The Ego is Not Your Amigo – Part 2 of 2

Harish Johari

Harish Johari

I first began to consciously pursue the destruction of my own troublesome ego when I lived in hectic Manhattan. At the time, I had just begun to plot a novel based on eastern philosophy (Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India), and was engrossed in learning everything I could about Tantra and mysticism.

In the process, I met folks who tended to interpret Tantra mainly as a license to enjoy indiscriminate sex. My view was different: mainly from delving into the treasure trove of eastern philosophy at the New York Public Library, I had discovered that, etymologically speaking, the word Tantra derives from two Sanskrit words: tanoti and trayati—meaning: the explosion of consciousness. How one performs this magic is up to the individual; while couple-hood can certainly become a means of liberation, celibate tantrics often evolve fastersimply because they are relieved of having to cope with the eccentricities of an ego-driven partner.

Sometime during those exciting years, I flew from Manhattan to Vermont for a weekend workshop with Harish Johari—a master tantrik and artist gifted with a multitude of talents. Early one morning, I had the good fortune to walk through the verdant fields surrounding our retreat home in his company. Taking advantage of the situation, I asked him for advice about a painful situation in which I was enmeshed. This is more or less what he said: Mira, I will give you a single job—do it well, and I guarantee it will lead you to lasting peace and happiness.” My ears pricked up. “Constantly observe your ego,” he advised.“It has billions of masks and is a genius of deception. Watching it is enough! The ego cannot bear to have its antics witnessed. Slowly it will stop playing its spellbinding games—and you will experience yourself as the immortal Self—as existence-consciousness and bliss.

I did not meet Harish Johari again. Years later he passed away, leaving behind a stunning legacy of fantastic eastern divine art and much else. When I heard of his death, the thought flashed that a whole journey can begin when a guru has the guts and the wisdom to say just the right thing to a seeker—not from his or her own ego, but from the plane of divine consciousness.

Harish’s advice burned itself into my hungry heart—even as life hammered relentlessly away at my monstrous ego. Despite the pain intense self-analysis evoked, I persisted in locating that false sense of self that I now knew lay at the root of all my suffering. Why did I take on this immense and subtle chore? Because I had come to understand that when one finally discovers that the ego is not “real”—meaning it is not a permanent entity, but rather a haphazard conglomeration of gazillions of labels plastered onto a false self over countless lives—one simultaneously realizes that  there is no concrete “person” to be hurt or attacked or even celebrated. And when this gnosis sinks in deep—a process that could take eons—one no longer reacts with the ego to anything the world might hurl at you—whether good, bad or indifferent.

Temple Arch View of the Holy Hill

Temple Arch View of the Holy Hill

Significant chunks of time have slipped past since Harish and I traversed those rustling green fields in rural Vermont. And yet my inner work goes on—currently via the ancient practice of Atma-Vichara, investigating the true Self that we all are—blissful, immortal, loving, wise and connected to all beings—and not the desirous, greedy and defensive “mini-me” that most of us spend entire lives trying to shield and protect—a futile task, because no matter how big you grow in the eyes of an ephemeral world, one day this “person” that you think you are must dissolve back into the elements, and the Self that has quietly animated you all along will have remained undiscovered.

Now here’s my version of an intriguing Buddhist tale about a rich Tibetan widow who decided to seek enlightenment: Trekking all the way up a holy mountain, she begged the wise woman who lived on its peak for help in achieving her desire. The crone asked the widow just how serious she was, and the widow fell at her feet, earnestly assuring her that she was totally committed—whereupon the kindly old woman mutated into a horrible-looking witch with an ugly thorny switch in her hand and chased the rich widow down the mountainside, shrieking: then begin now, begin now, begin now!

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35 thoughts on “The Ego is Not Your Amigo – Part 2 of 2

    • Joneve, you were my earliest human muse in Manhattan…there are no accidents…and yes, i was very lucky to have that talk with Harish in those green fields…who knew that really listening to him would lead me to Ramana Maharshi and the deliberate destruction of my ego? It truly is all in the stars. Much love!

