Taming the Ego...
... with the Power of Love
We all have basic needs for food, shelter and physical well-being, but when these basic needs have been achieved, getting more food, more money,
more possessions or a bigger house does not produce increasing happiness
or enduring satisfaction. In fact, after our basic needs have been met, the
primary cause of our daily suffering and dissatisfaction is our own troublesome ego.
The ego is little more than a hodgepodge collection of
strategies devised by our own mind
in response to various experiences in our past. And, unfortunately, the ego's
old strategies are often not the best response to the
During our early childhood we begin to develop a deceptive sense of a
separate and independent "self", which quickly grows to be
quite a monster. Then, most of us spend the rest of our life
trying to find an escape from our preoccupation with the
endless chatter and turmoil of this fictitious self and its
ineffective strategies. For example, our fears and
anger are often only knee-jerk reactions, caused by our
ego's projections of past events, which tend to distract us
from truly experiencing the wonders of the present moment
and dealing with all of life's situations in a loving and
The existence of such mind-made fantasy is not
necessarily a problem, the problem arises when we become
so preoccupied with the fantasy that we lose touch with what is
actually happening in this moment and lose touch with our
own true nature, that inner Divine spark which would like
to guide us to respond to every situation in a kind and loving
manner. The ego is a wonderful
servant, but a terrible master - so we have to find a way to
limit the power and authority of our own ego.
The mind of an average person may be
pictured as an unruly horse that jumps and kicks and throws
anyone that tries to ride it. Masters of the world are those
who have mastered themselves, and mastery lies in the
control of the mind. If the mind became your obedient
servant, the whole world is at your service.
Githa Series II, Psychology ,
Hazrat Inayat Khan (unpublished)
troublesome little self is merely a covering, like a veil, over our
inherent true nature, which remains ever-pure, untarnished,
awaiting our return to our true nature, fully awake and
calmly aware of
what is actually happening in the present moment.
Our limited self is like a wall
separating us from the Self of God. God is as far away from
us as that wall is thick. The wisdom and justice of God are
within us, and yet they are far away under the covering of
the veil of the limited self.
Eastern Rose Garden, Hazrat Inayat Khan
There is much talk in various religious traditions about
annihilating the ego, or killing the ego. But, actually, we
need an ego. What we don't need is a dysfunctional ego. That
is, we each need to have a basic sense of self protection
and self-concern which sufficiently guides us to meet our
basic needs for food, shelter and physical well-being, but
beyond that we will not find any enduring happiness by
following the whims of the ego. All of our undue
self-centered concern and internal chatter, whether
deliberate or habitual, forms a veil over our True Nature
and the attendant simplicity of Being. For enduring
happiness, we need to focus our attention on something other
than the on-going chatter and troublesome
strategies of our own ego.
The point is not to deny our ego, but
to extricate ourselves from our exclusive preoccupation with
One-Liners, by Ram Dass
In order to find some relief from the chatter and misguidance of the ego, we
need to begin to recognize a couple of our most pernicious adversaries: resisting and clinging. If we can learn to recognize and
overcome these two, we'll be well on the way toward success at finding both
enduring peace and enduring satisfaction in all aspects of life.
Our tendency toward excessive preoccupation with matters
revolving around "I", "me" and "mine" is
largely related to these two common, yet often dysfunctional, attributes of the
ego: resisting (struggle and aversion) and clinging (attachment
and desire). With some
careful observation, the presence of these two troublesome ego attributes can easily be found in
one's own daily life.
In limited amounts, the desire and aversion unleashed by the ego can be normal and
helpful, and can give us a brief experience of satisfaction. But when our
resisting and clinging lead us into excessive preoccupation with concerns about
"I", "me" and "mine", then these attributes inevitably lead to a dysfunctional
life which lacks an enduring sense of well-being, satisfaction and happiness.
Let's take a more detailed look at each of these two
potentially troublesome attributes of the ego, which in
moderate amounts can be useful, but which in excess quickly
lead to great suffering.
Resisting manifests in many forms including a tendency to
reject, refuse, insult, separate, push away, or remove ourselves from a situation.
Resisting leads to estrangement, animosity, dread, and
fearfulness. Resisting is the underlying cause of
anger, hatred and violence.
Resisting leads us to push something
away, depriving us of the opportunity to develop a new,
more productive response to the situation.
Clinging manifests in many forms
including a tendency to attach, grasp, hold on, pursue or
force ourselves into a situation. Clinging leads to
dependency, addiction, expectations and frustration.
Clinging is the underlying
cause of habitual behaviors and shallow relationships.
Clinging leads us to continue to want
"more", even when our basic needs have been met. Clinging
leads us into unhealthy relationships.
Now, armed with a basic understanding of these two adversaries, begin to
carefully watch your own behavior for their telltale
evidence, such as agitation, frustration, dissatisfaction,
unhappiness. At first, you may not even notice the effects of
clinging and resisting
until a few days after it happens. But, with further
practice, you'll begin to notice the effects of clinging and
resisting that happened more recently, perhaps that same
day. With even more practice, you'll begin to catch yourself
in the act. And, eventually, you'll be aware of the presence
of troublesome behaviors even before they actually happen.
As you examine the troublesome situations in your daily
life, you'll begin to see some of your own behavior
patterns, and may also notice the interdependent arising of
resisting and clinging - for example noticing that resisting
something is the result of clinging to an old behavior
pattern, or that clinging to something is the result of
resisting change. Resisting and clinging are inextricably bound
Although this process of rising above troublesome
behaviors such as resisting and clinging may seem like a new
idea, the general idea been around for quite some time:
“You have heard that it was said,
‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you
not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your
right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to
sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak
also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him
two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to
borrow from you do not turn away.
