There Is No Ego, Really!
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai
Hawaii, U.S.A., September 6, 1994
(Originally in English)
Q. During a group meditation, a fellow initiate asked: "Master, could You speak a little bit about the fact that our ego gets in the way of our close relationship with the God within. How do we get rid of it?"
M: There is no ego, really, just the environmental effects. When we were young and did something wrong, we were punished, and when we did something good, we were praised and sometimes overly praised; then we learned to show off because we got praise and candy, something like that. And later on when we were in school, we learned that the brilliant ones or those who knew how to go about socially, had an advantage. We learned the same things again: how to be on top, how to talk smoothly, how to do things that please people, even though sometimes these things are not very honestly done, just to win the praise.
That's how we get into the habits of managing things the way we want so that we will get the spotlight. That is what we call the ego. There is no ego to begin with, and then we become so used to failure and success, and we are proud of ourselves. We think, "Ah! I have accomplished this, and I have done that. I outdid him; I tricked them", and things like that. And then we get prouder and prouder, and that is the so-called ego.
Actually, it is all habit. We are not born with the ego. That's why I told you that the environment is very important to individuals. Two persons with the same level of intelligence, if brought up in different environments, will react differently to the same situation that they are confronted with because of the habits they have acquired, because of the things they learned during their childhood and their lives. So there is no ego really. Now we try to deal with the habits only.
For example, now you want to meditate, but you're so used to running around - at 7 o'clock you go for coffee and 8 o'clock you go dancing, and now I tell you to sit here; you are a miserable thing, and don't even see God - sometimes, not always. Some lucky fellows see God all the time and take it for granted, and some sit there, their bottoms nearly falling off and don't see anything. So of course, these things will make you feel unhappy. And then it is difficult for you to believe that there is such thing as God, and that Hes is even loving at all. "If Hes is loving, why doesn't Hes come to me? Why does Hes come to the neighbors?"
You tend to learn as you grow up to compare things the way the worldly people do. They teach you the neighbor is better than you; his car is more expensive. "Why does God give to him but not to me," and things like that. This is the so-called "ego", the argumentative mind that you have collected from the influences of society. So now, what we have to do is go contrary to that; every time we think some nonsense, we say," Okay, that's just your habit. I don't believe your garbage." And then just do your work and don't listen to the mind; slowly you will get used to it.
The people who are pure in the heart are simpler. They get to God quickly because they don't do too much thinking and make too many comparisons, and have too many studies to overcome. The more intellectual people, or sometimes the more accomplished people, are more complicated because they have to be to succeed in this kind of field, for example like that. Therefore, they become habituated to thinking, analyzing pros and cons, and success and failure - "If I sit in meditation, what will I get from God? Will I get anything at all? Is that worth it? You know, time is money," [Laughter] and things like that. And then subconsciously, we obstruct the way to heaven for ourselves. That's what we call ego, but actually, there is none.
For example, many children who grow up in a battered home become criminals. They were not loved as a child and they grew up not loving anyone. They only know violence; they only know force, using muscle force or whatever force they can get to win the enemy, to become the stronger guy. Most of them are unloved, and then it is very difficult for them to change that. You would say that's their ego; actually, I would say that it is just a habit. When we say "habit", it's easier to understand, and also seems easier to reach and to correct. To say "ego" sounds so frightening, like an entity or something with which we have to fight. It's not that difficult.
Even brushing the teeth - many people don't brush three times a day because they don't have the habit, and they can't bother to change. I didn't brush three times a day when I was young, but when I grew up I understood it hurts my teeth, and I wanted to be beautiful. [Laughter] Then I started to realize the importance of this habit, brushing the teeth after a meal, and I do it. That's it, just a habit, so forgive yourself and try to change.