A Misunderstanding of Self: Going to War with the Ego

Are We The Problem?

““Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.” So it is written in the Big Book of AA, and so often is it espoused in the rooms of AA that “ego” is the enemy. Some other common catch phrases include: “getting out of self”, “bondage of self”, and “self-centered to the core”. All of this language paints “self” as a nemesis—an entity that constantly has to be battled against, and ultimately vanquished. Must it be so?

In AYP, self is viewed through a different lens.

Making an enemy of the ego is as fruitless as making an enemy of the mind (see Lesson 354). Instead, we gradually illuminate the ego from within by cleaning the window, and one day we realize that it has been pure bliss consciousness expressing in that impure form all the while.”

Yogani – Lesson 428 – The Transformation of Ego]

Instead of a battle against, or eradication of, self, we find an illumination and attunement of self with a broader consciousness, all-encompassing Spirit, and intimate connectivity.

The great yogi Paramahansa Yogananda highlighted the qualities of self by using three categories: evil selfishness, good selfishness, and sacred selfishness. From the perspective of sacred selfishness, the individual now directly perceives himself or herself in all living things, and therefore, he or she acts in accordance with an inward/outward flow of unity, harmony, and evolutionary progress. Thus, this enlightened condition has been called self-realization. This is quite a different spin on self than what is found in the 12-Step culture and psychology. Empathy, compassion, love and service all emanate from the practice of uniting the self with God — not from denying the self.

What is not done for selfish reasons anyway? Everything we do is for our own self, even if we are making great sacrifices for others. It is merely a matter of what we regard our self to be. When we become filled with the joy of pure bliss consciousness, we begin to find our own self in everything and everyone around us, and act accordingly. This is the direct result of daily practice of deep meditation and samyama.

Yogani – Lesson 317 – Eleven Key Questions on Samyama

From the Christian gospels we read: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?…therefore honor God with your bodies.” In this light, the body is viewed as a vessel, a conduit, an expression of our inner divinity. The little self of the body must be joined with the Infinite Self of God. That is why yoga literally means “union” in Sanskrit, and that is why all AYP methods are geared towards the purification and opening of our nervous system, which is a vast, microcosmic network of channels and energy—flowing like digital rivers of genius and creativity through our being.

Can we give up the fight against self, and recognize that even the most spiritually advanced beings are ultimately Self-centered? Their acts of love and charity directly serve their pursuit of self-realization, and their path is not primarily about eliminating “ego”, or being “selfless” in a way that is deliberately sacrificial, martyr-like, or overly critical of our supposedly defective personalities.

The more I give away, the more I am filling up with ecstatic bliss. I am a very selfish person doing all this transmission of knowledge. Yet, my self is becoming more and more in everyone. Your joy is my joy. You can do the same thing in your life. Do your sitting practices, however much and whatever kind you find is good for you, and then go do something good for someone. That is rising enlightenment.

Yogani – Lesson 120 – Q&A – “Getting enlightenment”