Why do we have ego? I have been pondering this question for a long time.
In my previous writings I have mentioned that ego is a necessary stage in the journey of the soul but I am not really satisfied with this answer.
There are other answers that focus on the functional aspects of ego. First and foremost is the “doer” aspect. Ego is the driving force in our lives. Without ego we could not accomplish anything. Another aspect often mentioned is ego being the source of most desires. Even the desire to have spiritual enlightenment originates from ego. There are many other functional dimensions of ego. It is also clearly evident that all the cruelty in the world originate from ego. Anger originates from ego. The root cause of all suffering is ego. The list goes on, but none of these observations answers the “why” question.
It is not easy to answer the “why” questions. Let me turn the “why” question into a “what” question?
What is the original cause of ego?
I don’t have a good answer for this question either but I recently had a glimpse* experience that gave me a new insight.
I was walking in Bryant Park on a perfect spring day. I was not thinking about anything. Suddenly, I received a glimpse. It occurred to me that the original cause of ego was the desire “to be loved.” Soul wanted to be loved and invented ego as a mechanism to experience the feeling of being loved.
I suppose most people think that the desire “to be loved” originates from ego because most desires originate from ego. The glimpse showed me that the desire “to be loved” originates from the soul. This is a different perspective.
The desire to be loved is not an egoic desire. On the contrary, this fundamental need “to be loved” is related to the original desire at the cosmic level. Cosmic Soul (Parama Purusha, Cosmic Consciousness) has a single desire: to love. As part of the Cosmic Drama (Liila) when the Divine Transformation starts and the Cosmic Soul is reflected in infinite number of individual souls the reflection of the singular cosmic desire “to love” appears as “to be loved” in the mirror of the individual soul.
“To love” is active, “to be loved” is passive. This implies that the Cosmic Soul is active and the individual soul is passive at the most fundamental level. Individual soul counters its fundamental passiveness by inventing ego. Individual soul becomes active through ego.
Ego is the doer and therefore active by nature. There is a fundamental conflict here. Ego was designed to enable the experience of being loved but it cannot fulfill its raison d’être because its active nature conflicts with the passiveness of being loved. Because of this conflict complications arise as ego develops. Eventually at the height of its development, ego completely blocks the light of the soul and seeks happiness in the form of ego gratification.
Fundamentally, ego cannot enable the feeling of being loved because ego is active by nature. But, ego can learn “to love” because “to love” is active. This way, ego can emulate the Cosmic Soul. Only guaranteed way to experience the feeling of being loved is to love.
* A “glimpse” is an intuitive experience that happens in a brief moment of clarity when we have tranquility of mind.