The Need for Release from the Fundamental Ego-Sense

We can see the vast difference in understanding of human psychology by viewing the relatively simplistic view propounded by Western psychology versus the much more subtle, refined and detailed view of the practitioners of Yoga. In the West, they recognize basically 3 forms, identified first by Sigmund Freud, and later built upon and refined by others, as id, ego and super-ego. Jung added a “collective unconscious” which tapped into those areas not consciously part of the ego-personality and having a universal footing. In the yogic perspective however, there is much more to be seen. With respect to the question of the elimination of the ego-sense, for instance, there is the ego tied to the material body, the ego tied to the vital force or energy, the ego tied to the mental life, and even when the seeker has succeeded in distancing himself from these three sheaths of ego, there still remains an indefinable “ego-sense.” Sri Aurobindo defines it: “But even if all this has been done, something remains still; there remains a substratum of all these, a general sense of the separate I. This substratum ego is something vague, indefinable, elusive; it does not or need not attach itself to anything in particular as the self; it does not identify itself with anything collective; it is a sort of fundamental form or power of the mind which compels the mental being to feel himself as a perhaps indefinable but still a limited being which is not mind, life or body but under which their activities proceed in Nature. The others were a qualified ego-idea and ego-sense supporting themselves on the play of the Prakriti; but this is the pure fundamental ego-power supporting itself on the consciousness of the mental Purusha.”

This amorphous form of ego may be confused with the true inner being, the Purusha, and thus, effectively disguise itself and continue on unabated while the seeker believes he has succeeded in being liberated entirely from the ego. “But so long as this fundamental ego-sense remains, there is no absolute release. The egoistic life, even if diminished in force and intensity, can still continue well enough with this support. If there is the error in identification, the ego life may under that pretext get rather exaggerated intensity and force. Even if there is no such error, the ego life may be wider, purer, more flexible and release may be now much easier to attain and nearer to accomplishment, but still there is as yet no definitive release. it is imperative to go farther, to get rid of this indefinable but fundamental ego-sense also and get back to the Purusha on whom it is supporting itself, of whom it is a shadow; the shadow has to disappear and by its disappearance reveal the spirit’s unclouded substance.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 9, The Release from the Ego, pp. 344-345

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