Ego and the Self – Osho

In the west I was trained as a social worker. I was taught that it is important that a person respects and loves himself and feels worthwhile. I was taught that it is important to give support to help strengthen the ego. You say kill the ego. I am confused.

Prem Aradhana, the ego is needed because the true self is not known. The ego is a substitute, it is a pseudo entity. Because you don’t know yourself you have to create an artificial center; otherwise functioning in life will be impossible. Because you don’t know your real face, you have to wear a mask. Not knowing the essential, you have to trust in the shadow.

There are only two ways of living in life. One is to live it from the very core of your being — that has been the way of the mystics. Meditation is nothing but a device to make you aware of your real self — which is not created by you, which need not be created by you, which you already are. You are born with it, you ARE it! It needs to be discovered. If this is not possible, or if the society does not allow it to happen…and no society allows it to happen, because the real self is dangerous — dangerous for the established church, dangerous for the state, dangerous for the crowd, dangerous for the tradition — because once a man knows his real self, he becomes an individual. He no longer belongs to the mob psychology; he will not be superstitious, and he cannot be exploited. He cannot be led like cattle, he cannot be ordered and commanded. He will live according to his light, he will live from his own inwardness. His life will have tremendous beauty, integrity. But that is the fear of the society.

Integrated persons become individuals, and the society wants you to be non-individuals. Instead of individuality, the society teaches you to be a personality. The word ‘personality’ has to be understood. It comes from a root, ‘persona’ — persona means a mask. The society gives you a false idea of who you are; it gives you just a toy, and you go on clinging to the toy your whole life.

The one way is to live through meditation — then you live a life of rebellion, of adventure, of courage. Then you really live! The other way to live, or to fake living, is the way of the ego — strengthen the ego, nourish the ego; so that you need not look into the self, cling to the ego. The ego is an artifact created by the society to deceive you, to distract you.

The ego is man-made, manufactured by us. And because it is manufactured by the society, society has power over it. Because it is manufactured by the state and the church, and those who are in power, they can destroy it any moment; it depends on them. You have to be constantly in fear, and you have to be constantly obeying them, conforming to them, so that your ego remains intact. The society gives you respect if you are not an individual. The society honors you if you are not a Jesus, not a Socrates, not a Buddha. It respects you only if you are a sheep, not a man.

The West has completely forgotten how to meditate — and Christianity has been the reason. Christianity has created a very false religion, which knows nothing of meditation. Christianity is very formal; it is a ritual. It is part of the society and the political structure of the society. Karl Marx is perfectly right about it, that it is the opium of the people. Because of Christianity, the West has lost track of its own being. And one cannot live without SOME idea of one’s self — and if you cannot discover, then create something. It will be false, but something is better than nothing.

Aradhana, what you have been told is utter nonsense. It does not matter who has been telling it — the universities, the politicians, the priests. Certainly, you will be feeling confused, because I am telling you just the opposite: I am telling you to get rid of the ego, because if you get rid of the ego, you get rid of the rock that is preventing the flow of your consciousness.

Your consciousness is there, just behind the rock; it has not to be brought from somewhere else. Remove the rock — real religion consists only of removing that which is unnecessary, and then the necessary starts flowing. That which is unessential has to be removed. And the essential is already there, is already the case! You remove the rock and you will be surprised: you need not create the real self — it reveals itself to you.

And the real has beauty, and the real is deathless. Because it is deathless it has no fear. The unreal is constantly trembling. The ego is always in danger — anybody can destroy it. Because it has been given to you by others, they can take it back. Today they respect you, tomorrow they may not respect you. If you don’t follow their idea of life, if you don’t confirm their style of being, they will withdraw their respect. And you will be flat on the ground…and you will not know who you are.

Borges writes:

“I dreamt that I was awakening from another dream — full of cataclysms and turmoil — and that I was waking up in a room which I did not recognize. Dawn was breaking: a faint diffused light outlined the foot of the iron bedstead, the table. I thought fearfully ‘Where am I?’ and realized that I did not know. I thought ‘Who am I?’ and I could not recognize myself. Fear grew within me. I thought, ‘This distressing awakening is already hell, this awakening without a future will be my eternity.’ Then I really awoke, trembling.”

