We cannot be successful in either the external world or the internal world while we are tossed about by a powerful ego. What is required is a strong will.
The difference between ego and will is that the ego is blind but the will has vision. Will has its source in the pure Self. Ego springs from a false sense of identification (avidya) with the external world, and is usually concerned with preserving self-image and self-identity. Ego is characterised by stubbornness, selfishness, and unwillingness to compromise.
The transition from ego based to heart based consciousness progresses along a number of stages:
1. Being unsatisfied by what ego based consciousness has to offer you, longing for something else: the beginning of the end.
2. Becoming aware of your ties to ego based consciousness, recognizing and releasing the emotions and thoughts that go with it: the middle of the end.
3. Letting the old ego based energies inside you die, throwing off the cocoon, becoming your new self: the end of the end.
4. The awakening of a heart based consciousness within you, motivated by love and freedom; helping others making the transition.
The ego is like a little pool. An egotistical person is like a frog crouching in that little pool – his world is small, his borders insecure. He has only a vague awareness of the trees encircling his pool, and he cannot begin to imagine the frog-filled marshes just beyond. From his perspective, only his own feelings and his own voice are meaningful.
The power of will, by contrast, is like a spring whose source is the Pure Being. It infuses mind and body with enthusiasm, courage, curiosity, and energy to act. In spiritual literature this force – the intrinsic power of the soul – is called ichcha shakti, and it is from this force that all aspects of our personality, including the ego, derive energy to carry out their activities.
Becoming successful in the world requires a strong will, and that strong will needs to be properly guided so we develop a strong personality. A strong personality exhibits tolerance and endurance. It has the power to vanquish and punish an opponent, but chooses to forgive and forget instead. When we are egotistical, on the other hand, we demonstrate our weakness by answering a pebble with cannon. We lose our composure the moment our feelings are even slightly bruised. We have a hard time forgetting the injuries we have received from others, but an even harder time remembering how much we have injured others.
All problems – at home, work, in politics, everywhere – are caused by colliding egos. These problems are not overcome by one ego dominating others, but by a person of strong will and clear vision coming forward and overshadowing the trivial egos of those who are quarrelling.
A strong ego is as much of an obstacle in spiritual practice as it is in worldly matters. The stronger the ego, the bigger the hurdle it will create. However, the solution is not to kill or weaken the ego but to do our best to purify, transform, and guide it properly. We can do this by employing both our intelligence and power of discrimination. When we meditate, practise contemplation, pray, study the scriptures, serve others, and seek the company of the wise we make our ego pure and less confined, and this in turn inspires us to move one step forward. As we do, the purified ego, accompanied by a sharpened intellect, gets a glimpse of the next level of awareness, and naturally aspires to reach it. Thus the ego becomes the tool for purifying and expanding itself, and in this way the petty ego is gradually transformed into an expanded, more purified ego.
This transformation must end with the ego dissolving and becoming one with the pure Self and experiencing its union with Universal Consciousness. As the ego of a dedicated seeker merges with the Infinite, all confusion disappears, the veil of duality lifts, and the purified ego sees the whole universe in itself and itself in the whole universe.