  1. Shining the light on the insidious workings of the ego…..great insights delivered in inimitable Mira Prabhu way!

    • Thank you KB — kalyanamitras with great big egos are perfect for each other because one can see the other clearly and perhaps…perhaps…help the other to break down the chains of personal identity. Grok that? Of course!

  2. Hi Mira… I truly enjoyed your thoughts in this post. Yes… the ego is a tricky beast; especially when threatened with extinction. It is also true that it is part of our temporal being. I was pondering the passing of a gurubhai on a walk with Parames and another friend a few years back when that Inner Voice of Knowing entered the inner contemplation with the statement: “When you die, you wake up from the dream.” Therefore, the ego’s concerns are probably all fear-based because it fears its own mortality.
    I was also enchanted that you began your ‘quest’ in this country. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that your life in NYC hatched a desire to grow spiritually because of the pressure and stress involved in living and working in that environment. Swamiji used to remark to us that the reason it is good to plop an Ashram, or yoga center in the midst of an urban environment was for those very reasons.
    Thank you for sending these thoughts, dear spiritual sister. I continue to get a lot out of them.
    Om Namah Shivaaya!
    David Sadasiva

  3. Greetings Dave! I wouldn’t say my search started in the US, because I was already deeply interested in meditation and yoga as ways out of my perennial angst, but it certainly intensified when I did my TT at the IYI and Swami Asokananda blew me away with his light. And then it continued…and continues…as it does for all of us, until, we die in full consciousness, and wake up from the dream, as you so eloquently put it. Much love and good luck with the rest of your travels!

    • Yes, read Whip if you can — i think you in particular would enjoy it…if you want me to, i can send you a free e-version via Smashwords–something i do for my spiritual buddies on the same path. Love!

    • Thanks for your prompt, and clarifying response, Mira. I guess that’s another common thread between us given the ‘angst’ I, too, felt at the time I met Sri Gurudev. Suffering has most definitely played a large part in my spiritual search. As for travels, I have ‘landed’ at my sister’s in Seattle,and I will be “chilling” here until my passport arrives. I neglected to get it for my visits up to Canada where almost all my relatives reside. I have the time to catch up, and contemplate my next moves.
      Speaking of the Novel, I would be very grateful to receive it from you via email. However, I best ‘operate’ with reading material in book form so I will go ahead and purchase a copy from Amazon. All the best! David Sadasiva

      • Dave, international mailing rates are prohibitive so I suggest you buy the book on Amazon…do you need a link? If so, you can get it right off this blog. Good luck with your onward travels to Canada…what fun!

      • Absolutely no worries, Mira… I am a regular Amazon ‘user.’ THanks again for the offer to send the Novel electronically, too. That was very sweet of you! Best, Dave

    • Thanks, Kami — i hope the wellspring does not dry up in this heat! But so good to hear you appreciate the love I put into these posts….and speaking of love, lots to you!

  4. Our “ego” is not an “eagle”. It’s hard to see and fly high blinded by the constant
    nagging of it always needing attention, validation, and flattery. In that sense the
    “me” flutters, while the “we” remains elusive with no labels to hold or pin it down.
    Why limit with being simply a this or a that? Self-acceptance over self-importance.
    Be the connection, not the isolation.

    • It is certainly true, what you say about the ego, Mr. Saffran. The only thing I would question you; and Mira, for that matter, is whether we need to engage in the destruction of the ego, or, as my spiritual guide contended, work to develop a healthy ego? I do not pretend to be an ‘expert’ on the subject so I ask this question respectfully. Our ego is certainly a part of our individual identity as a human being, and needs to be addressed as such. The issue, for me, is how to deal with the ego. This is an age-old issue that has been dealt with from the ancient Rishis of India all the way up to Freud and beyond, but, does the attempt to destroy the ego just provide more fuel to the fire for ‘its’ survival? That is the ultimate question I wish to pose for the sake of dialogue and greater personal understanding.

