Dear Sri Sri, what is the purpose of ego? It seems like all the negative qualities that make us miserable can be ascribed to that layer of existence. Does it have positive aspects as well?
Yes, ego has positive aspects. Who says it is all negative?
The positive aspect is that it can come with a challenge, a determination, and a will to act.
All actions that are challenging, that need determination and passion are done by ego.
There can be an ego which is all inclusive; ‘everyone belongs to me’ - that’s an ego too.
And, ‘only I am good’, is an ego too but that is not too good an ego.
So there are different ways to look at ego.
If you give the definition for ego as, ‘lack of naturalness’, or as, ‘a wall between you and the other’, then it is something that you need to get rid of. It is like the covering on the seed that is essential till the seed sprouts, and once the seed sprouts, the covering or the membrane around the seed gives way for the seed to sprout. Like that, the ego comes up by the age of three and stays till you become mature. You move on from adolescence to an adult, till then it protects you. Then it slowly gives way to being a more broad minded, broad hearted, large hearted, universal identity.
The other type of ego is just the identity. Then you need the identity.
All these identities, ‘I belong to one divinity’, ‘I belong to one human kind, one human race’, ‘I stand for righteousness’, is ego.
It is good that you stand against injustice and you fight against ignorance, and you say, ‘I am here so that nobody goes hungry or has any dearth.’ That dedication is part of ego as well. That ego is called sattvic ego.
In the Bhagavad Gita there are three types of ego described, the sattvic, the rajasic and the tamasic ego. It is very interesting; sometime you can read about it.