Few characteristics of human nature have been responsible for disturbing the social order and human stability and perhaps the most destructive characteristic of all is EGO or Haumey. Ego has been identified as being responsible for religious wars, national and geographical conflicts and for individual prejudices. Ego is the destructive extension of pride and begins where pride ends. Pride is known as “swaimaan” and ego is known as “swaiabhimaan”. While pride has some redeemable value in terms of motivation and self-actualization, ego has none.
WHAT IS EGO?
Ego is a concept, which emphasizes importance of self to such a degree where self becomes the center of a person’s universe and attention. It is gradual but progressive enlargement of self until the distinction between the self and the world becomes blurred and at its ultimate, the self becomes the world. This importance of self creates a vacuum between the self and others and the self considers itself higher than others. This distance becomes the cause of hatred and conflict, which ultimately drives a wedge among humans as well as between a human and the Supreme Being.
From our religious point of view, a self-centered person is known as “manmukh”, which indicates the state of man in which his self-will and animal propensities dominate as against the concept of “gurmukh”, a God-centered person who has achieved the highest level of consciousness. Ego or haumay is also equated with “maya”, where maya is an illusion, which significantly deviates from reality, and this illusion becomes a part of ego and the true purpose of life becomes totally distorted
. Guru Ji says that “in ego there is maya”.. Haun wich maya haun wich chaya. (AGGS – 466).
Since the evil side of man is the cause of all problems, it will be reasonable to justify haumey as evil. This evil is not beyond repair. The man is definitely capable of transcending this state of constitution and our Gurus clearly show us the path to transcend this evil imperfection.
PURPOSE OF LIFE
Since the dawn of time, mankind has been looking within to understand the meaning and purpose of life as is. The question that has always claimed our attention is whether life happened by chance as a part of evolution when the right mixture of life sustaining elements such as air, water, hospitable environment and so on emerged as a biological
process, so that we are born, spend time on earth and then die as an end to the process or whether the life came into being as a part of spiritual process initiated by God Himself when He created the universe and created man in His own image for the specific purpose of eventual unification with Him. Whatever the evolutionary theorists or religious promoters believe in and whatever the purpose of life may be, one thing is definite and that is that we all want to have a peaceful life, a stable society, mental satisfaction and spiritual enhancement. All religions have suggested various ways to achieve these goals and practically all the routes suggested are through spiritual understanding of our being. Some religions have emphasized rewards for good behavior (heaven) and punishment for bad behavior (hell) and invariably good behavior is linked with love for God and acceptance of His Will. Some religions have introduced the concept of soul, which will merge with God (Atma merging into Parmatma) for good behavior and reincarnation into various forms of life and consequent suffering for bad behavior. In this approach also, good and bad behaviors are defined in terms of guidelines set by such religions.
The Sikh religion emphasizes our goal of life to be eventua
l immersion with God, the Infinite to avoid coming into the cycle of life and death, such cycle consisting of four categories. These categories being; (1) life through eggs as for birds, (2) life through the body of the female, as for all mammals, (3) life of plants coming out of earth, and (4) life of bacteria and viruses self generated through sweat and filth. All these categories are considered to be the life of suffering and hence the need for getting out of this cycle and be one with God for eternal happiness and no suffering. It is debatable whether the goal is merging with God, which can only be achieved by being a good person or whether the goal is being a good person, which can easily be achieved by being a God-fearing person. Whatever the case may be, being a good person is necessary irrespective of whether it is a goal or a path to the goal.
THE FIVE EVILS
Our Gurus enumerate five principle classes of vices. These are: Kaam (Lust), Krodh (Anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Obsessive attachment), and Haumey (Ego). All these evils generate negative energy and are detrimental to goodness and decency. All of these evils when taken to excess influence deterioration of body and mind and take us farther away from the direction of our purpose of life. No matter what measure we use, the ultimate goal of life is decent and truthful living. (Sachohn ohrey sabh ko upper sach achar). It must be understood that while all evils hinder the spiritual growth of the individual, it is the fifth evil, namely, Haumey, which is the most problematic and the first four evils can also be considered as aggressive manifestations of Haumey which results in the inability of man to see others as his equals and to consider the other’s point of view with understanding and respect Our Guru Ji has brandished these evils as five thieves and thieves only take away what is dear to us. “Is dehi maiin panch chor basae, Kam, Krodh, Lobh, Moh, Ahankar”. A true Sikh asks the blessings of Waheguru in getting rid of these vice
s. “Kam Krodh, aur Lobh, Moh, binas jae ahamev”. God I seek thy protection: dispel lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego. Guru Ji further states that these thieves can be disarmed by the blessings of the Guru. ( Nihathey punj jawan main Gur thapi diti kand jeon and Panjey badhey mahabali kar sacha dhoa)…. I had stated earlier that the first four vices have some redeemable value and are necessary to some degree to lead a practical and normal life and our religion recognizes that aspect, Only in excess, these vices become destructive. It will be useful to comment briefly on these vices and deal with ego in more detail.
