Guru Granth Sahib on ego

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Ego, which in Punjabi is referred to as Ahankar, represents the feeling of excessive pride or acute self-importance. An individual may feel excessively proud due to many things - an enormous number of worldly possessions, outstanding personal beauty or an attractive physical appearance, personal talents, material wealth, mental intelligence, superior spirituality, authoritative powers, great charity work, etc. The limit of what can give one a sense of "excessive pride" is almost without end; there are so many things which can give one an "ego-shot".

A person can come to feel that there are some qualities that make him or her superior to others; thus rendering "others", who are therefore at a lower worldly level, inferior to him or her. This can lead to an elevated ego on the one hand or if you see yourself as a "loser" in this 'game of ego', jealousy may play an important part in your life. Feelings of enmity and restlessness amongst people due to this 'perceived sense of achievement' can lead to friction and sadness. This is the play of maya; we are all subject to its lasting illusion.

Ground rules

Sikhism requires that a person serves society and community with Nimrata or humility; and that this "Nimrata" or sense of "service to God" is obtained with dedication to Sewa and Simran. When one accepts ones life as a gift from the Creator, Lord and views the continuous nourishment and survival of the body as God's blessing, the sense of 'Nimrata' takes hold. When one thinks that he or she has "everything" in their control, that is where ego begins to creep in and take hold. 'Human life' is to be regarded as a blessing from the Almighty and one needs to make the most of this 'rare event'.

Individuals who live by the Sikh code of conduct, will practise Sewa whenever possible; devotees will clean the footwear of the Sangat (congregation) or visitors to the Gurdwara; they will wash the dishes in the Langar; they will clean the floors of the Gurdwara, etc - this will result in the mind of the devout Sikh becoming more humble and able to accept the Hukam of the Lord.

Ego is a "cardinal sin"

Ego as a 'Cardinal Evil' is often regarded by Sikhs as the worst of the five evils. Pride makes human beings believe that they are more important than others. It makes them treat others badly and unequally, leading to injustice. Pride makes human beings take personal credit for the successes, good qualities, wealth and talents that they have.

It makes them forget that God is responsible for many things and this ego leads them away from reunion with Waheguru. Pride leads to Haumai because it makes people believe that they are the most important thing in life and leads to self-centredness.

Everyone is subject to His Command:

The Guru Granth Sahib speaks against Ego and Ahankar telling us:

ਹੁਕਮੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਹੁਕਮ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੁਕਮੈ ਜੇ ਬੁਝੈ ਤ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਹੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੨॥
Hukmai anḝar sabẖ ko bĝhar hukam na ko▫e. Nĝnak hukmai je bujẖai ṯa ha▫umai kahai na ko▫e. (2)
Everyone is subject to His Command; no one is beyond His Command. O Nanak, one who understands His Command, does not speak in ego. (2)

Right at the beginning of the holy Granth, the Guru tells us in Japji sahib, the first Bani of the sacred Granth, that we are all subject to the Lord's command or Hukam; You may be sailing high, with lots of success in your life, but if your actions do not please the Lord, bang! you will fall down; all will be lost. So, when you have success, remember the blessings of the Lord; don't think it is down to you alone! Obviously, one's efforts do play a part in one's success but we always overlook the contribution of others, of fate and of the good fortune to be born in a certain family or in a certain area of the world! So always remember that the "Will of the Lord" or "Hukam of Waheguru" is the most important thing in life; follow His way of righteousness and then you will never go astray. When you accept the Hukam, you will not have any "Ahankar" or Ego.

Ego pollutes the Manmukh

ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੈਲੇ ਮਲੁ ਭਰੇ ਹਉਮੈ ਤੁਰਿਸਨਾ ਵਿਕਾਲੁ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਸਬਦੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਉਤਰੈ ਮਰਿ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਹੋਇ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥ ਧਾਤੁਰ ਬਾਜੀ ਪਲਚਿ ਰਹੇ ਨਾ ਉਰਵਾਰੁ ਨ ਪਾਰੁ ॥੩॥
Manmukẖ maile mal bẖare ha▫umai ṯarisnĝ vikĝr. Bin sabḝai mail na uṯrai mar jamėh ho▫e kẖu▫ĝr. Ḏẖĝṯur bĝjī palacẖ rahe nĝ urvĝr na pĝr. (3)
The self-willed manmukhs are polluted. They are filled with the pollution of egotism, wickedness and desire.

Without the Shabad, this pollution is not washed off; through the cycle of death and rebirth, they waste away in misery. Engrossed in this transitory drama, they are not at home in either this world or the next. (3)

The person who does not wish to rely on spiritual beings and the Guru is a Manmukh - a Self-Centred, ego-centric soul. Because of the lack of spiritual wisdom, this self-centred ego centric is polluted with ego, wickedness and burdened with uncontrolled desires. The Guru says that without the Shabad or God-driven inspiration, this filth of egotism, crookedness of thought and desires will not be removed from the mind; resulting in the person remaining in a state of misery in a continuous cycle of births and deaths.

When there is ego, there is no God

ਜਬ ਹਮ ਹੋਤੇ ਤਬ ਤੂ ਨਾਹੀ ਅਬ ਤੂਹੀ ਮੈ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਅਨਲ ਅਗਮ ਜੈਸੇ ਲਹਰਿ ਮਇ ਓਦਧਿ ਜਲ ਕੇਵਲ ਜਲ ਮਾਂਹੀ ॥੧॥
Jab ham hoṯe ṯab ṯū nĝhī ab ṯūhī mai nĝhī. Anal agam jaise lahar ma▫i oḝaḝẖ jal keval jal mĝʼnhī. (1)
When I am in my ego, then You are not with me. Now that You are with me, there is no egotism within me.

The wind may raise up huge waves in the vast ocean, but they are just water in water. (1)

When there is ego, there is no God, when there is God, there is no ego! So if you need to be near God, do not have ego in your mind. Remember it is only with His blessings that you achieve anything in this world! Discard ego and accept the Hukam of the Lord and live a life of spirituality and correctness - Surely this will lead to eventual happiness and salvation.

See also

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