      • Hello Michael and Dave – Michael, yes, it is because the infinite games of the ego block and blind us from the love that we truly are that we take on the task of freeing ourselves from it….Dave, my answer to your question is one that took me literally decades of this lifetime to uncover….it is so simple. yet it takes enormous commitment and work…or it did for me. Yoga says never to attack the ego directly — it only grows stronger, as you suggest — but if you burn the seeds (vasanas) that are embedded in the ego, that comprise the ego, then the ego cannot function any more and it dissolves back into the Self, our true nature, which is immortal and blissful, and which can never be destroyed. For me this is the essence of Atma-Vichara, the Direct Path taught by Ramana Maharshi. No other works fully for me. Love!

      • Thank you, Mira, for your very concise and clear response. I think I get what you are saying. Burning the Samskaras through service and spiritual practices helps rid oneself of the ego’s dominance… Yes?

      • Dave, as you know, from being a yogi, each of us has an individual and unique path…for me it is not the usual form of karma yoga — my service is to share what i have suffered to learn…but today, again for me, i know of no higher path than Atma-Vichara to burn the samskaras/vasanas and therefore to become free of samsara. Love!

      • Amen to that, spiritual sister! Each person’s path is unique and very personal. You probably remember Sri Gurudev’s creed to be: “Truth is One, paths are many.” And I have been a most fortunate recipient of your service by joining your blog site! Om Namah Shivaaya!

  5. The most amazing thing is that we all are unique and varied
    individuals in our own aligned places expressing that infinite
    connection of WE or SELF. So getting over the “ego” shouldn’t
    mean self-depreciation as in not loving our person, or doing our best
    to take care of our mind and health. Respecting yourself=
    respecting others as being real, and not totally separate
    reflections of it. We simply just destroy the illusion of an
    inherent me, but a personality/character is still there thankfully.
    I wouldn’t think living in a world of ego-less “zombies” would
    be interesting. Perhaps some people do mis-understand that
    destroying the ego means somehow destroying our “unique place”
    in the solar system.

    • Mike, I think you hit on what may be the biggest fear to doing this work — because we humans identify almost completely with who we are on the level of body and mind, we forget who we REALLY are — the Infinite Self — rather than losing out, we gain everything – we do not lose our ego, our ego fuses into its highest Self, which is pure existence-consciousness and bliss. Perhaps I should have dwelt on this more in the post….we do not destroy our unique place but instead we retain our identity but know that we are immortal and blissful — something like that — words so inadequate….much love and thanks for your usual thoughtfulness!

    • Tremendously well said, Michael. The whole point is that we HAVE an ego, and the question is… what we do to develop our oneness with the Universe from the perspective of our uniqueness. The ego is part of this uniqueness, and It is to be respected and cultivated in a healthy way if we are to honor ourselves while also recognizing our connection with the ALL. The Masters have shown us how to develop the healthy ego by overruling the ‘I’, ‘Me’, and ‘Mine’ in favor of a totally altruistic outlook toward their fellow human beings.
      Thank you, Mira and Michael, for bringing so much clarity my way! It serves to ignite the clarity within me! Blessings! Dave

      • David and Michael: for me the inner journey accelerated when I received the teaching on the Two Truths of Absolute and Relative – the A being our true unchanging immortal and blissful nature; the Relative being egoic-mind that creates our individual identities that we cling to….the two are inextricably intertwined….but the R emerges from the A and in the jnani, the fully enlightened, the ego has melted into the Self. Much love to you both!

  6. Pingback: How is your ego affecting your performance?

  7. A month ago Amazon .ca didn’t have hard copy in stock but now they do so as soon as I get back to Canada I will order Whip of wild God .I am in U S now but go to Canada in two days .I am sure I will like your book .

  8. A wonderful post expressed in great fullness here. I am trying to locate part 1? Thank you for sharing a truly inspirational writing.

  9. There is so much to take in with this deeply personal and enriching post, Mira. Just the thought you discovered an ancient truth of India in Vermont makes me chuckle. I guess the old adage certainly applies… When the student is ready, the teacher will come.

    • Yes, when the student is desperate!!! That single encounter changed my life and brought me here, this I see now. It would have happened anyway, I believe, but still, that was a catalyst because I took his words very seriously and began to use them all the time.

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