On the Nature of Ego & Desire

It often starts with the looks. My innocent, credulous eyes merely relay those visual signals to the mind. The mind is where it all takes shape. In that soup of irrational instincts and natural tendencies of inexplicable origin, the eyes feed yet another instance of perception. How this finite, temporal and physical signal from my material existence gets transformed by the mind, I don’t quite understand, yet it does. The soup in the cauldron has it’s ways. It wants to form an opinion of every perception fed into it, to assign an adjective to every experience. The rational, analytical intellect is often a detached attendant of this whole marvel of chaos. Rationality concludes that chaos is unpredictable, and unpredictability is dangerous. Hence the intellect calmly stands on the side. The mind seldom nudges the intellect to help form an opinion. When it does, the intellect classifies and analyses the signals with it’s lenses of past experiences, knowledge, and rationality. It even tries to correct the mind’s question to “should I form an opinion” but the mind ignores. It instead reminds the intellect, that its suggestions are mere recommendations, and ultimately the mind is what reigns supreme. The opinion is formed. The looks are ‘beautiful’. The experience – pleasurable. The same sequence of opinion forming is repeated with that whiff of the ‘perfect’ aroma, that ‘magical’ touch, that ‘amazing’ sound and that ‘awesome’ taste.

The mind forms opinions and reacts to the ingredients fed into it. The likes and dislikes of this mind-soup are guided often by my tendencies, and seldom by my intellect. It similarly classifies experiences as pleasurable or painful. I do not believe my mind has any long term designs or wants. It merely forms an opinion about the experience, experiences it, and forgets. If the soup in the cauldron is my mind, the cauldron itself, is my ego. Every experience leaves an imprint on the ego. The cauldron, unlike the mind, comes with a sense of entitlement. It believes it is ‘special’ and craves for experiences of a certain kind. In its exclusionary nature, it considers itself as distinct and unique from the billions of other cauldrons. It creates an illusory vision of My Self – My identity as a person, My life as I’d like to shape it and My experiences that I’d like to go through in the journey.

This Me cauldron assigns a value to every experience and attempts to maximize it’s own value using the imprints from experiences it sees valuable. In trying to achieve it’s goal, the cauldron gives birth to desire – the craving for value-maximization as perceived by itself. In a stable system where inert senses relay signals, which the mind experiences and forgets, and the intellect observes and records for future, these desires from my ego, act as a potent destabilizing mix secreted by the cauldron. For my mind, it clouds my experiences by assigning an illusory value to each ingredient, and forcing it to experience ingredients differently – based on their value. The natural tendencies and instincts of the mind are not always in sync with the value-system of my ego, which often creates a conflict. The mind instead of purely experiencing any experience thrown at it, attempts to maximize desire-fulfillment from experiences stack-ranked by their value. Similarly, it distracts the intellect from its goal of directing actions aimed at observing and learning; using it instead to plan, design and scheme new ways of value-maximization. It even influences negatively, the unbiased recommendations, that my intellect would otherwise have provided my mind.

If the desires are not satiated and there’s a value deficiency in the system, the Ego-cauldron overheats in reaction. My mind gets agitated and the resulting fumes further cloud my intellect. The mind experiences emotions like Anger, Frustration and Desperation, relying lesser and lesser on the intellect. If the desires are satiated, but the intellect concludes that their long-term availability is at risk, my mind experiences Fear and Stress. My intellect, preoccupied with how to keep the desire supply lines safe, is unable to provide any assistance to the mind. If I loose the objects of desire after having experienced them, the mind experiences Loss and Depression. Since the soup and the attendant are often forced to behave contradictory to their true nature, it also brings with it Guilt and Shame. The attendant or the soup try to shut down the system by forcibly rejecting any new ingredients. It doesn’t work though, since it is against the nature of the mind to reject perceptions and for the intellect to refuse their analysis. It instead promotes more agitation. If the cauldron is broken, both the soup and the attendant have no purpose, hence they are seemingly slaves to the cauldron’s commands.

However, the external world that feeds the ingredients to the soup, is not enslaved. It keeps throwing newer and newer ingredients in the cauldron, that may or may not be conducive to it’s current state. This constant stream of fresh ingredients into the soup, ensures that the cauldron always has newer cravings to make this corruption of the soup and the attendant, a permanent self-deprecating cycle. It also makes an otherwise independent system in near equilibrium, to become dependent – not only on the ego but also the external world and it’s whims. Having lost the ability to experience without being drugged by desire, and to analyze impartially without selfish-motive, I find myself dependent, burdened, and crushed between the world and my self. With a putrid soup and an attendant dazed with its fumes, I don’t believe any one of the three has a peaceful future.

Experiences or actions are definitely not the cause of my predicament. It is ego I believe, with it’s means of using its desire-fulfillment-rating as a measure and definition of itself, that binds and confines me. One of the most interesting outcomes however, of this introspection of my bondage stemming from my ego, has been the revelation that true confidence, fearlessness and freedom, are in fact by products of a subdued ego and not an elevated one. In a mind that merely forms opinions and experiences things predicated by its nature, and a clear intellect that learns and recommends, there is no room for doubt or fear, since there is no desire-driven purpose of the opinions of the mind and analysis of the intellect. They act or react without corruption or malaise. If I can feel jealous of someone the time I’m defeated by them (because jealousy is intrinsic to my tendencies), and yet have no grudges or ill-will in my next encounter, it would be a sign that my ego is subdued. If I can be strong enough to accurately note that someone who hurt me once can hurt me again, and be rationally suspicious but not emotionally vengeful in our next encounter, I believe I’d have subdued my ego.

It is interesting that EGO, when spelled in reverse is a close homophone of yogi, defined as a practitioner of yoga. Since Yoga is truly aimed at training the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility, a Yogi is essentially a practitioner of the art of subduing the ego.

4 Responses to “On the Nature of Ego & Desire”

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