Do I have to forget myself to lose my ego?
Eva, it is not a question of forgetting yourself—on the contrary, it is a question of remembering yourself.
What is the ego? Ego exists because you have forgotten yourself, because you don’t remember who you are. And it is very difficult to live without some idea of who you are. Not knowing the reality of your being, you have to create a false substitute.
What is the ego? Ego is the false substitute that you have created for the self. It is not your self, but it is very difficult to live without a self—it will be almost impossible to live without a self, some kind of self is needed, is a must; otherwise, how will you keep yourself together?
You will start falling apart.
Even if the center is false, it helps you. Even a false center keeps you at least somehow together. You have forgotten yourself—hence you need the ego.
If you remember yourself, there will be no need for the ego.
You ask, Eva: Do I have to forget myself to lose my ego?
Ego is not anything real that you have to lose or you can lose—you don’t have it in the first place. It is just an idea, a shadow; it is non-existential. It is like your name: when you were born, you did not come with a name. Then somebody—your mother, your father, your family—started calling you ‘Eva’. Some name is needed to call you by; it is utilitarian.
Your name is the first name that was ever given. When Haavva was created because man was alone, Adam was alone, and was very much depressed because of the loneliness … the whole existence and Adam was lonely. He asked God to give him a companion, and God created a woman. God asked Adam, ”What are you going to call her? What name would you like to give her?” And he was so ecstatic that now at least there was somebody with whom he could be friendly, with whom he could be loving, with whom he could talk, communicate, with whom there was a possibility of relating. He was no more alone!—he was so ecstatic that he said he would call this creature ‘Eve’, ‘Eva’, ‘Haavva’.
“Why?” God asked.
And Adam said, “Because Eve, Eva or Haavva means life—she is my life. Without her I was almost dead.”
But when Eve was created, there was no name. A name was given to her because Adam would need it. Sometimes he would have to call her: “Where are you?” Sometimes the name would be needed–but a name is a false thing, it is just a label. We give names to people just to make it helpful to commune, to relate, to call, to address. But names are not real! You need not drop them, and even if you drop them nothing will be dropped.
You can drop this name ‘Eva’—nothing will be dropped. Simply an idea! And you are no more attached to it. In exactly the same way: the name is for others to call you by, but you need something to call yourself by too—that’s what the ego is: I.
If you want to say something about yourself, you need some word—that word is ‘I’. Names are for others to call you by; the ego is for you to call yourself by, to address yourself. It is also false, it does not exist. You need not lose it. All that is needed is to understand it—why this ‘I’ has become so important, why it has become so significant, so central, so substantial. A shadow has become so substantial—why? Because you don’t know your real self.
When Jesus says ‘I’, he does not mean the same ‘I’. When he says, “I am the gate, I am the truth, I am the way,” his ‘I’ does not connote any ego. When Krishna says to Arjuna, “Come to my feet, surrender to me,” his ‘me’ is not the same as your ‘me’.
Buddha used to say to his disciples, “Be a light unto yourself.” A great King, Prasenjit, had come to see him. And he saw many sannyasins coming and bowing to Buddha, and saying:
“Buddham Sharanam Gachchhami—I go to the feet of the Buddha.
Sangham Sharanam Gachchhami—I go to the feet of the community of the Buddhas.
Dhammam Sharanam Gachchhami—I go to the feet of the ultimate law, the ultimate law that supports existence, that runs like a thread and makes the existence a garland.”
Prasenjit was a man of logic, well-educated, sophisticated. He was a little bit puzzled. He asked Buddha, “Excuse me, Sir, but you say to people, ‘Be a light unto yourself,’ and then they surrender to you, and they touch your feet—you don’t prevent them. This is illogical, this is contradictory. If you say ‘Be a light unto yourself,’ then there is no need to surrender to anybody else. Then why should they touch your feet?”
And Buddha laughed and he said, “They are not my feet, and they are not surrendering to me—because there is nobody inside me as the ego who can claim. I am just an excuse—they are surrendering. It is not a surrender to me; it is simply a surrender—I am just an excuse.
Because they are not yet capable of surrendering without any excuse, I allow them to use me as an excuse. But there is nobody to whom they are surrendering.”
That’s exactly the meaning of a Buddha: one who is not; in the sense of an ego, one who is not. But as far as the supreme self is concerned, the ultimate self is concerned, he is and you are not. The ego is a false idea, and it is needed because the real self is unknown.
Eva, you need not forget yourself to lose the ego—in fact, that’s how you have gained it.
You need to remember yourself, not to forget but to remember. You have to become more aware and alert, you have to wake up. You have to see who you are, not what has been told to you—that you are a woman, that you are a man, that you are a Hindu, a Christian, a white or a black—not what has been told to you.
You will have to go inside your being to the very innermost core and see who you are. In that very seeing, in that very remembering, the ego disappears. When the light comes, the darkness disappears; when the real self is remembered, the unreal is no more needed. And it is not that you have to drop it: it is simply not found.
But we live in the ego, and in every possible way we go on finding new props for it. In every act we go on nourishing it—even in those actions of which you are not the doer you go on claiming that you are doing it. People say, “I am breathing.” Just look at the absurdity of it.
If you are breathing then you will never die; death will come and stand in front of you and you will go on breathing. You may not oblige death; you may say, “I am not going to stop breathing.”
You are not breathing; breathing is not your activity, it is not your doing—it is happening.
