Ego: The Shadow of Action
Osho on Ego
I HAVE DEVELOPED A BAD CASE OF SEEKERS EGO. IT CONSTANTLY TRIES TO CONGRATULATE ME ON THE GREAT PROGRESS I HAVE MADE. YOU HAMMER ME, AND IT FALLS APART, BUT IT COMES BACK. NOTHING TO DO BUT WATCH IT — AND YET IT FRIGHTENS ME. WILL YOU COMMENT?
IT’S NATURAL. When you are doing something and you are succeeding in it, a subtle pride arises. It is nothing unnatural, so don’t be too much concerned with it. If you become serious about it, then it can become a permanent guest in the house. If you accept it as a natural thing — you walk, your shadow follows — if you accept the ego just like a shadow, then there is no problem. The shadow has never created any problem for anybody, but if you start getting frightened about your own shadow then you will be in trouble. If you start fighting with your own shadow, you are doomed to fail. Never fight with the ego.
You can pretend to be humble, you can impose a sort of egolessness on your ego, but it will remain there, and it will go on disrupting and sabotaging your life. Just try to understand it. It is natural! You are succeeding, you feel good; you are progressing, you feel good; you are growing, you feel good! It is said that when God created the world and He looked around, He said, “Very good! A beautiful thing I have done.” Nothing wrong about it! You paint a picture, then you look from many angles — you feel good; you have succeeded in materializing something which was immaterial. A vision, a dream, you have been able to bring to the world. When you compose a poem, you feel good! Nothing is wrong about it. Just remember that the shadow is not you.
This is your shadow, certainly — but the shadow is not you.
The ego is a shadow. It is not you. This remembrance is enough — there is no need to fight because a shadow does not exist in the first place. It is a simple negativity, it is just absence. It has no positivity in it. So if you fight a negative thing, you will be defeated — because there is no way to defeat a negative thing. That which is not cannot be defeated. That’s the problem. That which is not cannot be defeated. And if you start fighting with it, you will be defeated. It is just like fighting darkness: there is no need! The problem is arising because you have an underlying notion that the ego should not be there. Why? Why not accept it also? Just remember it is not you. The problem arises only when you get identified with your shadow.
You are walking, the sun is there, and a shadow is falling. Somebody walks upon your shadow — do you fight with him? You know it is a shadow! He has not walked on you. Somebody walks on your ego: don’t fight. He has not walked on you. Somebody insults you: it hurts because you get identified with the shadow — otherwise there is nothing. Somebody walks on your shadow: the hurt is imaginary and is a consequence of getting oneself identified with the shadow.
“I have developed a bad case of seeker’s SHADOW.”
You are condemning it. You are creating the problem and anxiety for yourself. Accept it! It is part of a natural flow. But don’t put the shadow ahead of you! DON’T become a shadow of the shadow! — that’s all. You remain yourself.
“It constantly tries to congratulate me…”
Accept its congratulation! and give a heartfelt thank you to it.
“You hammer me and it falls apart…”
I don’t hammer the ego, I never hammer the ego — I simply hammer the identification. I am not so foolish as to hammer your ego; that would be hammering your shadow. I simply hammer the bridge that you have created between the existential and the non-existential, between the essential and the non-essential, between the real and the unreal, between the fact and the fiction — between you and the shadow. I hammer only that bridge. And, of course, it falls apart, because it is just an idea. It has no reality: just an idea that ‘this is me’.
If you want to do anything about the ego, the only thing that I feel can be helpful is: laugh at it. It is ridiculous to get identified with the shadow — simply ridiculous. But don’t get serious. Accept it and you will be delivered from it.
I have heard:
It is said that a French prince visited a jail. In honor of the royal guest, the prison warden offered to release any prisoner the prince might designate. To pick out that prisoner, the prince began interviewing each of the men privately, asking, “Why are you here?”
“I’m innocent, my lord!” cried one. “I’ve been framed!” pleaded another. Perjury, prejudice, injustice and oppression were reasons given by the convicts for their being in prison.
Only one man told a different story. “Your highness,” he replied, “I deserve to be here and I have no complaint. In my time I have been a wicked, desperate murderer. It is a great mercy, both to society and to myself, that I am here.”
“You wicked wretch!” the prince replied. “What a pity you should be confined among so many honest citizens. You admit yourself that you are evil enough to corrupt them all. I can’t allow you to remain in their company another day. Guard! This is the man I wish released!”
Once you accept the reality, you are relieved, released; the prison exists no more. So don’t try to be humble! Just know that ego arises. What can you do? You are not creating it. It is just like when a wave moves: in the wake another wave follows it upside-down — that is the wake. It is natural. When there arises a big mountain, a valley follows it. The valley is nothing but the mountain upside-down. It is part of it. When you move, in the wake your shadow, your valley, follows. You simply accept it! Mountains are not crying tears that ‘why do valleys exist?’ And neither are waves worried.
The very idea that you have to get rid of the ego is wrong. Drop that very idea! When ego arises, simply note the fact that the shadow is falling — and remember not to get identified with it; remember that you are separate. This is enough. And the true humbleness is born out of this realization.
It is not an effort against the ego that brings humbleness. If you fight the ego, it can bring you a certain type of humbleness — but then there will be another ego arising and that will be the ego of the humble person. The pious ego: “I am the most humble person in the world. Nobody is humble in comparison to me. I am at the top.” Again the ego has arisen. Ego will always arise whatsoever you do. Doing brings ego. Ego is the shadow of action. And there is only one thing that is not doing and that is awareness, watchfulness. The only thing that is not part of the world of action is pure awareness. No shadow is created by pure awareness.
It is so pure that light can pass through it — it is transparent and no shadow is created.
Shadow is created by solid things. The more solid a thing is, the more shadow it creates. Your body creates a shadow; your mind also creates a shadow — the ego is the shadow of the mind. If you become more aware, if you simply watch the mind, its functioning, its mechanism, then you are moving beyond the mind. You become just pure awareness, transparent. Then there is no shadow. So just laugh at it. And if it tries to seduce you, have a good laugh! at your own absurdities. But don’t become a warrior and don’t start fighting with it.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: A Sudden Clash of Thunder
Chapter title: Towards Nothingness
20 August 1976 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on ‘ego, identification, comparison’ in many of His discourses. More on the subject can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Light On The Path
- Zen: The Diamond Thunderbolt
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha
- Communism and Zen Fire, Zen Wind
- Tantra: The Supreme Understanding
- Vedanta: Seven Steps to Samadhi
- And The Flowers Showered
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- The Discipline of Transcendence, Vol 1
- Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 1
- Take It Easy, Vol 1
- The Path of the Mystic
- That Art Thou
- Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, Vol 1
- Tao: The Pathless Path, Vol 2