”Remembering the Lord’s Name, one is rid of ego and ignorance.” (Ang 1092)
We can all easily think of examples of people with big egos. Whenever I think of ego I tend to think of people who use their status and power to influence other people – “do you have any idea who I am?!!” You can spot it from a mile away- a person who judges, gossips, dictates what everyone else should do in their life but lives the opposite themselves, the one who walks by without a hello. I think it’s easy for us to see ego in other people and harder for us to understand that we are all diseased with ego. It’s important for all of us to recognize the disease of ego in ourselves, and understand that it causes our suffering. I know I had this moment when I was angry at one of my friends and I suddenly thought: why do I have so much ego that I can’t forgive? What if I was in their shoes? It helped me to realize that we can be so blind to our own ego, and that it is far more extensive than I previously thought.
I listened to some kathas about ego this week because I felt really drawn to the topic so I’m going to share what I learned. Ego is known as homai in Gurbani. It is talked about at length because it is what separates us from God. Ultimately, the cause of all of our dukh in life is ego. In the katha, they asked the sangat what they were afraid to lose. This was a big eye opening question for me because as he listed the examples I realized, yes I would be afraid to lose those things. Yes I'm afraid to lose social status. I didn’t think that mattered to me, but if all of a sudden I go to the Gurdwara and no one says hi to me and everyone is gossiping about me behind my back and I have a poor reputation, I would be upset. Even though I don’t like to think that I define myself by things like beauty, I do and I know that because if you took it all away tomorrow I would be in dukh. So I realized that even though I've been working on it, the identity I have of myself in my head is still very much focused on maya. We tend to make our identity dependent on things that are transient, and because we are so attached we become afraid to lose them: “In egotism, one is assailed by fear; he passes his life totally troubled by fear.”
It is ego to think that we have anything at all. None of these things that we have in this world belong to us, and certainly none of these things will come with us when we die. Be honest with yourself- are you defining yourself by wealth, beauty, youth, social status, power, relationships? What are you afraid to lose? Unless your answer is Waheguru, you are in ego too. We should love Waheguru so much that the only thing we are afraid to lose is Waheguru and it drives us to meet Him. When we are afraid to lose other things we are lost in maya. Gurbani tells us the cure for ego is Naam. If we have Naam, we have no ego. If we have ego, our mind is not in Hukam and we do not have Naam. So since we have identified our ego, now we work on overcoming it. We work on reading Gurbani, doing sewa, doing simran, and living our life according to the Guru’s teachings. The more we work, the closer we get, but we have to put a sincere effort into it, and then our ego will be eradicated.
“Where does ego come from? How can it be removed?
Ego is a result of the Hukam that people must walk according to their past actions
Ego is a chronic disease, but it contains its own cure as well.
Give us grace, that we can do the work of Guru’s Shabad
Nanak says, listen, people in the way, your suffering will depart.”
I highly recommend listening to the katha series on ego https://mysimran.info/live-simran-course/ (videos 132-136, some of them are in two parts).