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Who Surrenders the Ego?
Vera: Just one point that sticks in the mind from the quiz – #14 – I thought and do believe that complete surrender is equal to surrendering the ego, the ego which is the obstacle to “liberation” we all seek.
Our Bhagavan Ramana said there are two paths, bhakti and jnana…
Yet in #14 it was not considered to be the way, e.g. the loss of ego did not open the way… yet I feel that if the dragon ego is not blocking the way – grace can enter.
Sundari: The answer to question 14 of the enlightenment quiz is, as you know, all of the above. You miss the main point – “surrendering” is an action. Who is it that surrenders? Certainly, the ego will not surrender, not for long, anyway. No action taken by a limited entity (the ego/individual identified as a person) will produce a permanent and limitless result, i.e. moksa – freedom from limitation, from suffering. You might get a temporary reprieve with the idea that you have surrendered the ego that feels like grace flooding in, but the ego is still there, make no mistake about it!
Is it not your own experience that you cannot permanently surrender the ego? It always comes back, no matter how hard you try to get rid of it.
Nothing gets rid of it, because it is not possible to get rid of it. It belongs to Isvara, not the doer, or jiva. It can only be negated through knowledge, never removed or “surrendered.” Unless understanding of what the ego is takes place in a qualified mind, the binding vasanas that condition the mind, and the identification with the doer, are still there. So suffering is still there. Only self-inquiry into the true nature of reality, with a valid and independent means of knowledge wielded by a qualified teacher – assuming the qualifications for self-inquiry are present in the mind – produces a limitless result: self-knowledge – freedom from the small self, the identification with the ego, or body-mind.
Grace is earned, it does not fall out of the sky and is not the result of any action on our part. It is a gift from Isvara with the application of self-knowledge to your life as a jiva. Nothing “opens the way” to liberation other than the permanent removal of the hypnosis of duality, only possible through knowledge, not experience.
The ego is the “I” thought wrongly associated and identified with objects. An object is anything other than you, awareness, which includes both subtle objects (thoughts/feelings) and gross objects. The technical name for the ego in Sanskrit is ahamkara. In the spiritual arena, especially in yoga, the idea abounds that the ego is the problem and must be busted or surrendered. Vedanta disagrees.
Surrendered to who and by whom? The ego-thought, or “I-sense,” gives rise to the idea that you are a doer: the one who experiences things – the one who must “surrender” the ego. But the ego is no more than a thought that arises out of consciousness (you/awareness, the non-experiencing witness), is made up of consciousness and dissolves into consciousness with the removal of ignorance by self-knowledge.
The ego has no effect on awareness, because it is not real, real being defined as “that which is always present and unchanging” – a definition that only ever fits awareness, nothing else. And if it is not real, how can it be busted – or surrendered? It can only be understood for what it is.
The ego is not the problem. Only identification with the ego produces suffering, or the “blocking” of grace, meaning the misapprehension or lack of appreciation of yourself as whole and complete, non-dual, ever-present, unchanging, limitless, actionless and unconditioned awareness – the KNOWER of the ego. There is no such thing as an ego in reality; it has no existence other than as a thought arising in you, awareness.
Have you ever seen an ego? All egos function in the same predictable way; in fact there is only one ego and all embodied entities (jivas) share it, unless and until they know what their real identity is as awareness.
Let me explain the problem. You claim that Ramana says there are two paths to moksa: jnana and bhakta. But there cannot be two paths to moksa if this is a non-dual reality, which it is. How is that possible? Non-dual means just that: only one. Jnana and knowledge are the same thing, when properly understood. They are not two separate paths to the same goal, moksa. In fact Ramana himself made it abundantly clear that moksa was discrimination (jnana) alone, i.e. the discrimination between satya and mithya.
Although Ramana was a true jnani, he never claimed to be a proper teacher of Vedanta and he made many contradictory statements which were taken out of context, causing confusion. For instance, Ramana didn’t make clear the distinction between Yoga and Vedanta and their relationship to each other, so his devotees generally have a knowledge and an experience confusion (see Chapter II of Ram’s book The Essence of Enlightenment), which could be easily removed by the satya/mithya teaching.
Ramana bhaktas want to get rid of the ego, which is a yogic notion that came from Patanjali. But Ramana said that there is always a “functional” ego, ahamkara (the “I-sense”). The subtle body, which is eternal, is created by Isvara in conjunction with maya. It has several functions, one of which is the “I-sense.” It is always present, even in deep sleep, where it is unmanifest. To repeat: the ego is not the jiva’s creation, so the jiva can’t destroy it or surrender it.
The idea that the ego is a problem for moksa when it is present and not a problem when it is gone is ignorance (avidya), i.e. duality. The truth is the ego is only a problem if the mind is incapable of non-dual thinking, which seems to be the case with your statement above. Reality is non-dual consciousness, i.e. you (satya). By the grace of maya it appears in two orders: satya and mithya.
The ego, the “I-sense,” is in the mithya dimension. Anything in the mithya dimension does not affect or negate satya, just as the table in a wooden table does not negate the wood. If you weigh the wood and subtract the weight of the table, the weight of the wood is the same.
Satya, you, is always free of mithya, so there is no reason to get rid of mithya, the “I-sense,” or ego. The problem is due to a confusion of the word “I-sense,” or ego, and ignorance. The “I-sense/ego” is an effect of ignorance that remains when Vedanta reveals the fact that you are limitless awareness. Although it remains, it is as good as non-existent because it has no effect on you, as mentioned. The “I-sense” (ego) is an essential component of the subtle body because you can’t do actions unless they are motivated by a thought (“I want” or “I don’t want,” for instance); that’s the way Isvara has set it up.
Without a functional ego, nobody would get out of bed in the morning. We need the ego to operate in the apparent reality. The suffering caused by the ego is only ever because of the lack of knowledge of our primary identity as awareness, the self – satya.
Vedanta advises “clinging” to the thought “I am limitless, non-dual awareness,” not to the “I-sense” (ego), because contemplation of it in the context of the satya/mithya teaching sets the inquirer free insofar as moksa is the discrimination between the self and the “I-sense.” To say that moksa is discrimination implies that the “I-sense” is not a problem. The “I-sense” is like a ray of sunlight with reference to the sun itself. There is no contradiction. They share the same nature, light.
When one’s discrimination is clear, the “I-sense” doesn’t “drop away,” it is negated. There is no longer a doer to drop or surrender the ego. Negated means that it continues to exist but that it is known to be mithya, not real, a paper tiger. See the imprecise nature of the meaning of words that appear in the books by many modern teachers. And without exposure to the whole Vedanta teaching, an inquirer has no way to contextualize specific teachings, like the “I-sense” teaching. Nisargadatta’s I Am That was a very inspirational book and it turned a lot of people on to the idea of self-inquiry, but it created as much confusion as it did clarity.
Ramana didn’t systematically teach Vedanta. He was a jnani who was well very versed in the scriptures. He even wrote a scripture, Upadesa Saram, which has been accepted by the Vedanta sampradaya as an Upanishad. Because his teaching was idiosyncratic, not methodical, people who read the teachings get easily confused.
~ Om and prem, Sundari