“He wants to puncture our egos,” said a friend, after listening to me talking about Vedanta. Of course, that wasn’t true, and there had been no such intention. But it was interesting to note that something in what had been said seemed to have, so to speak, tickled his mind. We are usually happy enough with our easy acceptance of the ‘body - mind’ consensus as far as the nature of one’s self is concerned. To question this view, as Vedanta does, seems pretty far-fetched. And yet, it seems to me, that there is something in the hypothesis that there is more to our lives than just what happens to our bodies and minds.
If one were to be asked to point out where (or what) the ego is, the best that one can do is refer to the network of mental activity that takes place within oneself. If this is so, one can push the question further backwards ask what are these thoughts that make up the internal network. One could reduce this further and say that these thoughts are but movements within what we call consciousness. So, it would perhaps be not far-fetched to state that the ego - whether yours or mine -is then just a construct, a convenient ‘hold-all’ word to refer to the thought-network within. Then, the conclusion would be that the ‘ego’ is not an object, in the usual sense of the word ‘object’.
The dominating feature of what we call the ‘ego’ is the presence of the sense of oneself, the ‘I’ - I am happy, or sad, or angry, or hungry, and so forth. This ‘I’ presents itself in the everyday world and our activities are driven by what this ‘I’ wants (or doesn’t want).The ‘I’ thought itself begins life innocuously enough, as a convenient word to refer to the body-mind complex, but then, as one ages, this ‘I’ goes on to grow from strength to strength, and takes on great proportions, in the manner that we fill up air in a balloon.All kinds of attributes accrue to this ‘I’ thought: at the level of the body, when one says one is ‘short’, or ‘tall’, or ‘dyspeptic’, or ‘sick’; and at the level of the mind, when one says one is ‘angry’, or ‘happy’ or ‘sad’.
But in essence, at the core of the ego, there’s just this ‘thought-balloon’.And can words from one ‘thought-balloon’ puncture another ‘thought-balloon’?
Put this way, the whole proposition sounds absurd. Perhaps the truth is that the string that holds the air in the ‘thought-balloon’ begins to slowly unravel of itself, and the ‘I’ begins to find again its true nature.