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Ego Is Not the Self
Mary: Until this spring, with you, I had not fully surrendered. I have now, and life has opened up in a new way.
Ramji: Have you surrendered the one who has surrendered? Freedom is called jnana karma sanyass, surrendering the surrenderer by dint of self-knowledge.
Mary: I haven’t tried to define the difference, but I guess it boils down to accepting that I am the self…
Ramji: Your conclusion is correct, but the operative words “I guess” shows lack of confidence in self-knowledge.
Mary: …and yet I am still struggling with the pattern of dualistic thinking.
Ramji: If you are the self, thought has nothing to do with you. If “you” are struggling, who is the “you”? See the orientation of the I.
Mary: I understand duality, but my language is still forming.
Ramji: It seems that Mary wants to develop her own understanding. Vedanta is all the words you need. It seems you are trying to interpret the teaching in light of what Mary knows. It doesn’t work that way. You will notice that so far I have oriented my language to Mary, the ego. In this paragraph I assumed the position of the self and addressed Mary as an object, not as the subject.
Mary: I don’t know if my ego is “fighting” this surrender or if my mind and intellect are having trouble with their capacity to grasp non-duality in a way they haven’t before.
Ramji: Understanding non-duality is not easy. In this statement the ego is objectified but it is the ego objectifying itself because you, the self, are identified with your ego. Ignorance is very tricky. Throughout your life so far, the ego has been your consistent orientation. It is not the kiss of death, however, so don’t feel bad about it. It is just a lack of discrimination brought about by a failure to understand what the jiva/ego is and what the self is.
If you know that you are awareness when you are writing about the ego, your language will either explicitly or implicitly reveal your orientation. When you are sharing your thinking with someone like myself, you need to make it clear that the self orientation is your orientation and that the ego orientation is not your orientation. This makes it clear that you know the difference. You don’t do that. You speak of the self as if it is an object, something to which one surrenders and something you are unclear about. You don’t take a stand in awareness as awareness.
And why don’t you do that? Taking a stand in awareness as awareness is purely a language problem, assuming you understand the value of this practice. You evaluate every statement from the self/not-self paradigm before you speak. You can speak from the ego platform, alright. But you need to know that you are speaking from that platform and that what you are saying is not real. But I don’t get the sense that you think Many or Mary’s talk is unreal.
Keeping this idea in mind, consider your statements. “I love being generous.” Is that the self speaking or is that Mary speaking? It is Mary. Why? Because generosity belongs to sattva guna, not to awareness. “I keep watching that…” Who “keeps” watching? Mary. The self is not a doer, a “keeper.” It definitely doesn’t watch. Watching is its nature. No effort is involved. “My dad, my mom…” See the ownership. You don’t have a dad or a mom. The self is the mother/father of all wordly dads and moms. Actually, I know all about Mary’s dad and mom because she told me about them at least three times. “I cherish time alone.” You are the “alone,” you are “all one.” “I am pretty independent.” Well, you get the idea.
So discrimination is not Mary discriminating one thing from another, unless that “thing” is the self and the “other” is Mary. Mary can’t figure out dualistic thinking, because she is thinking from a dualistic platform. Previously, you said, “…but I guess it boils down to accepting that I am the self.” You hit the nail on the head. So what is accepting “I am the self”? Before we say what it is, we need to understand who needs to do it. Mary needs to say it and Mary needs to know what it means when she says it. “I am the self” means “I am not Mary.”
This is definitely a problem because Mary thinks she is Mary. All her statements are issued from an unreal dualistic perspective. It is a problem because it means that she has no mother, no father, that she is not generous or stingy, that she is not an artist, that she never did business, does not hold any degrees, is not married to Mike, does not have a guru called Ramji, etc. In other words, her whole narrative is a lie that keeps duality alive and kicking. So getting rid of the ego is dis-identifying with her story, which is hard work owing to the inbuilt tendency to repeat it over and over. It’s not that – by your own admission – you talk too much, you keep telling yourself a story that should be as boring to you as it is to others. Nobody really cares who Mary is except, it seems, Mary herself.
The solution is to negate it over and over, by telling the truth about who you are. Of course Mary is in a karma stream that involves others, so she can’t just start spouting Vedanta with the same passion she spouts Mary, because she will lose most of her friends, which isn’t necessarily the kiss of death, but isn’t necessary either. At the same time, you can’t suppress Mary either. So she has to PRETEND that she is Mary and know that what she is saying about herself is nonsense. She seems to be a bit ambitious and likes challenges, so she is probably ready for this Challenge of Challenges. Only one in a million realizes the need for discrimination and of those few who do one one or two actually conquers duality. Actually, it is my opinion that you are well suited to the task; the conditions are right.
Speaking as a jiva, I’m little uncertain that I should be telling you this, but as the self and your guru, it is necessary. I hope you don’t fall into a funk. The best response is to do battle with the tendency to think as Mary until you are in control of it. You’re not. You slip into it automatically. Maybe its fair to say that you don’t slip out of it. If retraining the mind is too difficult, no blame, because Mary, such as she is, is on a very good path, albeit in the slow lane.
It’s all the same to me because I love you, no matter how you think about yourself. I have no choice either as the self or as The Great Ramji.
Mary: I am slow to think in non-dual terms, even though karma yoga is helping me. You especially… I get confused with the language. If the self is the ego, and the self is the witness, then it is witnessing itself. Don’t I have to do that before I really see that they are all the same thing?
