Sunday, November 8, 2009

Does ego block learning?

Among all elements of material nature, ego (ahamkara) is probably the most essential for the stability of the universe. As the Bhagavata Purana tells us, Sri Krishna himself encloses the universe with ego (and the other elements of material nature) when he decides to create the universe for his divine play.

Ego blocks learning by giving us a false feeling of being knowledgeable. And as soon as our mind registers, “I know,” we involuntarily but clearly signal Devi Sarasvati, the Goddess of Learning, that we are no longer prepared to receive more data from her. Though ego has the potential to block learning in both worldly and spiritual subject areas, our mechanisms for trusting our mentors and receiving sattvic information from the environment are more strongly hurt when our ego expands. This also implies that people who are prone to thinking that they play bigger roles in society, including bureaucrats, celebrities (okay, not all of them), and self-promoting religious preachers, may find it more difficult to become true students of spirituality.

Because jnana (spiritual knowledge) can help us transcend ego, jnana is considered ego’s only enemy and is sometimes defined as the absence of ego. As we recognize Rama as the Real Doer, the Absolute Reality, or our Sole Refuge, mineness is transcended on its own.

3 comments:

Anonymous Farmer said...

What if our ego is what provides strength? Could we still retain a little bit of our ego and still be able to attain knowledge from others?

I also wanted to bring up the caste system and Hinduism. I find it difficult to support it since it eliminates equity. This is one of my problems with Hinduism; accepting our "place in life" would turn us into overly passive people unwilling to work further in order to prosper.

M. Shri said...

We need ego for our individuality and have to maintain it as long as we have a human body. Total elimination of ego would imply merger or total nearness to God. So this post only criticizes an inflated ego, with an “I know it all” kind of attitude.

Your second comment targets a popular misconception where “caste system” is depicted as a basic principle of Hinduism. Here are some questions to think about…Is the caste system a tenet of Hinduism? Didn't all Indian devotional saints of the last millennium strongly oppose the caste system? Aren’t human beings from the so-called “lower caste” revered among the top Hindu saints? Does any philosophy support more equity than Advaita Vedanta (non-duality)?

Caste system was fueled by greed and ignorance, not Hindu spirituality. And I don't think we can dump a country’s political and social problems in Hinduism. But unfortunately, this is what many scholars and authors like to do.

Anonymous Farmer said...

Love that comment. And yes, the God's were the ones who called for equity and for removal of unnecessary biased barriers. Thanks again.

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