Ego and Identity

by Rachel Creager Ireland

There must be some poetic significance in what I found today, while looking for certain documents that I need for proving my identity (because we need to prove beyond all doubt who we are, before we are allowed to cross a border to a different place). In a recent post, I mentioned having read years ago about ego, from an excerpt given to me by a yoga teacher. I didn’t remember the name or author of the book, but I remembered some of the ideas in the excerpt.

Well, looky here, the very paper I wanted that day, when what I thought I wanted today was something else altogether. I now have an opportunity to make good on a dubious promise I made to the blogosphere, to return, when I found the excerpt, and tell you, dear readers, the name of the book and the identity of its author. It turns out that the book is Inner Quest, by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait. Here are some interesting quotes. They don’t necessarily support the ideas I expounded in my previous post; but I don’t think there needs to be one truth, expressed one way. Read and find whatever meaning is useful to you.

You don’t need a strong ego to live successfully in the world. What you need is a strong will and the determination to direct all your energies toward your desired goal. Western psychology has not clearly distinguished between the power of ego and the power of will and determination. In a sense, the power of the ego is blind, but the power of will has vision, because its source is in the pure self. Ego springs from a false sense of identification (avidya) and usually focuses on preserving self-image and self-identity. Ego is accompanied by stubbornness, selfishness, and an unwillingness to compromise . . . . In order to be successful in the world, you need a strong will, but that strong will needs to be properly guided. Then you will be able to develop a strong personality and cultivate a powerful self-image, rather than developing a trivial, egotistical personality.

Do I need to let go of my self-image and identity, so I can be successful in proving my identity?

On following a spiritual path: The stronger your ego, the bigger the hurdle it will create. However, if you kill your ego, you might kill what motivates you to embark on the spiritual path and stay on it. Therefore, do not attempt to kill your ego or even to weaken it. What your ego needs is purification, transformation, and guidance.

By meditating, contemplating, praying, studying the scriptures, and seeking the company of the wise, you make your ego purer and less confined. This inspires you to move one step ahead. From here, the purified ego, accompanied by a sharpened intellect, gets a glimpse of the next level of expanded awareness and naturally aspires to reach it. Thus, the ego becomes the tool for purifying and expanding itself. In this way, the small ego begins its journey toward an expanded, more purified ego.

After more searching, I still haven’t located the papers I need. I don’t suppose a few words about the relationship between self and ego would get me across any international borders . . .

Who Is This Person?