Not to know oneself, to know one’s destiny, that’s certainly real hell. And man does not know himself. Now, the cheaper way is to create the ego, and the West has been following the cheaper way. And not only the West: the majority of people in the East, too, have been doing the same. Just leave a few enlightened people aside, and the whole world has been doing the same.

The West consists of ninety-nine point nine percent of the people in the world; the East consists of only a few people, they can be counted on the fingers. To me, the East and the West are not geographical — they are spiritual dimensions. Gautam Buddha, Lao Tzu, Zarathustra, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Saint Francis — the East consists of these people. Where they were born is immaterial, is irrelevant. Certainly Saint Francis was not born in the East, but I count him as part of the East.

The spiritual dimension, the dimension where the inner sun rises, is the East. And the dark night of the soul, which knows nothing of the sunrise, is the West. You don’t become religious just by being born in India. Religion is not that cheap. It is the costliest thing in existence, because it is the most precious. There is no shortcut to it, and those who seek shortcuts are bound to be deceived by somebody. They will be given toys, and you can go on believing in toys because you don’t want to risk an adventure into the unknown.

The greatest unknown exists within you. The most uncharted sea is your consciousness, and the most dangerous too, because when you start moving inwards, you start falling into an emptiness, and great fear arises, the fear of going mad, the fear of losing your identity. …Because you have known yourself as a name, you have known yourself as a particular person — you have known yourself as a doctor, as an engineer, as a businessman; you have known yourself as an Indian, a German, a Chinese; you have known yourself as black or white; you have known yourself as man or woman; you have known yourself as educated or uneducated — all these categories start disappearing.

As you move inwards, you are neither man nor woman: neti, neti — neither this nor that, neither white nor black, neither Hindu nor Mohammedan, neither Indian nor Pakistani. As you move inwards, all these categories start slipping out of your hands. Then who are you? You start losing track of your ego, and a great fear arises — the fear of nothingness. You are falling into infinity. Who knows whether you will be able to come back or not? And who knows what is going to be the outcome of this exploration? The coward clings to the shore and forgets all about the sea. That’s what is happening all over the world. People cling to the ego because ego gives you a certain idea of who you are, gives you a certain clarity. But the ego is false, and the clarity is false.

It is better to be confused with reality than to be clear with unreality.

Aradhana, you are right: with me a great confusion is bound to happen — because all your knowledge, slowly, slowly, will be proved simple ignorance and nothing else. Hiding behind your knowledge is your ignorance. Hiding behind your cleverness is your stupid mind. And behind the ego there is nothing — it is a shadow.

Once this becomes clear to you, that you have been clinging to the shadow, a great fear and a great confusion, a great chaos is bound to happen. But out of the chaos stars are born. One has to pass through such chaos — that is part of spiritual growth. You have to lose the false to get to the real. But between the two there will be an interval when the false will be gone and the true will not yet have arrived. Those are the moments, the most critical moments…these are the moments when you need a master or a friend.

Just the other day, Buddha was saying, “A master or a friend is needed.” These are the moments when you will need somebody’s hand who can hold you, who can support you, who can say, “Don’t be afraid. This emptiness is going to disappear. Soon you will be overflowing — just a little more waiting, a little more patience.” The master cannot give you anything, but he can give you courage. He can give you his hand in those critical moments when your mind would like to go back, to turn back, to cling again to the shore.

The joy of the master, his confidence, his authority…remember, when I say “his authority” I don’t mean that a master is authoritarian. A master is never authoritarian, but he has authority, because he is a witness to his own self. He knows about the other shore, he has been to the other shore. You have only heard about the other shore, you have read about it; you know only about this shore, and the comfort and the security, and the safety of this shore. And when the storms rage and when you start losing sight of this shore, and you are not able to see the other shore, your mind will say, “Go back! Go back as fast as possible! The old shore is disappearing and the new is not appearing. Maybe there is nothing on the other shore, maybe there is no other shore at all. And the storm is great!”

