My needs, my wants, my likes and dislikes, my feelings, my emotions, my ideas, my goals and aspirations — all of these things are the signs of the ego-consciousness at work, overcoming the law of inertia that says that a body at rest tends to stay at rest. All of humanity is immersed in the ego-consciousness and acts based on motivations dictated by that consciousness. In fact, we believe that without the impulsion of the ego, no progress would take place or be possible. We live within the limit and frame of the ego, and cannot see beyond it as long as we are encased within that frame.
Humanity has adopted the standpoint of the ego to such a degree that we experience the reality of our existence as if we live at the center of the universe, and we experience the sun revolving around the earth in our physical vision. Yet as humanity grows and develops, we gain new insights that show us that the earth actually rotates and revolves around the sun, and the idea that the earth is at the center of the universe is nothing more than an illusion of the senses. Eventually we begin to understand the sheer immensity of the creation, and can appreciate that the earth is but a tiny speck in that vast play of existence.
It is the nature of yoga to widen the consciousness, to shift the standpoint from the small, personal, egoistic standpoint to the unbounded standpoint of the Divine, the universal consciousness, and to develop an awareness that recognises that the ego is more or less an artificial construct that eventually loses its reason and purpose of existence, without thereby negating the existence and action of the universal consciousness.
As long as it is about “me” and “mine”, the consciousness remains rooted in ego and is limited. As the aspiration grows, as the experience of a larger, wider, more powerful reality begins to set in, a subtle shift in focus and awareness can take place which moves the seeker from the ego- to the divine-standpoint. There are often glimpses along the way as one feels suddenly outside the limits of one’s own personality and sees things from a different vantage point. There may come a time when the entire perspective shifts and as it stabilises and remains there, the individual no longer can act from the limited perspective of the ego. It is at that point, that one recognises that there is a nexus of awareness, but it is not the center of consciousness, nor the focus of existence.
Sri Aurobindo writes: “Your nature like that of almost everybody has been largely ego-centric and the first stages of the sadhana are with almost everybody ego-centric. The main idea in it is always one’s own sadhana, one’s own endeavour, one’s own development, perfection, siddhi. It is inevitable for most, for without that personal endeavour there would not be sufficient will or push to bring about the first necessary changes. But none of these things — development, perfection or siddhi — can really come in any degree of completeness or unmixed finality until this ego-centric attitude changes into the God-centric, until it becomes the development, perfection, siddhi of the Divine Consciousness, its will and its instrumentation in this body — and that can only be when these things become secondary, and bhakti for the Divine, love for the Divine, oneness with the Divine in consciousness, will, heart and body, become the sole aim — the rest is then only the fulfilment of the Divine Will by the Divine Power.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, The Ego, pp. 286-289