In the Yoga Sutras (Sadhana Pada) the following is written:
“Egoism is the identification, as it were, of the power of the Seer (Purisha) with that of the instrument of seeing.”
That is a very sophisticated line! There is a lot to be learned in its wisdom. Here I am going to try and talk a little about my views on the ego and the real self (Atman).
To start; What is the ego? The ego is the I as you think yourself to be. In reality there is no “I”. The ego is the part of the mind that says; “I have this. I am that.” According to the ego, the entire universe revolves around I. This is the way that a child or a baby thinks. When they want something they make a noise and the mother comes to help them. They know that if they cry and fuss about something, they will get it. So that is what they do.
Most people are still like children in which they think that their needs are important enough to cause others to make them comfortable, or feed them, or tend to their needs. This is the life of the ego and there are many people who think that they can enjoy life with this outlook.
Unfortunately, the baby is never content. If the mother comes and feeds the hungry child, then a few moment later the baby is crying about something else. There is no end to the babies crying because all of its enjoyments are temporary. They bring the child pleasure for only a few seconds and then there is something else wrong.
The smarter path is to reject the ego. There are religious people in this world who tell everyone to reject the material world, reject the body. The world and all that is around us is not bad, it is here for a purpose and that purpose is love. The real problem is the ego in this world. The ego in this world sees an object that is attractive to it and it says “I WANT THAT”. If it gets the object then it things “THIS IS MINE”. So you can see here that the problems in this world do not come out of the material. They come out of the ego and its endless desires. Only then does the world become a bad place to live.
To bring our thoughts back to the sutra; it says that the ego is the identification of the power of the seer with that of the instrument of the seeing. We have defined what the ego is, but what is this instrument?
The instrument is the mind. It is the physical body. The body is a tool chest that we have been given with many tools inside. The most important tool is the mind. For with the mind we can have discretion and with discretion we can gain enlightenment and freedom from bondage. Humans are the only things on this earth that can gain freedom and that is because of their mind. The human brain is the most complicated thing known to man. There is nothing in this universe that we have discovered that is more complicated. The number of possible pathways in the brain are more numerous than the number of atoms in the entire universe!
So the sutra says that the ego is the result of the identification of the perceive with this body, with this material world. Again, it is not the material world that is the issue here, it is the ‘identification’ of this seer with that world. So that brings us to the last part of the equation: What is this seer?
The seer is the soul but not in the sense that some of us may think about it. The soul is the true source of all things. It is called the Atman and is the God that inside of all of us. I will not go too into detail here, but this Atman is the subject of all perception. It is the constant preceptor. It is untouched eternally from all changes. Is is the true self.
Atman is the true self that we are all trying to find. Everyone knows that there is a spark of light inside of them. This light will never be touched and is always pure. It is like a piece of God within all of us. In the same way that the Sun illuminates everything with its rays, so is it with the Atman and perception. The same way that the Sun is untouched by the things it illuminates, so is it with the Atman and its perception. The Sun may shine on good things and on bad things, but it is untouched by those things. So it goes with the Atman.
If the identification lies not with the body but with the Atman, then all of the problems that we think exist melt away. All becomes clear and the truth is revealed. People who have achieved this identification have their entire world-view changed. They become enlightened and no longer fall victim to the trials and tribulations of this world. Beyond that, the yogi should go farther until there is no identification with anything at all. Then the true and complete freedom is achieved!