Life without Ego - the beauty and dignity of the non-dual worldview

N Balasubramanian

We are here as on a darkling plain 
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, 
Where ignorant armies clash by night
-- Mathew Arnold, British poet and cultural critic of the Victorian era

What do we, as human beings, strive for and seek in life? We all want happiness. No one wants misery, infamy, dishonour, disease, mental turbulence, conflicts, insecurtity and so on… Despite our constant struggle to keep these troubles at bay, we know from our experiences that worries and troubles keep coming repeatedly and resolutely.

Why do pain and pleasure, joys and sorrows, riches and poverty, good and bad, evil and virtue, fame and infamy, honour and dishonour, gain and loss, success and failure alternately recur in our experience of life? Why do these feelings arise in our minds and leave us feeling miserable? How can we overcome the ego problem created by mind and its modifications? Why this feeling of “I”-ness and “my”-ness arise in our minds?

What is ego

When mind appropriates the ‘I’, the actions and experiences of mind and sense organs are attributed to this ‘I’ creating “I”-ness and “my”-ness which is called Ego. Desire, fear, grief, anger, hatred, envy, etc. arise in our minds because of a second entity. If there is no second entity, there would be nothing to desire, no one to fear, no one to hate and envy, no one to be angry at and no one to grieve for?  If the ‘other-ness’ of our perception is replaced by awareness of ‘one-ness’ in all sense-objects, we will be free from the clutches of desire and we will be freed from desire-prompted ego-centric selfish actions.

The duality we perceive in the world, the otherness of the second entity, is all due to our ignorance of the real Self within us, the only witness of everything, the Atman, the one without a second, declares Adi Sankara. Universe consists of name, form, action and results. The underlying reality and substratum is Brahman, the only one without a second. Everything else has only a relative existence, changing, decaying and perishing.

The Brahman embodied as Self within us is the only witness, declares Adi Sankara. Body, sense organs, prana, mind and intellect (together called non-self) are the limiting adjuncts superimposing their attributes on the real Self and causing delusion of doer-ship, enjoyer-ship and ownership and force us to cling to sense-objects, desire and selfish actions and the products of “I”-ness and “my”-ness. It is this egoism a creation of mind deluded by nescience which veils the real Self and deludes us by taking on the agentship of doer-ship, enjoyer-ship and ownership.

This superimposition of non-self on Self is the root cause of our dual and divisive perception and thus failing us in realising the oneness of every being in the world. Can we be free of this delusion of duality caused by superimposition of non-self on Self?

This path to freedom is what is laid out for us by Vedanta, to perceive the world and ourselves and make us see, “how heaven pulls earth into its arms / and how infinitely the heart expands / to claim this world, blue vapor without end,” as a modern poet vividly puts it.

N Balasubramanian is an old time honours graduate in economics and has vast experience and expertise in human relations and resources development. A devotee of Sage of Kanchi - Maha Swamigal, N Balasubramanian is living a quiet and meditative life based upon the Guru's teachings. An avid reader of philosophy in his younger years, he wholly devotes his energies presently, in discovering insights and practical wisdom from ancient Indian scriptures. Based upon his understanding of Acharya's discourses and writings on spirituality, N. Balasubramanian shares these thoughts on to just provoke your thoughts and kindle your interest in spirituality and philosophy.  

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