Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Story 29 - Story of Prithu – Conquering of Ego

Srimad Bhagavatham - A Spiritual Insight - Story 29 - Story of Prithu – Conquering of Ego


Now we will try to see how Ego can be conquered. Just to recap, Brahman or Consciousness alone exists here, one without a second. Ego is nothing but a reflection of this pure Consciousness in the intellect and which identified itself with the various entities in the world that are “I” and “Mine”. We have to remember that anything apart from Consciousness is only an illusion because Consciousness is the only entity in the world which experiences its own existence, is independent and eternal. Other things are all illusory and temporary even if it be Lord Vishnu or Lord Brahma. It is Consciousness which is the underlying substratum for all the entities – both sentient and insentient – in the world. Without Consciousness, there is no existence for any object in the world. We cannot even imagine Lord Vishnu without Consciousness!!!! Thus it is the same Consciousness which underlies all the living and non-living entities in the world. The world itself is thus an illusion in the ultimate reality of Consciousness which is the substratum of the illusion. Any illusion is temporary and has no existence from the ultimate perspective. Thus Ego is only an illusion since it changes and will die one day. Anything which is non-eternal cannot have any real existence but only seems to exist for a particular time period.

Having thus analyzed Ego, let us know try to see the various ways to overcome the illusory Ego. Since Ego is illusory, the direct path and the final step to overcoming Ego is realization of the substratum of Consciousness. A person sees a rope lying on the road. He mistakes it for a snake. This is the case with Ego too. Consciousness or Self is considered as the Ego due to superimposition. The reason for perception of the snake in the rope is ignorance of the rope – similarly ignorance of one’s own very nature of Consciousness is the cause for considering the Ego as “I” or Self. The snake is removed from the rope (there is no real removal as snake itself doesn’t exist but from the perspective of the person who sees the snake, snake is removed) when the rope is known. Similarly when the reality that “I am the Self of the nature of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss absolute” is known, then the illusory ignorance which seems to be present and deluding the seeker vanishes. This is what is termed as realization. Hence, the direct and final step to realization is Knowledge of the ultimate reality that “I am the Lord, I am Brahman, I am Self, I am Consciousness which is one without a second and asanga or never attached to any illusory things in the world”.

Whatever be the path that the seeker follows in spiritual life, he has to come to the final step which is realization of one’s own very nature of Consciousness or Self. This is what Adi Sankara terms as JNAANA in his works. This Jnaana is different from the path of Jnaana because in the path, there are various sadhanas whereas this “JNAANA” is Brahma Atma Aikya Jnaana or knowledge about the oneness of Brahman and Self or Atman.

We will now discuss the ways to reach this final stage through overcoming of the Ego and realizing one’s own very nature of Self or Consciousness. It can be said that there are mainly two ways to overcome the Ego – one is the path of Enquiry or Jnaana as propounded by Ramana Maharshi and Sankara. The other is the path of devotion or offering unto the Lord as found in various Bhakthi literatures. It is not that Sankara or Ramana Maharshi didn’t propound Bhakthi but only that they went a bit further to convert the normal devotion wherein the devotee finds himself different from the Lord and propounded the ultimate devotion wherein there is only the Lord existing & the devotee merges into the Lord.

The path of Enquiry is enquiring into the source of the Ego. This is done by trying out find out the answer to the question “Who am I”. This question shouldn’t be merely asked again and again but should be substantiated by various logics as to remove the not-Self from the Self. Am I the body? No, I am not the body because body is changing whereas I am not. Body is temporary and vanishes in deep sleep whereas I still remain in deep sleep. Therefore I am not the body. Am I the sense organs? No, because the sense organs are instruments whereas I am the person using these instruments. The sense organs are thus insentient whereas I am sentient as I exist independently. Am I the mind or intellect? I am not the mind and intellect because these are also instruments (inner equipments) which help in knowledge and other actions – I am he who gives light to the mind and intellect – I am the thinker of the thoughts of the mind and the discriminator of the discriminating intellect. Am I the Ego? No, I am not the Ego because the Ego is limited and changing whereas I am unlimited and unchanging. Thus when the seeker eliminates the entire objects in the world, what is left over is the Subject who was negating everything. This is the Self – one without a second. Even though during times of ignorance too, I am the Self but here the Self seems to be mixing with the not-Self whereas when everything is negated, only the Self exists without any objects. This is the real state of realization and natural state of the Self. This process of negation is termed in scriptures as “Neti, Neti” process (Not this, Not this – meaning that Self is not this, Self is not this – thus negating all that can be classified as “this” or objectified which will then reveal only the Subject and no objects will be present). Thus this is the path of Enquiry and Jnaana which scriptures and saints like Ramana and Sankara propound.

This path is one of the simplest but yet tough to follow because most of the people are not endowed with sharp intelligence due to lack of spiritual practices. Also this path requires the mind to be under control so that it can enquire into its source and the source of the Ego which is the Self, one without a second. But since most of the people don’t have the mind under control, therefore this path is inaccessible or bit tough for the normal people. Thus, for such people who aren’t able to follow this path due to some reason or the other, the path of devotion is propounded. The basic difference between the path of enquiry and the path of devotion is that in the latter the stress or focus is on the seeker whereas in the latter the focus or stress is upon the Lord. WE can very well say that Ishwara or God also is as illusory as the Ego but this entity of Lord is something which is present everywhere and considered all-knowing. Such an all-knowing entity is being given existence by the mind of the seeker. Thus unknowingly, the Lord who is only a creation in the mind of the seeker, helps out the seeker when he is unable to control the mind. In the path of the devotion, the devotee completely surrenders to the Lord by offering all actions unto the Lord. When all actions are offered to the Lord, the doer of those actions is also offered to the Lord. It cannot be objected here that “the offering person still exists as the Ego” because the offering is offered to the Lord which means the offering person is also being offered to the Lord. Thus everything is being offered to the Lord and there is no devotee as separate but only the Lord exists. Thus the doership which is called the Ego is not present in the seeker. Thus Ego is easily conquered or removed by offering all actions unto the Lord. This is real devotion because the devotee thinks only about the Lord and nothing else. This is not part-time devotion wherein the devotee calls the Lord at times of trouble and forgets the Lord at other points of time but there is constant remembrance of the ultimate reality of Lord.

This is what Ramana Maharshi summarizes in single sloka in Upadesa Saram (3rd sloka – the posting on the same can be referred for a deeper analysis).

Ishwara arpitam na icchaayaa kritham
Chitta shodakam mukthi saadhakam

Work when offered to the Lord and done without any expectation purifies the mind and thereby leads one to realization through the ultimate knowledge that “I am the Lord, one without a second”.

Thus we have the two clear and easy paths to overcoming the illusory Ego which is the cause of all sorrows and sufferings in the world. When the Ego is conquered, there is no sorrow but only bliss and bliss.

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