Real Identity and False Identifications

Question: What is the 'false ego'? Does it mean that there is no ego whatsoever?

Answer: Ego means 'identity', or 'self', distinct from the world and other living beings. In other words, Ego means individuality. False ego means wrong identification; identification with something we are not. So, the ego is there, this is not deniable. But we have to know what our real identity is in order to distinguish between the ego, the real self, and the false ego, or wrong identifications. Only then we will be able to get rid of the materialistic, self-centered and false ego.

False, or materialistic ego is the identification with matter. It is very self-centered. The origin of the false ego is the desire to possess material things in order to enjoy them. In this way we start to identify ourselves with material values and we become conditioned by the three modes of material nature, namely goodness, passion and ignorance.

In this conditioned state the living entities struggle very hard for gaining material values, but as a matter of fact it cannot solve the real problems of life: birth, death, old age and disease. With this wrong idea of ego, we think that we are a product of material nature and therefore we are runnig after illusory sense enjoyment. So absorbed in bodily consciousness we cannot understand our real identity, situation and purpose. We do not have clear knowledge of the existence and nature of God.

Often impersonalistic philosophers say that everything is illusion, everything is one, and they want to dissolve the ego. But we cannot give up our ego, as it means 'identity'. What we have to give up is the false ego, the false identification with matter. The self is not the illusion, but the bodily concept of life is the illusion.

And the first step in the process of realizing our true identity, also called self-realization, is to learn that we are not this body. With this information immediately the questions arise: so who are we? what is our real identity? The answer to these questions can be found in authorized Vedic scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita: we are spirit souls. We are eternal, spiritual beings. But due to our material desires we had to take birth in the material world and we had to accept this material body. The Lord grants us a free will. So we are responsable for our actions and we decide whether we want to connect with the internal, spiritual energy of the Lord, or the external, material energy.

To purify our materialistic consciousness we have to become engaged in devotional service. By engaging in devotional service the original qualities of the self will become manifest. The Bhagavad Gita also tells us that we have to accept a spiritual master, a real representative of God, who is experienced in the science of self-realization and who can tell us how to serve God. Because that is something our mind cannot make up on its own account. In this way we will be able to give up our false identifications and start seeing our real nature, and the respective duties.

So you see, self-realization is a very scientific process. Due to our long misuse of the senses for sense gratification, we are confused by false identifications such as: my country, my house, my money, which make us forget our eternal relationship with the Lord. Sometimes persons even think they themselves have become God. Of course, that is very pleasing to their false ego, as they see themselves as the peak of all creation, having to bow down before nobody. But actually it is easy to see that it cannot be true: we are not able to maintain ourselves, nor anybody else. We are basically dependent on every apple and every corn of rice. We are parts and parcels of the Lord. Our relationship with the Lord is like the relationship of a father and his a son. The son has the same qualities as the father but they can never switch their identity.

The original existence or nature of living beings is eternal and full of joy and wisdom. We should never forget that. In this material world there are always anxieties and problems. But we do not belong here, because everything in this material world is temporal whereas we are eternal. So we should take this opportunity to get rid of false identifications and to become engaged in the loving service of the Lord by approaching those who are already engaged in His service.