1. Kaam (Lust). Kaam is sometimes equated with sex. It is not. It is the lust, which is
obsession and addiction to sex. Sex itself is a healthy activity and our religion promotes sex between husband and wife in a loving and bonding relationship.(Sagal dharma mehn garihast pradhan . ” Aurat Iman” a statement attributed to Guru Hargobind Ji testifies to the importance of closeness with one’s wife, and this closeness is nothing less than a spiritual bondage. Ek jyot doey murti is a testimony to merger of the two. While sex within the domain of marriage is condoned by our religion, sex outside of marriage is condemned for that constitutes lust and it disrupts the social and moral order. Our Guru Jis are very explicit about their disapproval of lust for it takes us away not only from the stability of our family life but also away from Godliness. Guru Ji says; Bin pir purakh nan janey ---(AGGS 54) and again Ghar ki naar tiyagey andha par naari seon ghaley dhanda (AGGS 1164). Such lust is detrimental to our health. Accordingly the difference between kaam as unbridled lust and kaam as <admin-profanity filter activated> energy must be understood and acknowledged.
2. Krodh (Anger).. Anger at its extreme is a sure sign of insecurity and may be a function of inferiority complex. It is one of the manifestations of ego in the sense that when you get angry with some one it is to ex
press your superiority over him. It is a reflection of your assessment about yourself as bigger, more powerful, more knowledgeable and so on because you can only get angry with some one who is not up to your expectations. Anger is one of the causes of tension which quite often results in heart attacks and strokes and hence the saying “anger kills”. Anger control and anger management are the buzzwords of today’s organizational environments and hence extreme and continuous anger must be controlled and eliminated.
Occasional anger to some degree is essential for today’s practical living and interaction with misbehavior. When a child misbehaves anger is a remedy to teach him that bad behavior gets punished. Anger against injustice has been a corner stone of Sikh martiality.
3. Lobh ( Greed). Greed is just one sense of a person’s personal possessions in
conflict with the interests of others. It is an obsession with collecting materials and hoarding money. Greed is not associated with honest earnings, no matter how much it may be but with the total obsession with it whatever the cost or consequences. Money and material things are necessary for a comfortable living and must be a focus of working hard. With honest earnings we can enjoy all the comforts and amenities of life. “Moti taan mandir usreyh ratni taan hoey jarao”… The only condition is that in this process, we do not forget God the Giver of all these benefits. “Mat dekh bhula veesreyh tera chit naan away naon”. Since being greedy and having God’s naam in our mind continuously are not compatible with each other, greed is inconsistent with our religious teachings. It is for this reason our Gurus have advised us to understand that greed is a spiritually destructive and socially disruptive force. “Lalach chodeh andhio lalach dukh bhari”… (AGGS 419). “Labb vinahey mansa jeon pani boor”.. (AGGS 967). “Lab andhear bandikhana augun pair luhari”.. (AGGS 1191). “Lobhi ka visah naan keejey jeka paar vasaey”.. (AGGS 1417).
4. Moh (Excessive at
tachment). Moh defines attachment with materials or people to
such a degree that they become “mine” rather than a gift from God . Even knowing that we came into this world naked and we will leave this world naked and during our life time we simply play with the toys we are given to play with, we still cling to what we believe belongs to us and the attachment becomes so deep that we become miserable when we lose some of our possessions. Even though “moh” or simply attachment is God created and without it human beings and even animals cannot survive such as a mother’s love for her child so that this moh is necessary to some degree and hence not evil. A true believer knows that every thing is God created and exists as per His Will and accepts the situation with grace. He says: “Mera mujh main kuch nahin jo kuch hai so tera, tera tujh ko saumptey kia lagey mera”. What a “mohi” does not understand is that God’s Will is superior to our will and it is with His grace that we enjoy the amenities of life and if He takes away some or all of the amenities, we are helpless. “Ek bhi naan deh das bhi chin ley tau morra kah kia karey”.
It is with this thought in mind that Guru Ji advises us not to be attached with material things, which are transitory and be attached to God who is permanent. Material things can break or be stolen and a loved one can die, but God is ever existing. Then why not be attached to God who will always be there. In this respect Guru Ji says: “Moh aur bharam tajoh tum bir, saach naam rideh ravey sarir. Ait moh duba sansar, Gurmukh koi utrey paar”.. (AGGS 356) Again: “Jeta moh preet suad, sabha kalakh dagha dagh. Daagh dos moh chalia lai dargeh baisan nahin jaey”. (AGGS 662).
