What Can We Do Each Day to Overcome Ego?


Before someone can begin to get rid of their ego-identities, what mindset should they have? Throughout the fight, what should they keep doing in order to stay in tip-top spiritual shape? What are some things one can do during their day to remind themselves to not bow down to the ego’s tendency to grow bloated off of praise and achievements? What would you say is the strongest way that our ego is reinforced (praise, arrogance, comparison with others)? How to counter that reinforcement?

—Carolyn, America


Dear Carolyn,

Your note makes you seem like you’ve got a strong dose of will power! Good for you!

There are two ways to approach the ego: fight it to the finish until it dies, or, expand its dominion to embrace the whole world as a manifestation of God! In the world epic, the Mahabharata (India), ego is represented by a warrior who has the boon to remain immortal, surrendering his life only when he wills it. The warrior is noble, kingly, and very powerful, yet he leads the forces of the “bad guys” (after all, he is ego!). Thus, too, in the epic of Moses: he represents ego and hence he could lead his people to the Promised Land but couldn’t enter it himself. The ego must surrender, be released from delusion so the soul can shine in the heaven of bliss (whether with or without the body).

Thus it is that to grow spiritually we need an ego that is relatively whole and intact: capable of functioning and able to use its intelligence and will power in the right way. More than that is the need for devotion: the natural love of the heart. We also need divine grace: the power that upholds the universe and is brought into human form in order to directly transmit to us the grace necessary to break the magnetism of the self-enclosure of egoism. (This comes to us in the form of the liberator: the guru.)

As you point out, keeping a watchful eye on the ‘ol buster’s tendency to take credit, to want acknowledgement, to want to get even, compare with others etc etc. is necessary. A wonderful book on how to do this is found in Sadhu, Beware!, a how-to-live compendium for truthseekers!

At the same time, however, it is also natural and vital that we expand the heart’s natural love so that our self-identity expands beyond the confines of the body and the self-protective, self-affirming subconscious mind. This is where devotion, selfless service, study, and good company play an important role. “Environment is stronger than will power” Yogananda would say. If the “company” isn’t “present” than it can be virtual: online; a book; a recording and, most of all, a prayerful heart and a mindful mind!

Including the needs of others with your own is vital to expanding our awareness and consciousness. Chanting, mantra, prayer, and affirmation can help make fertile the soil of the mind to be compassionate and serviceful. Think of all the polarization, prejudice, fear and anger out there: there are ways, large or small, for you to be an instrument of grace to help others. Devotion and dedication to one’s guru, or openness to being guided by such a one, will help release the burden of responsibility upon the ego for right action and attitude.

Be patient with your Self; develop a healthy sense of perspective and humor about your own perceived shortcomings. Never mind the time or place for final release. Patience is the quickest way to freedom. As Lahiri Mahasaya would say to others: Banat, banat, ban jai! (Doing, doing, soon…..done!)

Joy to you!
Nayaswami Hriman