You cannot breathe. If it stops, it stops. If the next breath is not going to come back, you will not be able to do anything. Breathing is a happening, but man has made it, or at least believes it to be, a doing.
You say, “I love.” Even the expression ‘love-making’ is utter nonsense. You cannot love; you cannot not love. Love is a happening, not a doing. What can you do about love? Either it happens or it doesn’t happen. If you try, then it will be something false, then it will not be love at all—then it will only be acting.
If you are ordered to love a woman or a man, what are you going to do? You will go through empty gestures: you will hug and you will kiss and you will go through all the movements, and with no love at all. The whole thing will be mechanical! And that’s what is going on, what goes on around the world. The wife has to love the husband, the husband has to love the wife—it is a kind of duty to be fulfilled. It becomes a performance, acting. It is not real, hence it is not satisfying, it brings no contentment, no fulfillment.
The ego is very cunning in that way: it goes on finding supports, props, new pastures to feed itself on. If you fail, you blame circumstances. If you succeed, it is you who have succeeded. If you fail it is fate, kismet; if you fail it is the society, the ugly society. If you fail, it is the cunning people, the cunning competitors. But if you succeed, you succeed.
A great Sufi story:
Mulla Nasruddin took his disciples to an exhibition. Many things were going on at the exhibition. At one place people were staking much money and trying to shoot arrows to reach a certain target. Mulla gathered his disciples and he said, “Come, and I will show you something.” That is the Sufi way of teaching the disciples. He took the bow and the arrow—a great crowd gathered: “A Sufi Master with his disciples—something is going on!” People were very silently watching. With great show, Mulla shot the arrow … it fell very short, it never reached the target. The crowd started laughing. Mulla said, “Stop! Don’t be foolish.” He turned to his disciples and said, “Look, this is what happens when you live with an inferiority complex. This is how the person who suffers from an inferiority complex will act—he will never reach the target; he will fall short. His whole heart is not in it.” The crowd became silent: “Yes, there is a lesson in it.”
Next arrow … and it simply went far ahead, it left the target behind. That was also a failure; the crowd started laughing again. And Mulla said, “Be silent! You don’t understand these secrets.” He turned to his disciples and said, “Look, this is how a man who thinks himself very superior behaves. He will never reach the target. He runs so fast that he will bypass the goal, and he will not stop at the goal. He is too confident. He is also unbalanced.”
The crowd again became silent: “Yes, there is a lesson.”
And Mulla tried the third time … and the arrow went directly into the target. Now the crowd was silent and waiting for what Mulla was going to teach to his disciples.
He went to the owner and demanded the money. The owner said, “Why?”
He said, “This is me! The first was the arrow of a man who suffers from an inferiority complex; the second the arrow of the man who suffers from a superiority complex — and this is Mulla Nasruddin’s arrow. Where is the money?”
This is what we go on doing. In each situation, watch. When you fail, it is God, it is fate, it is society, circumstances … a thousand and one names. But the simple phenomenon is that you don’t want to take the responsibility because it hurts the ego. But when you succeed, it is always you—it is never God, never fate, never circumstances, never your cunning strategies, no. It is simply you, your talents, your genius, your intelligence. It is always you when you succeed.
Watch the ego, and don’t feed it. It dies if you don’t feed it. If you stop feeding it, it starves to death.
Mrs. Cochrane was standing beside the coffin of her dead husband. Their son stood at her elbow. The mourners, one by one, passed in review.
“He is feeling no pain now,” said Mrs. Croy. “What did he die of?”
“Poor fella,” said Mrs. Cochrane. “He died of the gonorrhea.”
Another woman gazed at the corpse. “He is well out of it now,” she said. “He has got a smile of serenity on his face. What did he die from?”
“He died of the gonorrhea!” said the widow.
Suddenly, the son pulled his mother aside. “Mom,” he said, “that’s a terrible thing to say about Pop. He did not die of gonorrhea—he died of diarrhea!”
“I know that,” said Mrs. Cochrane, “but I would rather have them thinking he died like a sport — instead of the shit that he was!”
The ego is constantly there, in every situation—it will not miss any situation to feed itself, to strengthen itself. Stop feeding the ego—that is the first thing to do.
And the second thing is: become more aware. Walking, walk with awareness; listening, listen with total awareness—not in a kind of sleep, not so-so, not lukewarm. Talking, talk with awareness. Whatsoever you are doing, let your whole life be coloured by awareness. And slowly, slowly that awareness will bring you a vision of your real self.
So this is a double attack on the ego. First, don’t feed it; second, become more aware—so the ego disappears by starvation and the self appears by being aware. And once the clouds of ego are no more there, the self rises like a sun. And that self has nothing to do with your ‘I’. Still the word will be used. I use it, Jesus uses it, Buddha uses it—it has to be used, but now it has a totally different meaning. On the lips of a Buddha or a Krishna or a Christ it has a totally different connotation.
When the being is transformed, everything is transformed—even the language that is uttered by a Buddha has a totally different meaning. His words can’t have the same meaning. It is impossible! Because now a new light has happened, and in that new light everything becomes new.
You live in darkness, you stumble in darkness, you grope in darkness. The man of awareness lives in light. He never stumbles, he never gropes. He moves with grace, he has a totally different quality of being, life, love.
Do two things, Eva: first, don’t feed the ego any more—enough is enough—and second, become more aware. This is a double attack, from two sides. It always succeeds; it has never failed.
From The Fish in the Sea Is Not Thirsty, Discourse #2
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