In those moments, if you are with a master, and somebody is sitting in the boat silent, utterly calm and quiet, laughing and saying, “Don’t be worried,” playing on his flute, or singing a song, or telling you a joke, and he says, “Don’t be worried. The other shore is — I know, I have been there. Just a little patience….” Looking into his eyes…in his absolute confidence will be the only help. Seeing his calmness, quietness, his integrity…. He is not looking back, he is not afraid: he must have seen the other shore, he must have been there. His whole being says it, his whole being proves it. And when he holds your hand you can feel that his hand is not trembling; you can feel that whatsoever he is saying he is saying out of his own experience, not because it is written in the Bible, in the Gita, in The Dhammapada. He knows it on his own! — That is his authority.

Once his confidence, his trust, becomes contagious to you, you will also start laughing. Of course, your laughter will have a little nervousness in it, but you will start laughing. You may start singing with him, maybe just to avoid fear, just as people whistle in the dark. You may join in his dance, just to forget all about what is happening. You don’t want to see the storm that surrounds you, and you don’t want to remember the past and you don’t want to think about the future. It seems dark and dismal to you. You may join in his dance…. Dancing with him, even if out of fear, singing with him even though your singing is bound to be nervous, laughing with him although your laughter is not total, the storm will soon be passed. The deeper your patience, the sooner it happens — you will be able to see the other shore, because when the eyes are not troubled, when the eyes are not full of fear, they become perceptive. A seeing arises in you — you become a seer.

The other shore is not far away; just your eyes are so full of smoke that you cannot see. In fact, this very shore IS the other shore. If your eyes are clear, if your perception is not clouded, if your insight has arisen in your being, if you can see and hear, this very shore is the other shore. When one knows, one really laughs at the whole ridiculousness of life — because we have already got that for which we are longing. The treasure is with us, and we are running hither and thither.

The ego has not to be created, because you have the supreme self within you.

But I can understand your confusion. Remain confused. Don’t go back to your old clarity — it is deceptive. Be in this confusion, be with me a little while more, and soon the confusion will disperse and disappear. And then comes a totally new kind of clarity.

There are two kinds of clarity — one, which is simply intellectual, which any moment can be taken away, doubt can be created any moment…. Intellect is full of doubt. Whatsoever you had heard and whatsoever you had been told has been taken away so easily by me; it was not of much value. Your whole life’s training, and I have taken the earth from underneath your feet so easily…and you are confused. What value can such clarity have? If I can confuse you so easily, that means it was not real clarity. I will give you a new kind of clarity which cannot be confused.

Once a great philosopher went to see Ramakrishna. The philosopher argued against God, and he argued really well. His name was Keshav Chandra Sen. Ramakrishna was utterly illiterate; he knew nothing of philosophy, he had never been to the university, he had only read up to the second standard. He could write and read Bengali a little bit.

The philosopher was well educated, world famous, he had written many books. He argued, and Ramakrishna laughed. And each time the philosopher gave a beautiful, profound argument against God, Ramakrishna would jump and hug him. A great crowd had gathered to see the scene, what was happening. The philosopher was very much embarrassed, because he had come to argue, and what kind of argument is this? This man laughs, dances — sometimes hugs.

The philosopher said, “Are you not disturbed by my arguments?”

Ramakrishna said, “How can I be disturbed? I am really enjoying your arguments. You are clever, you are intelligent, your arguments are beautiful — but what can I do? I know God! It is not a question of argument; it is not that I believe in God. Had I believed, you would have disturbed me, you would have taken all my clarity and you would have confused me. But I know he is!”

If you know, you know — there is no way of distracting you. I will give you that kind of clarity — which knows, and is not dependent on any argument but arises out of existential experience. Then you need not be taught to respect yourself or love yourself or feel worthwhile. Knowing oneself, one knows one is God. Now what more respect can you give to yourself? When this experience arises in you — “Aham Brahasmi! I am God!” — What more respect can you give to yourself?

And who is there to give respect? Only God is. When in the deepest recesses of your being the realization happens: “Ana’l Haq! — I am truth!” what more worthwhileness do you need to feel? You have come to the ultimate, and you have come to know the ultimate as your innermost being, your interiority.

Yes, you have been told to be respectful to yourself because you don’t know who you are. You have been told to feel worthwhile because you feel worthless. You have been told to love yourself because you hate yourself. And the strange thing is, the irony is, that it is the same people who have been doing both things to you.

