When we think of spirituality, we think of godly elements: love, forgiveness and a humble lifestyle. We don't normally think of ego. In fact, one often joins the spiritual path to become free from ego. Unfortunately though, sometimes you meet your shadow on the exact road you took to avoid it.
A spiritual ego is the worst ego of all because you don't notice it brewing until it erupts from within like a volcano. For most people, it starts to build up after they've read too many spiritual books, attended dozens of wellness lectures, and gone on a great deal of retreats. It gets even worse after they receive the sought-after titles of teacher, coach, mentor, guru and so on. A spiritual ego can happen to anyone -- no standard symptoms have yet to be recorded.
I was recently at a world famous spiritual event where "masters" from all over the world were invited to share their knowledge with dedicated seekers. I was one of those "master" speakers invited, but I left in the middle after witnessing a bunch of power-hungry, egotistical men pretending to be "masters" in their spiritual costumes. They were angry and moody, and they were playing a role both on and off the stage. This is a critical issue, because the masses look up to these beings for a humble and kind showering of unconditional love. After an eye-opening experience like this, I can understand how people eventually start to mistrust the entire spiritual community. Yet, everyone is a seeker, even the ones who call themselves "masters." We've given them the role of "spiritual teachers," but even they have their own ego issues to work out. How can they be expected to fix something in others that they are struggling with themselves?
I am 27 years old, I grew up among gurus, and I left Wall Street a few years ago to wholeheartedly pursue the role of "spiritual guide" as it was assigned to me by society. While I consider myself the least qualified person to teach anyone a lesson about their ego, I am making a tiny attempt (based on my personal experiences and the blessings of my teachers) to share some insight into recognizing ego and working towards resolving the matter.
Don't eliminate the divine.
EGO = Eliminating God Out. The moment you divorce yourself from the divine, you marry the ego. The divine isn't just found in temples and churches -- it is everywhere at all times. The whole Creation is the Creator. When you choose to perceive the divine in all of your endeavors, you will always stay humble. The problem arises when you disconnect from the divine under the false pretense that you alone are ruling the business of life. We must remember that we are just a speck of dust in the infinite universe. As they say, "something unknown is doing we don't know what," but it works out perfectly if we allow the unknown to flow freely.
Realize that there is no "master."
'Master' is actually quite an inaccurate title for a spiritual teacher. A true spiritual master is the servant of the divine and the people they are assigned to serve. When I was growing up -- and even still to this day -- my guru (my father) has never called himself a guru or a qualified spiritual healer. The same goes for my grandfather, who was adored for his spiritual gifts. I have met many people who remain humble and avoid calling themselves a master or a healer, and they are the ones who remain a child of the divine throughout their lives. Our "masters" must give up the desire to become the next Messiah.
Stop worrying about how many followers you have.
It's not just your Twitter account that craves more followers. Many "spiritual masters" love showing off their huge number of followers to the media. Why? Because it makes them feel powerful, of course. Think about how many followers Jesus or Buddha had when they were alive and you'll realize you never need to seek out more followers. This desire for followers can increase your ego by several levels. The number of followers you have shouldn't affect your assigned duty. If you are honest and you are dedicated to your message, people from all walks of life will join you, no matter what your numbers are.
You need a guru.
A guru is the one who deflates your ego yet remains your best friend. If you have an authentic guru, you may end up hating his constant reminders of your inflated ego, but you really cannot move ahead on your spiritual path without him. Souls such as Buddha, Jesus and Guru Nanak Dev were so elevated in their consciousness that they didn't need a guru -- but how many of us are even close to that level? We need to humbly acknowledge that we do need gurus to keep our minds in check. It only takes a slight shift to turn a monkey mind into a monk mind, and gurus are the ones who steer that shift.
Keep calm about your meditation.
If you meditate daily, good for you, but there's no need to Instagram or tweet about it every single time. Such practices only lead to a giant boost of ego. The more you beat the drum about it, the more attention you require. An attention-seeking mind is an ego-friendly mind. Be calm and composed in your meditation.