Seekers like to idealize “egoless” persons. Gurus, saints and spiritual masters are supposedly “egoless”. I’ve spent time in the company of a number of famous gurus and not one of them was egoless. A few of them, in fact, were egomaniacs (but that’s a different point).
It’s boorish at best to be an egomaniac. But, on the other hand, there is no use striving to be “egoless.” Even the greatest Buddhas who ever lived had functioning egos. You can be certain of this, because to be without a functioning ego is to be utterly helpless.
There are only four completely egoless states:
- newborn babies
- deep (dreamless) sleep
- coma or vegetative states
- trance-absorption in formless, super-mental consciousness.
None of these egoless states is permanent (even coma is resolved at death). If you are not presently abiding in one of these temporary egoless states, then be assured, you are not presently egoless.
In the fullness of enlightenment the ego arises and works just fine. The “I” sense is apparent, but it does not hamper the feeling of free being. Ego—the individual-bodily-self point of view—is recognized as an operating program for organizing experience and functioning in the world.
The operating program called ego emerges from both “hardware” and “software.” The “hardware” of ego pertains to the brain’s wiring for language and thought; the “software” of ego refers to cultural conditionings and individual experiences overlaid on the self-idea.
Ego is handy for driving a car, buying groceries, writing books on enlightenment, cashing huge royalty checks, paying taxes, etc., and it remains transparent to the mood of wonder, humor and freedom. Then, during periods of formal meditation (and also deep sleep), when awareness relaxes beyond even the noticing of external or internal data, ego melts away like a salt doll dropped into the ocean.
There is no need to kill the ego. No possibility of it, either! Just see it for what it is. In periods of stillness and quiet investigation (meditation), learn to see beyond the software. To fear or hate ego is a belly-ache from partially digested Eastern philosophy. Mature teachings have criticized this futile path of trying to destroy the ego.
- Ego-“I” is not within (interior) to the body-mind. “I” names the whole body-mind.
- Ego-“I” (the whole body itself) is the sophisticated creation of billions of years of psycho-physical evolution.
- There is nothing independent about ego. “I” is a functional unit of the total cosmos.
- The multi-dimensional human body-mind itself is ego, and it is the crown of creation!
- Acknowledge the ordeal of Original Mind evolving in biological form: amoebas to trilobites to dinosaurs to primates to hominids to self-consciousness (ego). Praise the ego!
You can try to eliminate or block the ego. (But ask yourself who is trying, pal.) Or, you can live each moment as Wholeness, in which case, you’ll find that ego comes and goes all by itself. Where is ego during moments of deeply focused involvement—the “flow” of athletes, musicians and artists? Ego also vanishes in deep sleep and meditation, during passionate lovemaking, and in many other moments of “flow.”
Whether ego appears or disappears, ego is not the enemy. The “I”-sense does not prevent happiness or enlightenment. Indeed, even after a person enjoys oceanic states of ego-dissolution, of absolutely selfless being, the ego-“I” comes back on-line, all by itself. This should not be surprising: after all, every night the ego vanishes in deep sleep, and every morning it pops up again in the waking state. This tells you all you need to know about the ordinary usefulness of the “I”-program.
“I” is not our True Nature, and not everlasting. Again, it is only a biologically-based system for organizing experience and bodily functioning. But as long as it appears, “I” is a feature in the process of True Nature. Like the ocean is waving, God (Who else?) is ego-ing. “I” is an aspect of Original Mind.
Not the much-maligned ego, but rather, separative activity—the unwillingness to love, to relate, to participate, to share, to live as peace—is the true obstruction of happiness.
Now let’s live and work and play and die without beating our poor heads against an imaginary problem. You and me.
Zombies need not apply.
 A Sanskrit term for this state is nirvikalpa samadhi. I prefer to call it deep wake, or dreamless wake, since it is to enter the previously “unconscious” realm of deep sleep while remaining wide awake. It is the experience of awareness prior to all qualifications—a luminous boundless void that Buddhists have called Original Face or Clear Light Mind.
 In large part, the ego-construct is based on language. Prior to about two years old, an infant is basically egoless. Then children rapidly develop the ability to talk and at the same time acquire a conceptual self-image: “I,” “me,” “myself,” “mine.” These factors together—brain-wiring, cultural overlays and personal experiences—form the ego, the self-system named “I.”