Will-Power versus Ego

By Rudra Shivananda

There is frequently a confusion among spiritual students about the role of the ego. Although there is an understanding that it is detrimental for spiritual growth, many believe that a strong ego is necessary to live successfully in this material world. They are therefore torn between the weakening of the ego from their spiritual practice and the fear that without the ego, they will be unable to support a family or even themselves. Such an internal conflict is due to the confusion between will and ego.

A strong will and the determination towards an objective is necessary for success in any endeavor. A strong ego can actually undermine the success and lead to disaster and failure. We can understand this be differentiating between the ego [ahamkara or I-maker] from the will power [iccha Shakti].

Ego drives a person to become defensive, to protect the self-image and leads to stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise or listen to constructive advice and feedback. Such a closed attitude eventually causes a breakdown and failure due to a divergence between the ego-centric worldview and the consensus reality – the “ego-reality gap”. We can see this time and time again when a leader’s initial success is transformed into later failure.

Will on the other hand is driven by vision and the power of higher consciousness. It leads to enthusiasm and determination to succeed in the manifestation of the vision. However, there is an open-ness and willingness to work with others, changing cherished plans for the sake of the goal. The ego would rather sabotage a project rather than share the credit or admit any limitations, whereas a strong leader will encourage everyone for the sake of the shared objective.

A strong leader is motivating, tolerant and helpful. An egotistical leader is fearful of others, putting them down at every opportunity, vengeful for minor hurts and rules by fear.

The problems of the world, whether between countries , between co-workers or between family members are all caused by the collision of egos and can be overcome by the strength and will that is driven by higher consciousness instead.

For the spiritual students, their spiritual practice will purify their minds and weaken the ego. This allows higher consciousness to awaken and strengthen their will power. This will power is what should be developed in order to persevere in their practice as well as succeed in the more material concerns of a householder life.

Vigilance and awareness is necessary to differentiate between our ego-centric thoughts, words and speech and those powered by will-power. We should observe for any interference from the ego and overcome them by centering ourselves in higher consciousness.

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