There is a very common yet misconceived idea of ‘non-ego’ that is being bandied around the new age movement, by those who discuss consciousness expanding and even among yogis. People say you must ‘lose your ego’ to become enlightened, but this is not a fact, and is not at all supported by true yogic or vedic philosophy.
If one understands the real meaning of ‘ego’, it makes no sense to ‘lose’ it - but so widespread is the misunderstanding that all through eastern and western philosophies these days you will still see this same idea being encouraged but not at all understood.
Ego means self, and the self is ever existing, so it is not possible to lose or destroy the self. Enlightenment or self-realisation does not happen with some kind of extinguishing of the self, but rather a new found awareness of what the true self is. So if we examine the notion of ‘false ego’ vs. ego, we can more easily understand. False ego is the identification of one’s body and mind as the self. True ego is the awareness that ‘I am spirit'.
As it is described in the Vedic teachings: Aham Brahmasmi - I am Brahman, I am spirit (not matter - not the material body I inhabit nor the mind that temporarily covers me). This is ego. Indeed, one finds through self realization, that not only do you exist as an individual spirit soul, spiritual and not material by nature, but also that you are the eternal part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit. Just as the ego or self always exists and cannot be ‘extinguished’, there is also an eternally existing relationship that can be re established between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul.
This understanding of ego has been around since time immemorial, and the earliest written works in vedic or yogic tradition have described this truth and the process of realising one’s true ego, in clear detail. And yet there is still much confusion within many of today’s eastern teachers. They teach that “I” is illusion, that I is not existing, and your task is to realise that you don’t exist. And to try to do so is a real struggle--to try to kill ‘the self’, to get rid of your own existence or even simply the ‘awareness’ of your own existence. It is possible that one can temporarily lose awareness of one’s own existence, sometimes through drugs or through the far more lofty process of ‘merging into the Brahman’ through the practice of kundalini yoga.
In such a state, one loses their awareness of the self as an individual and is only aware of their merged condition with vast spiritual expanse known as ‘brahman’ with which they have temporarily merged.
And so this idea of non self or non ego is sometimes taught as yogic idea, but it is actually not at all the complete picture. See the bonafide teachings of jagad guru in this website, these contain a huge number of real insights and posts pertaining to practical wisdom. The realisation of ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, that I am brahman does not mean that I no longer exist, that the self is ‘no more’. In merging with brahman, one is no longer ‘aware’ of self but this state is only temporary. All souls who do merge always come back to the world of matter... to teach others about merging with the brahman or to try to satisfy the natural desire of the ego, themselves, to relate to and serve others in a mood of love. In that condition of mergence with the brahman, one experiences peace and transcendental bliss but since there is no awareness of self or of others, that propensity to ‘love’ and ‘serve’ is unfulfilled.
But this kind of realisation is rare. More commonly, people attempt to lose their ‘ego’ through trance dancing or at a base kind of level, using drugs to ‘forget’ or disassociate their ‘mind’ from their ‘self’. Once a person has finally given up this futile struggle to lose themselves, they are often ready to embark on a quest for deeper spiritual wisdom and actually find themselves, losing instead their false ego. They begin to fully understand that they are not the material mind, nor the body which are more like a set of clothes and that they, the spirit soul are simply inhabiting or wearing this temporary set of clothes.
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that can help you realise that you are not your mind, but more of a viewer or controller of your mind... and through mantra meditation, or meditation on transcendental sound vibration, you can become truly detached from the mind and realise your true identity or essence as spirit soul. The sanskrit word “mantra” comes from the two word manah - mind; and trayah - liberation. So a true mantra liberates a person from their mind and their false ego, that is their identification with this body and this mind which we have temporarily in this life. So instead of losing your ‘ego’, you actually lose your attachment to all the products of the mind, your ever-changing, yet sometimes overwhelming fears and desires. All your worldly concerns are ‘lost’ or put aside and you become aware of or immersed in the spiritual world or Absolute Truth, which is contained in these transcendental mantras. It’s important to note here that losing your worldly concerns doesn’t mean one can be irresponsible in life. Having a material body brings with it various needs and responsibilities which we must do our best to take care of. In fact the clarity and peace that comes with mantra meditation can help us to do this well!
There are different ways you can practice mantra meditation - breathing deeply and rhythmically, and sounding simple mantras like Nitai Gauranga or Madana-Mohana on the out breath, or chanting on japa beads, or kirtan (meditating together with others and music). Transcendental mantras or sound vibrations are actual manifestations the Absolute truth; and through sincere and dedicated practice one can truly and deeply know or ‘discover’ themselves to be spirit in essence (Aham Brahmasmi), part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman or Supreme Soul. This self realisation then forms the foundation for really developing one’s spiritual life. If I understand I am part and parcel of the Supreme Soul then naturally I will begin to live true to my natural function as the eternal loving servant of the Supreme Soul. This is yoga or union. And it comes naturally as one continues to engage the ears, the mind, the heart in transcendental sound vibration. So yoga is not a struggle to lose the ego or the self, to become somehow extinguished. Achieving perfection in yoga is for the individual spirit soul to experience oneness in a loving relationship with the Supreme Soul.