The Barking Dog of the False Ego
The consciousness of our egos causes us to evaluate life into different perceptions.
BY: Chris Fici
As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita:
If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditioned life by My grace. If, however, you do not work in such consciousness but act through false ego, not hearing Me, you will be lost.
Vedic scholar Bhurijana Dasa also explains the concept of the false ego very clearly in Surrender Unto Me, his commentary on the Gita:
The false ego...which is like a reflection of our true consciousness within matter, is the covering over the soul first supplied by material nature and is the juncture between our spiritual identity and our material existence. Any ego-identity in which we imagine ourselves the central figure is acceptable to our perverse consciousness.
Thus the soul, constitutionally Krsna's eternal servant-full of bliss, knowledge, and eternity-becomes attracted to the material atmosphere and conditioned by it. He is then strictly controlled by the modes of material nature and experiences the self as if it were made of temporary matter.
The juncture between our false ego and real ego is the juncture between how selfish and selfless we are in our everyday lives, both materially and spiritually. One way to see this is in relation to how we react to people's suffering. When someone suffers, do we feed the dog of our false ego by taking pleasure at their suffering, especially if it is relation to some competitive aspect of our lives, like our career, or do we feed the dog of our true ego by taking their suffering into our own heart, and feeling it as if we were the one suffering. Do we respond with compassion or contempt? Do we step on them further or do we do what we humbly can to uplift them?
Gaining access to our real sense of ego means doing all we can to develop our selfless spiritual character. This is actually our natural self, yet to be selfless in this dog-eat-dog world seems so unnatural, because we choose to absorb ourselves in the schemes of our false ego. This is why spiritual life is such a serious endeavor. We must have an everyday practice, whether it is the chanting of God's names, reading of holy scriptures, and service to our community and the less-fortunate, to help us excavate what is most dear and intimate to us, our real spiritual self.
Every moment of every day we are making a choice which dog to feed. Our spirituality begins and ends with our consciousness, so let us try to become more conscious of the very sense of self and identity we are developing in our lives together.
Chris Fici is a writer/teacher/monk in the bhakti-yoga tradition. He has been practicing at the Bhaktivedanta Ashram at the Bhakti Center in New York City since 2009. After receiving a degree in film studies at the University of Michigan, Chris began his exploration and study of the bhakti tradition. He currently teaches classes on the culture and art of vegetarian cooking, as well as the living philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, at New York University and Columbia University.