Ego is a tricky word and it has been used to convey about 3-4 different things… And there has been a confusion because of translations… This post will clarify the confusion that might have arisen.
1. There is a word called ‘Ahamkar’. This word has been used in Yoga, Vedanta and Samkhya. And this ‘ahamkar’ actually disappears completely after enlightenment. But this word is usually translated as ego in English. Let us look at the actual meaning of the word Ahamkar. Its a compound word consisting of ‘Aham’ which means ‘I’ and ‘kara’ which means ‘to do’. The compound word indicates the idea ‘I am the doer’.. This idea can only exist in separation or duality. After enlightenment, you can’t even find a slight scent of Ahamkara, because duality completely disappears.
2. There is also something called ‘Aham vritti’… This is also translated as ego in English. But ‘Aham vritti’ is actually the root of the self-concept, which too is destroyed completely after enlightenment. Self-concept is the story of ‘you’ that you carry in your head. This story completely loses its focus, importance, significance and power after enlightenment. You only access the self-concept that you have in memory. But there is no active, consistent, solid self-concept which spans from past to future.
3. There is a function in the mind which helps you with social interactions. Its is also referred to as ego. I use the word ‘ego’ to refer to this. This function is totally necessary for social interactions. It is this function which strives to protect and enhance the self-concept. So by its very nature, ego is defensive. But after enlightenment, self-concept disappears while ego as a function persists. This is why you can notice some kind of defensiveness even in enlightened people. But they defend the truth, instead of defending a self-concept.
4. Freud used the word ‘ego’ in a totally different way. If you look up his theory about ego, super-ego and id, you will understand what he is saying in his theory.
Note: This is very important. If you find one guru saying something about ego which another guru seem to contradict, then always remember that they are probably using the word ‘ego’ to mean different things. The above is the quick checklist that you can refer. I have an entire chapter in my book called ‘Problem with words’ where I discuss certain confusions that tend to happen because of using one word to mean multiple things or using multiple words to mean a single thing. Makes sense? So, when you listen to a spiritual guru, it is very important to inquire what meaning he is actually giving to a particular word by checking the context.
Osho advocated a simple and powerful meditation technique called witnessing. It is nothing but mindfulness in daily activities. It is not only an effective practice for spiritual seekers seeking spiritual enlightenment, but is also a good practice to improve mental peace in general. But the essence of the witnessing meditation has to be understood before one starts to practice it.
The following links will help you to understand some of the basics when it comes to spiritual enlightenment. After reading these links, witnessing meditation will make much sense and will be easier to understand:
The following infographic will give you the steps involved in witnessing. Feel free to download and share the infographic if you want:
As it is explained in the infographic, the first step is to learn to discriminate between the awareness and the contents of the awareness. Anything that is observed in the mind, body and the external world is a content of consciousness. When you start witnessing, you may often mistake an object of consciousness for the subject. This is because of the deep-rooted identification people have with the objects of consciousness. You need to rise above each thought, feeling and sensation so that you don’t get identified with the contents.
Here is an excerpt of Osho’s talk from the book ‘From the False to the Truth:
“Just be, and watch. Being is not doing, and watching is also not doing. You sit silently doing nothing, witnessing whatsoever is happening. Thoughts will be moving in your mind; your body may be feeling some tension somewhere, you may have a migraine. Just be a witness. Don’t be identified with it. Watch, be a watcher on the hills, and everything else is happening in the valley. It is a knack, not an art.
Meditation is not a science. It is not an art, it is a knack – just that way. All that you need is a little patience.
The old habits will continue; the thoughts will go on rushing. And your mind is always in a rush hour, the traffic is always jammed. Your body is not accustomed to sitting silently – you will be tossing and turning. Nothing to be worried about. Just watch that the body is tossing and turning, that the mind is whirling, is full of thoughts – consistent, inconsistent, useless – fantasies, dreams. You remain in the center, just watching.
All the religions of the world have taught people to do something: stop the process of thought, force the body into a still posture. That’s what yoga is – a long practice of forcing the body to be still. But a forced body is not still. And all the prayers, concentrations, contemplations of all the religions do the same with the mind: they force it, they don’t allow the thoughts to move. Yes, you have the capacity to do it. And if you persist you may be able to stop the thought process. But this is not the real thing, it is absolutely fake.
When stillness comes on its own, when silence descends without your effort, when you watch thoughts and a moment comes when thoughts start disappearing and silence starts happening, that is beautiful. The thoughts stop of their own accord if you don’t identify, if you remain a witness and you don’t say, “This is my thought.”
You don’t say, “This is bad, this is good,” “This should be there….” and “This should not be there….” Then you are not a watcher; you have prejudices, you have certain attitudes. A watcher has no prejudice, he has no judgment. He simply sees like a mirror.
When you bring something in front of a mirror it reflects, simply reflects. There is no judgment that the man is ugly, that the man is beautiful, that, “Aha! What a good nose you have got.” The mirror has nothing to say. Its nature is to mirror; it mirrors. This is what I call meditation: you simply mirror everything within or without.
And I guarantee you…. I can guarantee because it has happened to me and to many of my people; just watching patiently – maybe a few days will pass, maybe a few months, maybe a few years. There is no way of saying because each individual has a different collection.
You must have seen people collecting antiques, postal stamps. Everybody has a different collection; the quantity may be different, hence the time it takes will be different – but go on remaining a witness as much as you can. And this meditation needs no special time. You can wash the floor and remain silently watching yourself washing the floor.
I can move my hand unconsciously, without watching, or I can move it with full awareness. And there is a qualitative difference. When you move it unconsciously it is mechanical. When you move it with consciousness there is grace. Even in the hand, which is part of your body, you will feel silence, coolness – what to say about the mind?
With your watching and watching, slowly the rush of thoughts starts getting less and less. Moments of silence start appearing; a thought comes, and then there is silence before another thought appears. These gaps will give you the first glimpse of meditation and the first joy that you are arriving home.
Soon the gaps will be bigger, and finally, the gap is always with you. You may be doing something, the silence is there. You may not be doing anything, the silence is there. Even in sleep, the silence is there.”