The same people first make you feel worthless; this is the trade secret of all the churches, of all the so-called religions, of all political ideologies, of all societies, civilizations and cultures that have existed up to now. This is the trade secret: first they make you feel worthless — every child is made to feel worthless. He is told, “Unless you become this or that, you have no worth.” When he starts feeling worthless, than we start telling him, “Feel worthwhile, feel some worth. If you cannot feel worthwhile, your life is wasted.”

First we tell him to hate himself and condemn himself; everything that he does is wrong, hence he starts hating himself because he is not a beautiful person. The parents, the teachers, the priests, they are all joined in the conspiracy. Every child is reduced to such a condemnable state that he starts feeling, “I must be the ugliest person in the world, because I do things that should not be done, and I don’t do things which should be done.” And then one day we start telling the child, “Why don’t you love yourself? Otherwise, how will you survive?”

We take all respect away from the child, and when he becomes disrespectful towards himself we start telling him to create respect. This is such an absurd situation! Each child is born with great respect for himself. Each child knows his worth, his intrinsic worth. He is not worthy because he is like Buddha or Krishna or Christ — he simply knows he has worth because he is, he has being. That’s enough! And each child loves himself, respects himself.

It is you who teach him just the opposite. First you destroy all that is beautiful in him, and then you start painting a false picture. Destroy the natural beauty and then paint his face, make him absolutely false. But why is this done? — because only false people can be slaves, only false people can follow the stupid politicians, only false people can be victims of utterly ignorant priests. If people are real, they cannot be exploited and cannot be oppressed.

Aradhana, remain confused — it is good. It is good that you have come to this point where a great confusion has arisen in you. You can no longer trust your ego — good! It is tremendously important, because now a second step becomes possible. I will give you your childhood back, your inner worth, which is not a created phenomenon; your natural love, which is not cultivated; your spontaneous respect, which arises only when you start feeling that you are part of God, that you are divine.

Remember, ego is comparative — it always compares itself with others — and the self is non-comparative. When you know yourself it is neither inferior nor superior in comparison to anybody, it is simply itself. But the ego is comparative. And remember, if you feel superior to somebody, you are bound to feel inferior to somebody else. So the ego is a very tricky phenomenon: on the one hand it makes you feel superior, on the other hand it makes you feel inferior. It keeps you in a double bind, it goes on pulling you apart. It drives you crazy.

On the one hand you know that you are superior to your servant, but what about your boss? You force the servant to surrender to you, and you surrender to your boss. You force your servant or your wife or your children to be slaves to you. And then to your boss? You wag your tail there.

How can you be blissful? Both things are wrong. To make others feel inferior is violent, it is a crime against God; and to make yourself feel inferior before somebody is again a crime against God. When you know the real self, both things disappear. Then you are you, and the other is the other, and there is no comparison — nobody is superior and nobody is inferior.

This is what I call real spiritual communism, but this is possible only when self-knowledge has happened. Karl Marx or Friedrich Engels, Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong, these are not the real communists. They live in the ego. The real communists are Gautam Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu — nobody knows them as communists but they are real communists, because if you understand their vision, all comparison disappears. And when there is no comparison, there is communism. Equality is possible only when comparison disappears from the world.

Not knowing yourself, you are almost fast asleep; not knowing yourself, you are like a drunkard who asks others, “Where is my home?” The drunkard sometimes even asks, “Can you tell me, sir, who I am?”

Once a drunkard came back to the bartender and asked him, “Have you seen my friend? Has he been here?”

The bartender said, “Yes, just a few minutes before, he was here.”

And the drunkard asked, “Will you be kind enough to tell me, was I with him too?”

There was a drunk standing at a bar one day. He turned to the man on his right and said, “Did you pour beer in my pocket?”

“I certainly did not,” said the man.

Then the drunk turned to the man on his left and said, “Did you pour beer in my pocket?”

The man said, “I most certainly did not pour beer in your pocket.”

The drunk said, “Just like I thought — an inside job.”


From The Dhammapada, the Way of the Buddha, V. 2, Chapter Eight

The Dhammapada

Copyright© OSHO International Foundation

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