If there’s anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now. ~Douglas Adams
As ego dissolution is a primary aim of yoga and many meditation schools, a student recently asked me if the ego was a wholly negative construct.
Religious doctrines and spiritual philosophies throughout the ages have pointed a finger at the ego as agent for all human suffering.
Yet, Sigmund Freud determined the ego an intrinsic aspect of the personality. According to Freud, the ego provides awareness of other people’s needs and desires, therefore mitigating socially unacceptable behavior.
In Samkya, a branch of yogic philosophy, ego or ahamkara is the mechanism which differentiates us from others, yet tends toward deception and grasping; therefore, ahamkara requires transcendence for personal and universal truth to become apparent.
Many philosophical approaches endeavor to deny the ego altogether. Does this produce dissolution in the end?
Even withdrawing from the world can strengthen an identification with righteousness, merely giving the ego an alternate hook to conclusively conceal accurate self-assessment. Is ego the enemy and is dissolution actually desirable?
In contending with the difficulty ego proposes, The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga lists an integrative approach: “the ego personality is an instrument for action in the world, while at the same time it is continually transcended through acts of conscious self-surrender.”