There is no such thing as ‘ego death’
by Vic Shayne
The Self is a Belief: The idea that causes suffering
Freud popularized the notion of the ego, but when we use the phrases egoic self, the self, the center, the persona (Carl Jung), “me,” “I,” etc., we are referring to the sense of self that has been created by psychological conditioning. This idea of the egoic self is broader than the definition of the ego in the field of psychology, yet many psychologists — including Jung— have referred to it.
Our lifelong conditioning is created by myriad influences, including parents, culture, religion, leaders, peers, relatives, teachers, and authority figures who impress upon us notions of who we are. Such notions include our name, race, gender, family ties, associations, possessions, ideas, memories, convictions, and so on. All of these combine to create our sense of self, or who we take ourselves to be.
Jiddu Krishnamurti said,
“We are conditioned — physically, nervously, mentally — by the climate we live in and the food we eat, by the culture in which we live, by the whole of our social, religious and economic environment, by our experience, by education and by family pressures and influences. All these are the factors which condition us. Our conscious and unconscious responses to all the challenges of our environment — intellectual, emotional, outward and inward — all these are the action of conditioning. Language is conditioning; all thought is the action, the response of conditioning.”
None of our conditioned ideas or structures are permanent; they are instilled beliefs that are always changing, and yet something remains constant at the core of who we are. There is something that is ever-changing and ever-present. Only the most interested, energetic person will care to find out what this is, and when this is truly accomplished, then the ego will be seen for what it is — a belief, a shadow, an idea built out of an accretion of thoughts.
The egoic self is a strong belief that we are our bodies and all that is related to them, both physically as well as ideologically. Since the egoic self is no more than a belief, it does not truly exist in the same way that a mirage does not truly exist. It merely seems to exist, and it seems convincingly real, but upon very close observation and examination it has no substance other than thought. For this reason, the idea of ego death is not quite accurate, because the ego is not alive in the first place and therefore does not die. If the mind is completely still, this fact becomes evident.
When the egoic self is not in play, or in operation, then the true Self, which is unalloyed consciousness, is realized. This is what Buddha discovered after years of enquiry into the nature of the egoic self that causes suffering. It is also what many others have realized over the millennia. This realization may be referred to as an awakening, but this word is used erroneously these days by people who confuse it with an experience or a sense of wonder. To be awake is to realize what is without the encumbrance of the egoic self.