5. Hankaar/Haumey (Ego). As has been stated earlier. Ego or Haumey has no
redeemable value and is a reflection of acute insecurity. On the other hand “pride” is an estimation and proclamation of self-achievement, self-esteem and self-actualization. It does not reflect any complex of supe
riority over others which ego does. When I say that I am proud to be a Sikh, it is a sense of pride and a conscious expression of identification with a proud community and does not disrespect members of other communities. An individual enjoys the respect and confidence of others simply by virtue of his being a member of such a respectable community. Such pride is justified and spiritually acceptable. It is only when this pride enters the domain of ego that humility and respectability vanish and negative forces take over.
Gurbani is very clear about the ill effects of ego on the egotist in particular and on society in general. Ego is equated with serious and severe illness and in order to get well, this illness has to be removed from its roots. Guru Ji has clearly identified ego as a “deeragh rog”. Haumey deeragh rog hai…(AGGS 466) and Haumey rog mahan dukh laga…. (AGGS 906). Just as a serious physical illness disrupts the normal living pattern, similarly, ego, as a severe mental disease disrupts the orderly, decent and ethical living. “Jab eh man menh karat gumana, tab eh bawar phirat bigana” (AGGS 235. Similarly Guru Ji says, “Man antar haumey rog hai, bharam bhulay manmukh durjaney”. (AGGS 301). Ego is the disease of the mind.
Gurbani has further made it clear that being a good human being and being an egotist are not compatible with each other. In fact, even if you are a very good person, all this
goodness has no value if such goodness is tainted with ego, especially if you have ego about your goodness. “Teerath barat ar daan kar, man men dharey guman, Nanak nehfal jaat hay jeon kunchar isnan”. (AGGS 1428). Guru Arjan says “Chatar siana sughar soi jin tajya abhiman” (AGGS 298). Not only is the person who has killed ego is wise but also mentally and spiritually healthy. “Khudi miti tab such bhaiey, man tan bhaiy arog” (AGGS 260). Guru Arjan Dev Ji gave so much importance to humility that he declared any one who killed haumey as the greatest soldier and defender of dece
ncy in the entire world. “Nanak so sura waryam jin wichon dushat ahankar maria” (AGGS 104).
Having discovered and diagnosed the disease, the pertinent question now is how this haumey can be eliminated? Gurbani has suggested three ways, each way culminating in replacing ego with the “non-ego”
First, Gurbani says that the cure lies within the disease. “Haumey deeragh rog hai, daru bhi is mahen” (AGGS 466). The main emphasis is on how to evolve one’s self to transcend the ego. When a person looks critically at haumey and how it destroys the self, who is a part of God, he learns to transcend from self-centeredness to God-centeredness and to identify his individual consciousness with the cosmic consciousness. We further observe a number of situations where “ ego hath a fall”. When such a fall occurs, the person suddenly wakes up and changes his behavior.
The second route to eliminating ego is to understand the benefits of humility. Egotists are never humble and truly humble people are not egotistical. Guru Arjan Ji states that more humble a person is, the higher is his status. “Aapus ko jo janey neecha, sou ganiey subh tey uncha” (AGGS 266). Similarly Guru Nanak Ji says, “Jeh lorey changa apna, kar punuh neech sadaiey”. (AGGS 465). Accordingly, humility breeds respect and decency and slowly destroys ego.
The third route to get rid of ego is to find the enemy of ego and make this enemy as your friend. This is true in practical life also. Suppose that you have a friend who has become a nuisance and you want to get rid of him and in a manner, which is not rude and hostile. You find out as to who is the enemy of your friend and make this enemy as your friend and invite him to your house on a regular basis. When your first friend hears about it, he will not come to your house because he will not sit next to his enemy in your house. Now we have to find the enemy of ego so that we can befriend this enemy to get rid of the ego. We do not have to look far for this enemy. Guru Ji has already
found it for us. The enemy of ego is NAAM. “Haumey nanwey naal virodh hai, doey nan wassey ik thaen”, (AGGS 560). The more we become friends with Naam, the less we will see ego, until it completely disappears. Once Naam becomes completely integrated within our life and mind, the door for ego to enter will be permanently closed. The presence of Naam in our hearts is the presence of God and God does not like ego. “Har jeo ahankaar na bhaviey ved kook sunavey”…. War Maru Mahala 3.
As has been explained, ego is not to be embraced, because God does not approve of it and Guru Ji explains that the person with humility is higher than all others and a person with ego is lower than all others. But what, if any, is the practical advantage to us in our worldly living if we get rid of ego. Yes, there is a realistic and practical benefit.
One thing that we all desire, above all, is respect and appreciation by others, even behind our back. No matter how high we are in financial and social status, we are not happy if others have a poor opinion of us. Guru Arjan Ji specifies that if we want praise from others, which we do, and then we must get rid of ego and keep company of good people. “Jey ko apni sobha lorey, sadh sang eh haumey chhorey”.
Let us pledge with our mind and soul today, that such destructive forces as ego will not be allowed to enter our mind and it will not enter our mind if our mind is already filled with Naam and there is absolutely no room left for ego to enter and settle in.