; a movie is an illusion; a good novel is an illusion. The problem isn't with illusion; the problem is with the emotional attachments and addictions of ego.
If one considers oneself the doer, one has to reap also the fruits of karma. When the ego is destroyed through Self-enquiry, there is neither the doer nor karma. The ever-present State of Liberation alone remains
~ Ramana Maharshi
All is perfect, so perfectly perfect! Whatever being lives, moves And breathes on Earth At every level from atom To galaxy is absolutely perfect in its place Precise and choreographed, Because "That" flows from the Glory of God, The Lord, The Self, Consciousness, The Source, Awareness, Peace and Love, And is therefore perfect. When you have surrendered your ego To "That" You will find true happiness. Never ever envy the place of Any other man or woman.
~ by Alan Jacobs from The Isa Upanishad
The ego is a false construct, an illusion created by the mind. It has no substance, no reality. It is like a shadow, constantly changing and shifting. It is not who we are. It is not our true nature.
You have to become aware of yourself, of who you really are. To understand that I am not this body, I am not this mind. I am neither person, place nor thing. I am pure awareness. I am absolute reality. I am total freedom. Not limited to the circumference of my body, not limited to anything. I expand in all directions. My essence is in the plants, in the trees, in the sky, in the people, in the animals, I am all of these things. The whole universe is my Self. Everything emanates out of my mind. Everything comes out of me. This whole creation is my creation. If I want to find this is true I have to go deep, deep within myself. I must dive deeper within myself and find the source of my being which is consciousness. As I go deeper within myself, the whole universe follows suit and the whole universe dives deep in me, everything goes within me, everything. That's where it came. It goes back to where it came, to the source of all life itself. I am that Self. The one Self, unblemished, pure, all-pervading. I and the father are one, I and the Self are one. I am that one! You must talk to yourself that way. As you talk to yourself this way the ego begins to listen. The ego begins to diminish. Until one day it will disappear entirely completely. Then you will discover you have never been the ego, you've never been human, you've never been anything. You have discovered your nothingness and the you as a feeling that disappears also. There is no you left that has discovered anything. You is gone. There is just is-ness. You have become is.
~ Robert Adams
“When the ego does not obstruct your vision of the self, you can honestly see what it is, you are supposed to be doing in life.” - Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
There is nothing that strengthens the ego more than being right. Being right is identification with a mental position -- a perspective, an opinion, a judgment, a story. For you to be right, of course, you need someone else to be wrong, and so the ego loves to make wrong in order to be right.
~ Eckhart Tolle
The ego is a concept, an assumption. It is merely an idea. What is that idea? It is the notion that you stand apart from the deeper reality of things as an independent and autonomous self, a limited being. As you look into this matter, you find that this assumption proves to be entirely false. So the ego simply evaporates due to discovering its non-existence. There is no 'ego death' needed or possible, because there is no ego present to die.
~ John Wheeler
When the conditioned ego is not active, the natural functioning of consciousness simply flows, and responding in the moment happens. When ego filter is active and we are viewing through separation/conditioning, there is a distortion to the natural flow.
When ego is in charge, obscuring the perception of events, then we have the opportunity to unravel that issue. It’s a call to address that ego issue. You may find that much more of your attention is invested in an interaction where the ego is active in comparison to an interaction that takes place while there is access to that inner stillness.
"The reality is that we don't have any control; the ego has no control over how reality unfolds and reveals itself. How is it the case that the ego doesn't have control? Simply because ego is merely a thought in your mind. It's an image. It's a way your mind references itself, thinks about itself, andcreates a sense of self in the first place. If your whole egoic self is merely a product of imagination, a mechanical result of thoughts linking themselves together, then it's obvious that a thought doesn't have any control. A thought is just something that occurs. It happens and then passes away."
People, confused by ego, think they are doers of all kinds of work while it is being done by the energy of nature.
~ Bhagavad Gita
For the ego, self-inquiry is like soaking in sulphuric acid. When you persistently and genuinely analyze the 'I' sense in the light of self-inquiry, things cannot continue living in the dark. Untruth will simply dissolve.
The ego does not wish to be annihilated. So in the beginning it will fight you at every turn. But don't fight back, by reacting. Simply observe and watch and ask yourself: "To whom is this happening?" And you'll find out. That's all you've got to do.
~ Robert Adams
The goal of all spiritual life is to get your ego out of the way - outwit the sucker; dissolve it; shoot it; kill it. Silence the incessant planning, organizing, running, manipulating, possessing, and processing"... "because these activities preclude awareness of the Divine."
~ Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
The fall guy of spirituality is the ego. Since there is really no one to blame for everything that happens in our lives, we manufacture this idea called the ego to take the blame. This causes a great deal of confusion because the ego doesn't really exist. It is simply an idea, a label for a movement to which we have attached our sense of self.
The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist.
~ Eckhart Tolle
If you believe you can change any of it, that is a thought. Only ego cares about your intentions and attention. Celebrate that you cannot control anything. If you deeply understand this, you will not continue to impose limitations on yourself and then make a vain struggle to transcend them. Ignore the ego and you are free: nothing else is needed.
~ Jac O'Keeffe
You cannot perceive reality as long as you are looking at the world from the perspective of the ego. To act from that point of view means to perpetuate it. The moment you think of change, of fundamental transformation, of enlightenment, you are speaking from the point of view of the ego. You think there is someone who is going to change, be enlightened and have all kinds of wonderful things.
~ A.H. Almaas