Matthew 5:30-42, New King James
Nonetheless, recognizing the problem is only part of the
task at hand.
In order to refashion your own personality, you'll need a
new manner of behavior to replace the old ineffective
behaviors. And fortunately, there is a time proven middle
path between these extremes of resisting and clinging.
The Power of Love
The middle path which we need to walk
between resisting and clinging is a path by which one rises
above both of those dysfunctional extremes... this is the
path of love. The true lover lives only for the pleasure of
the beloved, is grateful for whatever is received, and has
no need to resist anything or cling to anything.
What do I mean by love? It is such a
word that one cannot give one meaning. All attributes like
kindness, gentleness, goodness, humbleness, mildness,
fineness, are names of one and the same thing. Love
therefore is that stream which when it rises falls in the
form of a fountain, and each stream coming down is a virtue.
All virtues taught by books or by a religious person have no
strength and life because they have been learned; a virtue
that is learned has no power, no life. The virtue that
naturally springs from the depth of the heart, the virtue
that rises from the love-spring and then falls as many
different attributes, that virtue is real. There is a
Hindustani saying, 'No matter how much wealth you have, if
you do not have the treasure of virtue, it is of no use'.
The true riches is the ever increasing spring of love from
which all virtues come.
Smiling Forehead, Hazrat Inayat Khan
This path of love is certainly not a new idea. Here's how it
was expressed by Jesus over 2000 years ago:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You
shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to
you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good
to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use
you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father
in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the
good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if
you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not
even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your
brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even
the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect,
just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48, New King James
This is Freedom: To be joyfully appreciative for whatever
may arise. Jesus' disciple Paul further reminded us that
love is a mighty bond of perfection which deserves to be
accompanied by a sense of gratitude:
But above all these things put on love,
which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God
rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one
body; and be thankful.
Colossians 3:14-15, New
King James Version
Really, the essence of this shift from resisting/clinging
to loving is whether we choose to experience life through
the clutter, restlessness and difficulties of the emotional
dramas which are fabricated in our own mind, or we
choose to experience life in a calm, happy, ever-aware, heart-centered manner
which is empowered by that Divine spark within. The head (when
dominated by the little self) is full of endless
difficulties, restless chatter, emotion and drama, while, in
contrast, the heart calmly responds in a lovingly
appropriate manner, bringing
harmony, beauty and ease to every situation.
There are people who look at life
through their brain, their head, and there are others who
look at life through their heart. Between these two points
of view there is a vast difference...
Smiling Forehead, Hazrat Inayat Khan
A Plan for Success
To learn to tame the ego, we must first learn to recognize how
the troublesome traits of resisting (struggle and aversion)
and clinging (attachment and desire) are adversely affecting
our own daily life. Initially, these ineffective strategies
may be most noticeable in someone else's behavior, but
gradually you'll be able to see your own troublesome traits,
and understand how they are restricting your enjoyment of
life. All situations which revolve around emotional drama or
self-centered dialog are merely fabrications of the mind which limit your access to the
enduring peace and tranquility which are your Divine
He who does not direct his own mind
lacks mastery... If he does not control his mind, he is not
a master but a slave. It lies with his own mind whether he
shall be master, or whether he shall be slave. He is slave
when he neglects to be master; he is master if he cares to
Mastery lies not merely in stilling the
mind, but in directing it towards whatever point we desire,
in allowing it to be active as far as we wish, in using it
to fulfill our purpose, in causing it to be still when we
want to still it. He who has come to this has created his
heaven within himself; he has no need to wait for a heaven
in the hereafter, for he has produced it within his own mind
Eastern Rose Garden, Hazrat Inayat Khan
Then, after recognizing the problem, begin to move toward
love at every opportunity, toward the loving acceptance of
all things just as they are in this moment. That does not
mean that you condone or perpetuate any evils, but merely
that you see exactly what is happening without adding any of
your own mind's drama, emotions or commentary. Armed with
such clear vision of precisely what is actually happening,
rather than the much larger drama which you could so easily
create out of it, you will easily respond to every situation
in a manner which will help to foster love, harmony and
beauty amongst everyone involved. Recognizing that we're all
in this together, it becomes quite easy to travel this path with love and
gratitude for all that you encounter.
How can one explain spiritual progress?
What is it? What is it like? Spiritual progress is the
changing of the point of view. There is only one way to
recognize this progress, and that is to see the progress in
one's own outlook on life, to ask oneself the question, 'How
do I look at life?' This one can do by not judging others,
but by being only concerned with one's own outlook.
Mysticism, Hazrat Inayat Khan
As you gradually discover and perfect your own unique
manner of living from the heart, living each moment with
peaceful loving-kindness, generosity and compassion for all,
then the old ineffective tendencies toward resisting and
clinging will simply fall by the wayside, just as the toys
of our childhood have fallen by the wayside, unneeded.
Taming the ego requires some effort, and some changes. Great transformations require a change of one's own
outlook, and this taming of the ego is no exception. It's
just a matter of letting your true nature, the Divine spark
deep within you, be the foundation for your life, the
guiding light of your life, and seeing how your outlook on
everything changes when viewed from that rock-solid
foundation, showering everything with an endless flow of
love, harmony and beauty.
Nov 6, 2012