The Truth Of Ego (and Surrender) – Pujya Swamiji Dayananda


Ego is that which owns up to any type of activity. For example, when I see, I say ‘This is my sight.’ The one who owns up to the activity of seeing, the one who is the subject behind the seeing or behind hearing, tasting, smelling, thinking, or doing anything, is what is meant by the kartaa or the ego or ahankaara.

To say that one should surrender one’s ego to the Lord is a very common statement that is much too simplistic in terms of understanding what is meant by surrender. First of all, I do not know who or what the Lord is. And why should I surrender the only ego that I have to this Lord? As it is, I have only a few things and these things are owned by this ego. If I surrender it to the Lord, what will I get in return? ‘Everything,’ I am told.

The question that would arise would be, ‘If the ego is already surrendered, who will get everything?’ Once I have surrendered my ego, I become totally decimated. Then who is there to get anything out of that surrender? Nobody. Therefore, that type of surrender is useless. Also, the next question is ‘Who is surrendering the ego?’ Somebody has to do the surrendering. It is the ego that has to surrender itself. And that is not possible. Again, if I am wearing a coat, I can surrender the coat. I can hang it somewhere or put it on someone’s shoulders. Also, when I am the owner of the coat, it is easy to surrender it. If I am not the owner of the coat, I can ask you to take it, but I cannot surrender it because it does not belong to me.

Similarly, I am told that the ahankaara, the ego, belongs to the Lord and that I must surrender it. How can I surrender what does not belong to me? I can only surrender what belongs to me. And if it belongs to the Lord, how is it that I do not know this? In fact, I think that everything belongs to me, including the Lord. Why else would I address him as ‘My Lord’? To address the Lord, I must be there; because I am here, he is the Lord. If I am not here, where is the Lord? He is the Lord because I call him ‘Lord’!

And if there is a Lord, and this Lord includes everything, then I have nothing to surrender. I have only to know. Furthermore, if I have to surrender to a Lord who is separate from me, then I am the ego. Who, then, is to surrender this ego? The ego alone has to surrender. How can the ego surrender? The one who surrenders is the ego. And being the one who surrenders, the ego can only surrender what it owns. The owner cannot be surrendered. If the ego has to surrender to the Lord, something else must be there to surrender it, which can only be another ego because whoever owns up to the act of surrender is the ego. The ego requires an ego which requires yet another ego! Thus, we find ourselves in infinite regression. How, then, are we going to surrender our ego to the Lord?


Surrender is an attitude, a mature attitude. There is no other surrender than this. Surrender as such is not possible for the ego because it cannot surrender itself. But, with an attitude of surrender, I can deflate the ego. I can appreciate that there is nothing in this creation that is authored by me, that everything is given to me, including my physical body, mind, and senses. What is given to me is not mine. When I say, ‘I am just a trustee, O Lord, and you are the giver,’ the ego is what tells me all this. Thus, surrender can be only in terms of attitude.

Then how does one get rid of samsaara? Only by getting rid of the ego, the karta. And, if surrender is not possible, how does one get rid of the ego? In the name of getting rid of everything else, the ego remains in one form or the other because it cannot get rid of itself. It remains to say things like, ‘I am the most charitable person around.’ Even a person who does not talk about his or her good actions, may think of himself or herself as a humble person and say, ‘I never mention all of the charities I have done. I don’t boast about them. Ask anyone and they will tell you that this is so.’ The ego knows very well how to sustain and perpetuate itself in so many ways.

Because the ego, the karta, is always there in one form or the other, it cannot be defeated — except by the one who undertakes an inquiry into ‘Who am I.’ A person can study every philosophy there is and the ego will remain, saying, ‘I am a philosopher.’ Only when the question, ‘Who am I,’ is asked, is the ego in trouble. Why? Because the ego, the kartaa, is really an impostor, a superimposition. There is no kartrtva, no doership, in fact, because it is mithyaa, dependent on aatmaa.


When the truth of oneself is recognised, the ego does not go, strictly speaking. Rather, this recognition is what makes one see the ego as mithyaa (that which has no independent reality of its own). The ‘going’ of the ego, then, is purely in terms of negation, baadhaa, or destruction, naasha, by knowledge. The word ‘destruction’ is generally used in a physical sense, such as destroying an object so that it no longer exists in that form. Here, destruction of the ego is purely in terms of negation, baadhaa.

Negation by knowledge occurs when an object is there, but its reality is taken away. For example, you can enjoy the blue sky and, at the same time, knowing that the sky is not really blue, dismiss its blueness. Or, enjoying a movie, you can dismiss its reality. A child, on the other hand, cannot dismiss the movie as unreal because, for the child, the elephants, tigers, and everything in the movie are real. The child may even cry, not knowing that the objects and situations in the movie are only appearances and therefore, mithyaa. Until the child knows the movie is mithyaa, the movie will remain real. This knowing comes by negation, baadhaa, understanding an object or situation and removing the reality of it.

Similarly, the ego is not removed, but the fact that it has no independent existence is understood. And what does the ego that everyone has, depend upon? What is it that exists independently without depending on the ego upon which everything else depends? The ego depends for its existence on the self, which is not the ego. Therefore, the self is the truth of every ego.

There is one truth for every ego and everything that is done by the ego, and that truth, satya, is called aatm¡aa or the self. The self is the very content of the ego, without which there is no ego. This one satya, aatmaa, is not the ego and is akartaa. Then who is the kartaa? The ego alone is the kartaa.

To be a kartaa, you must have thought and this thought has its being in ‘I,’ consciousness. Therefore, you say, ‘I am the doer.’ Doership itself is a thought centred on ‘I.’ What is to be understood here is that while thought is centred on ‘I,’ ‘I’ itself is not centred on thought. Recognition of this fact is not the elimination or removal of thought. It is understanding — understanding the truth of ‘I.’

Om Tat Sat