Ramji: No. How can “you” do that? It is not something you do; it is something you need to know. The words “The self is witnessing itself” is not an action statement, because the self is not a doer. It is a statement that is not to be taken literally. The implied meaning is that the jiva can’t witness it. Did anyone tell you that you exist and/or that you are conscious? No. Why not? Because it is a self-evident fact, which means that you know it – but you don’t know that you know it. Witnessing is not what you do, it is what you are.
Mary: I KNOW that my ego’s “behavior” has changed. The self never changes. So I get that the ego, in the subtle body, is an aspect of self, but the ego, mind and intellect change and grow (but DO NOT DIE – I hear you on that – we need them and they never die). My language is still reforming! HELP!!!!
Ramji: The self has no aspects. It is a non-dual, partless whole. How can something that changes and grows be immune to death? The problem is that you are interpreting, not listening. I know you’re not listening, because your self-knowledge is wrong. How can the self have aspects? How can something that changes be immortal? There is no logic to your statements, which means that self-ignorance is interpreting for you.
Mary: I have made self-inquiry my work for the last three decades, consciously, and the changes have been immense.
Ramji: What you have been doing is not self-inquiry. It is ego-inquiry. The ego is not the self, but people who do sadhanas think the ego is the self. Self-inquiry does not change the ego, except incidentally. It reveals the self and by default reveals the ego for what it is. The ego goes though changes from womb to tomb. But what difference does that make? It is still limited, inadequate and incomplete, no matter how aware it is of itself. Yes, perhaps your idea of self-inquiry did make Mary a more happy, mature person insofar as Mary is real. But it doesn’t shift your identity from Mary to the self. To do that, you need to know that you need to take a stand in awareness until the shift is permanent and you speak as the self, directly or indirectly. Maybe your sadhana qualified you to some degree for self-inquiry but self-inquiry is separating the self and the jiva/ego.
Mary: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. It brought great clarification to many questions, and I need to spend a good deal of time pondering and absorbing. The “aha” moment was when you said this is definitely a problem because Mary thinks she is Mary. Something literally clicked and I see that I have been “working on the ego” instead of accepting myself as self, etc., etc.
I love you with all my heart; thanks for not giving up on Mary until she realizes she is truly the self! Blessings!
Ramji: Just doing my job, self. Your reply gives me more confidence to teach you. I think we are over the big hurdle. Yes, forget working on Mary. She is quite fine. She is never going to be perfect, so you need to love whatever small imperfections there are. If people can’t see her upside, let them eat cake. Your job is to keep Mary objective, meaning see her as an object.
The persona you created is a lie, but it is a lie – the super confident, successful, talented woman – that the world likes, so it took care of your needs so far, but all those talents, etc. belong to Isvara, so they aren’t yours. But I saw immediately that beneath the persona was an insecure, controlling little girl who needed to stay in the spotlight. The face we present to the world is often a fear-based compensation for inner limitations. The jiva/ego/persona is not you. So you need to keep it in mind until discriminating it from you is natural, i.e. it’s no longer a discipline.
Mary: I cannot thank you enough; more later, as I grasp the knowledge of self and see myself as self, not Mary. I did have a dream that gave me six instructions: meditate, lose self to Self, forgive and forget, nip jealousy and comparison, nip jealousy or comparison in the bud, trust and do it for love. It makes even more sense after reading your beautiful, honest answers to me.
The Chandogaya Upanishad III: 14.4 says, “to Him I shall attain when my ego dies.” My first dream said “prepare to die,” and I felt that was a message to my ego, or who we call Mary, but if the ego never dies – yet this verse says it “should” – this is confusing – transform, I get – no hurry of course, I know you have many devotees other than me!!! I so, so appreciate your time and wisdom.
Ramji: Sorry, I’m going to tell you something that you will definitely not like. Why listen to a part of yourself that speaks in symbols that are difficult to understand? I know dreams are all you have had so far, so this is not a criticism, but you are not going to be set free by your subconscious mind. There is not one thing it can say that Vedanta doesn’t say in clear, plain English in a systematic way with copious common-sense explanations. If dreamwork was a valid means of self-knowledge, there would be no Vedanta. Dreams give often contradictory hints and warnings, and they require interpretation, which is a huge problem because the person who is interpreting is self-ignorant. In terms of freedom, it gets you nowhere, because your subsconscious is just your experiences recycling. For you to make sense of them in terms of freedom from the dreamer, you need an objective means of self-knowledge. But why would you focus on dreams when Vedanta is an objective means of knowledge for all three states and for the self itself? It doesn’t make sense.
Mary: You said, “I could see your ego – the upside and the downside – clearly when I was with you but I didn’t want to get into it, because the downside with reference to liberation is carefully concealed from you, so any attempt on my part to point it out would probably cause it considerable distress.”
I would love to know more of what you saw, as this is very important to me and I don’t think the distress would be long-lasting, as I really want to be liberated. I do disagree that the dreamwork hasn’t helped; it has. I have made self-inquiry my work for the last three decades, consciously, and the changes have been immense. When I was 40, I realized that the only thing that would truly help me was prayer. I began praying all the time, mostly just saying “help” and “thank you.” I had to quit doing “therapy” with people because I didn’t believe it anymore. But I still did dreamwork because I knew the Divine was giving me and my clients the dreams, and the prayer to understand was being answered. Things began to change rapidly and I have never stopped praying. And you finally appeared and the surrender fully happened.
Ramji: The last thing you need to know is information about your ego. You need information about your self and how to realize it. Dreamwork has been helpful bringing you to Vedanta, but it is time to give it a rest. This duality between you and the dream, depending on it for meaning, is not healthy.