The default standpoint for almost the entire human race is that of the ego. There are tribal societies that try to reduce the predominance of the ego through a collective mindset, but even in such societies, pride, rivalry for dominance, and other forms of ego persist. In the West, a premium is placed on the development of the ego and the individual personality. People are taught to compete, to win against others at just about any cost, to succeed in the self-aggrandising process in whatever field of endeavour one finds oneself. Consumers are taught to compare their status with that of their neighbors to create even a competition in the signs of affluent consumption.

On an individual and more subtle level, whether one accepts the outer signs of success or not, there is a constant dialogue internally about how one ‘measures up’ and there is ambition, as well as self-doubt and in some cases self-loathing that arises from what the individual perceives to be an inability to conform to expectations or to meet the demands of the society in terms of climbing the ladder of success. These, too, are evidence of ego-domination of the standpoint.

Yet the spiritual scriptures ask us to go beyond the strict limits of the ego, and to care for others as if they were ourselves, to ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you’ and we are called upon to exhibit compassion, good will and various forms of self-sacrifice in the interest of the needs of either a greater unity, such as the family, the community, the society, or the religion (each of which represents simply a larger egoism), or in some rare instances, to loosen the grip of the ego itself to move into a more universal status of consciousness.

From time to time, individuals experience a sudden opening to a vast universal awareness, unbound by the body, the life energy or the mind, untethered from the ego-personality, and they feel liberated from their ego. Generally these moments are transitory in nature, but with a dedicated sadhana, they can be made more and more predominant until the ego focus disappears. This does not mean that the individual personality does not exist any longer, as some have held; rather, the individual is seen as a nexus of energy within a larger nexus and framework, and energy flows to and from this nexus without particular reactions of self-aggrandisement or self-dealing or pride.

Dr. Dalal writes: “(g) A fundamental characteristic of the normal consciousness is its sense of being a separate self or ego, that is, of being an individual who exists apart from the rest of the universe. On the other hand, the greater consciousness , as described by those who have attained it permanently or experienced it momentarily, is unitary, universal and transpersonal, devoid of separation and division.”

Sri Aurobindo continues: “… the limits of ego, personal mind and body disappear and one becomes aware of a cosmic vastness…. It is not that the ego, the body, the personal mind disappear, but one feels them as only a small part of oneself. One begins to feel others too as part of oneself or varied repetitions of oneself, the same self modified by Nature in other bodies.”

Dr. Dalal proceeds:: “Some have spoken of even a still higher state of consciousness, transcending cosmic consciousness, describing it in terms such as these”, as described by Sri Aurobindo in The Life Divine: “… on the other side of the cosmic consciousness there is, attainable to us, a consciousness yet more transcendent, — transcendent not only of the ego, but of the Cosmos itself, — against which the universe seems to stand out like a petty picture against an immeasurable background.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Introduction, pp. ix-x

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 17 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.