The Ego’s Role

This came up in another forum when someone questioned why they hear of the end of ego but the ego returning and some awake teachers not acting like their ego is gone. Edited slightly for context.

There’s a few things here. When awakening is happening, it can very well feel like an ego dissolution or death. However, what is actually happening is the identifications of the ego are dissolving, not the ego itself. Thus the ego is again recognized as being present after awakening, but it is no longer the centre. It’s simply a function, a person there that has preferences and karma, etc. It’s lost it’s weight and influence. It’s demoted.

For a monk, they may intentionally deny the ego but a householder needs their ego to function normally in the world.

As Adyashanti describes, ego can try to reassert itself on occasion for some time afterwards. This is due to the second part of the process, the winding down of what are called the Vasanas (desires) and Samskaras (impressions). A true awakening roasts the old seeds but there is usually a bunch of the above remaining after. I used to refer to this as “ego shrapnel”. This is resolved simply by living life and having it come up. In the new awareness, it is much easier to resolve without living it out quite so much.

But it means even the awake can get drawn into some dramas and things for a time. This can even show up as the old ego reasserting itself. Everyone can get a little stuck sometimes. Some of those impressions can be very difficult and there can be lifetimes of resistance to release. That may show up as expectations around being a teacher or some other role that have to be shattered. This can get much messier when someone is in a teacher role. Some begin a little too prematurely.

There is a further aspect through the later Unity stage where all aspects of the apparent person become recognized as not individual but cosmic. This includes the ego. However, by this point, it has required a series of deep surrenders that don’t happen if there is still a lot of resistance going on.

You just have to consider puberty. Same process everyone goes through but some more smoothly than others. Human development is a somewhat messy process that shows up a little differently for all of us.

We took this body driven by those old Vasanas so as long as we’re in a body, there can always be a bit of shadow there. In other words, no matter the enlightenment, there is still a human.

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