Signs of a Vanishing Ego
Saints tell us that the only thing we can surrender to the Lord is our ego. It alone separates us from God.
They point out that Sant Mat is a path of dynamic transformation and that with honest self-reflection and consistent meditation, we will eventually see signs of spiritual growth. They also emphasize that it’s a big mistake to measure our spiritual growth based on inner experiences during meditation. The reasoning behind this is that the Master, like any good parent, will keep those riches in trust for us until we’re mature enough to appreciate and digest them without feeding our ego, which would further chain us to this creation. In fact, we may not be fully aware of our progress within until the time of our death. However, the Masters make it clear that there is indeed a way to assess our progress, right here and now. We can do this by reflecting on how much our ego dominates our lives.
While an ego is necessary to function in this physical world, if we let its lower self-centred tendencies dominate us, it hijacks our happiness. Then we live in a quagmire of egoic darkness where we spend our lives in a constant state of discontentment, tension, and negative emotions, obsessing over all our cravings, aversions, and problems.
Signs that the negative aspects of ego are dominating us are:
- We are afraid to be alone without constant stimulation, sensual gratification, and distractions. We live in a relentless state of anxiety, fear, and uneasiness. We have disdain for our own shortcomings and those of others. Our goal is to always be unique, right, and special. We take everything personally and are easily hurt, resentful, and spiteful. We live in constant judgment and are happy feeling superior, unhappy feeling inferior, and jealous and resentful when others have what we want. We create personal stories and build cases to justify our desires and weaknesses. We are totally engrossed in getting what we want and avoiding what we don’t want, no matter the cost. And finally, we feel justified in complaining and groaning when life and others don’t bend to our will.
Surrendering the ego lies at the heart of every spiritual tradition. We can’t fix our ego’s negative tendencies, but we can shift our focus away from them and eventually transcend them. However, we’ll only succeed in doing this when our desire for inner peace and contentment becomes the driving force of our life. Then meditation and honest self-reflection become the tools to help us achieve our objective.
Signs that spiritual growth and maturity are developing in us are:
Clear thinking. Maharaj Jagat Singh emphasizes that satsangis should form the habit of clear thinking. Clear thinkers realize that permanent happiness comes only when we begin to recognize the divine oneness of our soul, God and Nam, and we act in ways that strengthen that relationship. Clear thinkers live in the present and view every moment as an opportunity to retreat into simran, let go, and live in the presence of the Divine. As a result, they witness that God, through Nam, is present in everyone, doing everything. Then their problems, depression, anger, and fear dissipate and are replaced with love, contentment, and compassion.
Clear thinkers let go of the past and don’t try to recreate it, because they realize that living in the past is fruitless and leads only to disappointment. They remember the past only enough to learn from their mistakes so as not to repeat them. They also don’t ruminate on scenarios of what will happen in the future, because they realize that doing so mainly creates anxiety and fear.
In addition, clear thinkers keep a balance between their worldly and spiritual lives. Baba Ji often reminds us that the world is round and the repercussions of our behaviour will eventually come back to us. He tells us that there are twenty-four hours in a day, and it is our responsibility to structure our lives so that we have time for our spiritual and worldly work, our family, our friends, and to maintain our health. If we do this, our lives will be more productive and pass with relative ease; if we don’t, we’ll bring havoc and misery on ourselves and those who must deal with us.
- Patience. For most of us, achieving spiritual realization isn’t quick or easy, and our lack of progress can be frustrating. But spiritual growth never comes from putting ourselves down and beating ourselves up, but by patiently using our positive strengths to overcome our weaknesses. Baba Ji always says: “We wouldn’t be initiated if we couldn’t succeed.”
- Acceptance. As long as we live in the body we’ll be affected by people and situations. The question is, if things don’t go our way, do we blow up like a stick of dynamite or use every situation as an opportunity to do our best, maintain our balance, and accept outcomes as the Lord’s will? We pay the price for our behaviour. Our actions and reactions can cut our karmic chains and lead us to liberation or just bind us to new shackles that further burden and imprison us here.
Courage. Bravery is being willing to face our weaknesses and recognize the part we play in problematic situations and then to take steps to correct our mistakes. Critics are our best teachers; if their feedback is true, we can use it to change; if it isn’t, we need to hold no grudges and move on. As Baba Ji has pointed out, who are we to tell others what they should think or how they should feel?
If we are courageous, we accept the responsibility that our happiness and contentment are under our control. Just as we can delete the junk mail in our inbox without reading it, we can decide whether to accept or delete what we are offered by our own minds and the opinions and behaviour of other people.
- Honesty. For a happy life, maintaining honest, supportive relationships is invaluable. We are advised to be truthful and not put on airs. We often pretend to be who we’re not in order to hide our inadequacies, out of a fear that others will reject us if they knew who we really are. But when we engage in this futile quest to protect our ego, it’s not only exhausting but also requires a better memory than most of us have. What’s worse, this phoniness makes us feel even more isolated and unworthy of love and friendship. So, lighten up, laugh a lot, be sincere, keep good company, forgive, accept, and give love freely.
- Self-discipline. Saints teach that there are a thousand excuses for destructive behaviours but never a good reason. All initiates on this path have been taught what’s good for us and what isn’t. We can never use the excuse “I didn’t know.”
- Unselfishness. Unselfish service, or seva, is the cornerstone of Sant Mat. We do it with our body, wealth, mind, and our soul in meditation. Anything we do selflessly for love alone is seva. Seva is important because, as our giving becomes more selfless, we realize the tremendous joy that comes from giving rather than taking. All seva prepares us for the greatest submission and joy of all, surrendering our illusion of separateness from the Lord through meditation and realizing our oneness with him.
In conclusion, Baba Ji always emphasizes that none of us are perfect – otherwise we wouldn’t be here. What is important is that at the end of our lives we can look our Satguru in the eyes and say, “Do with me what you will, but I want you to know, I gave Sant Mat my best shot – I left nothing on the table.”