Ego is self or “I-ness” Everyone has an ego, whether big or small. In Hinduism, Ahamkara (अहंकार) is a Sanskrit term that is related to the ego. Egoism is identifying with or attachment to one's ego. It is a crystallization of pre-existing thoughts and desires resulting into shadow self, which is subject to ignorance, duality and illusion (maya) that veils the true Self and lets the ego-sense take charge of the mind and body and act as if it is the real Self. Ego will significantly impact our relationships with one another and the outside world. It also affects our ability to be persuasive and understood.
Remember that the ego is mischievous, wicked and vulgar. Its voice is the noise of the world. Let us put out the noise of the ego to hear the voice of the divine. The elimination of egoism is the sole condition of self-realization. One’s individual ego, pre-conceived notions, pet ideas, prejudices and selfish interests should be given up. All these stands in the way of spiritual progress.
As per modern psychology, ego comprises the executive functions of personality by serving as the integrator of the outer and inner worlds as well as of the id and the superego. Freud conceptualised ego structure as id, ego and superego. The id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs. Ego develops from the id and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world. The superego begins to emerge at around age five. The superego tries to perfect and civilize our behaviour. It works to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id and struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles. However, id, the ego, and the superego are not three separate entities.
There is not much inputs about “ego” in modern psychology. But ancient Hindu rishis have deeply probed about it. As per Hinduism, “ego” has been elaborated as below:
What is Ego:
Ahamkara (Ego) identifies the atman (soul, self, jivatma) with the physical body. Ego is not mere self-pride or arrogance, except in a very narrow sense. In a wider sense, it is the very feeling of separation that makes one feel distinct and different from the rest of the creation and the Creator.
How ego functions:
How to overcome ego:
The various Hindu scriptures have the dynamics of ego and actions in great details. I am discussing here only a few to describe -
जब मैं था तब हरि नहीं अब हरि है मैं नाहीं । प्रेम गली अति सांकरी जामें दो न समाहीं ॥
अर्थ: जब तक मन में अहंकार था तब तक ईश्वर का साक्षात्कार न हुआ. जब अहम समाप्त हुआ तभी प्रभु मिले. जब ईश्वर का साक्षात्कार हुआ – तब अहम स्वतः नष्ट हो गया. ईश्वर की सत्ता का बोध तभी हुआ जब अहंकार गया. प्रेम में द्वैत भाव नहीं हो सकता – प्रेम की संकरी – पतली गली में एक ही समा सकता है – अहम या परम ! परम की प्राप्ति के लिए अहम का विसर्जन आवश्यक है.
According to Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, conquest of the self is therefore very important for peace of mind and union with God. He who conquers his self is in the company of the Supreme. He remains stable and serene in cold or heat, sorrow or happiness, respect or disrespect (6.7). Giving up all desires, without the awareness of any need, sense of ownership and egoism, he attains peace (2.71).