Welcome to Part 17 of The Seeker’s Story, where Namit continues his exploration into yoga philosophy. This week, he discusses pride and the ego.
Chapter 1 & 2 – Yoga Sutra – A Seeker’s Story Part 1
Chapter 3 – What is Yoga?
Chapter 4 – Yoga’s Theory of Creation
Chapter 5 – Happiness and Oneness
Chapter 6 – Does Magic Really Exist?
Chapter 7 – Who is God?
Chapter 8 – What is Karma?
Chapter 9 – What is Spirituality? What is Spirit?
Chapter 10 – What is Prana? Is it the Same as Breath?
Chapter 11: Why do We Do Postures in Yoga?
Chapter 12: What’s the Point of Meditation?
Chapter 14: What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?
Chapter 15: Is Yoga a Religion or a Philosophy?
Chapter 16: What is Maya, or Illusion?
Chapter 17: Does Evil Exist?
Yoga Sutra – The Seeker’s Story
What is the Ego?
The next day was going to be my final day. Today was one of the last times I was going to meet yogi ji and I was starting to feel a little sad. When I came across him, he was standing with his feet hip width apart, one leg in front of the other and his arms above him as if he was a warrior. He looked both mentally and physically incredibly strong.
I decided at this point that I was going to work on all the eight branches of yoga when I went home. I wanted to bring yogi ji’s sense of peace and his strength, both physical and mental, home with me. Even if I could not bring yogi ji back with me I would bring his spirit with me by following his example of practising yoga.
Whilst I was daydreaming yogi ji had been practising this posture on both sides of his body. He now came down and sat next to me as had become the custom. One of our last chats was about to begin and I had thought a lot about today’s question.
‘What is ego yogi ji?’
Yogi ji paused for thought. ‘I have ego when I think I am better than the other person. It is when I think I have more rights than other people,’ he replied.
‘So ego is the same as pride?’ I asked yogi ji.
‘No pride is when I am so happy I have the knowledge of something and I really want to share that knowledge and that feeling of happiness with other people. Pride is when we are not being selfish about what we know.’
‘So when you are proud you want to share what you have with others and when you are egotistical you feel you are better than others and you don’t want to share is that right yogi ji?’
‘Yes that is exactly right Jake. When you are proud you are not happy because you somehow think you are better than others but you are happy because you have something that makes you happy which you want to share with others.’
‘So having pride is good for us.’ Now I paused for thought. ‘I guess it makes us feel really worthwhile and helpful and connected to others. However ego is bad for us, it separates us from others’ I said to yogi ji.
‘That is such a good summary Jake. You really have been listening these last few days. I am very proud of you’ he chuckled happily. ‘Pride is good for us but ego gets in the way of developing as a human being,’ he added.
‘Should we dislike those with ego?’ I then enquired. ‘No’ replied yogi ji. ‘People have ego usually because they feel insecure. They feel as if others are better than them and so they act like they are better than others so that they can feel better about themselves. They are almost trying to protect themselves.’
‘So we should feel sorry for them if they are insecure?’ I asked.
‘Well not so much feel sorry as we should understand that they are insecure. To them life is a competition and they are trying to feel like they are worth something. Really Jake life is not a competition at all. Life is here to be enjoyed and the good things are here to be shared.
If you accept that everyone is good at their own thing and everyone is different you will see that life is not a competition at all. We are all worth something and we are all good at own things. Respect everyone for what they are good at and feel proud of what you yourself are good at. This is a very important rule for living a life of happiness.’
‘That is nice yogi ji but I do have to admit that when I see you in the postures I feel quite insecure and competitive. I feel like the postures look very nice and I want to be able to do them better than you one day.’
‘Ha ha Jake,’ he replied. ‘Life is not a competition at all. Yes some of the postures do look nice but they are there to make you feel relaxed. Everyone is good at everything in their own way but yoga and life are not competitions. I just do yoga for enjoyment and you should do the same. Make sure you enjoy life Jake. You will always be good at what you enjoy. I hope that one day you will become excellent at the yoga postures not for the sake of being better than anyone but for the sake of enjoying them.’
‘Thank you yogi ji, one question please. I have been with you for many days now. Why have you not told me your name?’
‘For this very reason Jake. I do not want to get caught in the ego of being the great and knowledgeable mister so and so. I would feel so much happier if you went back to your own place feeling that you met one of many yogis of this world, that you had met a simple man and that real knowledge, that is the knowledge of how to be happy, is simple too.’
‘I see’ I replied. I had to accept that I would never know this great man’s name. This is someone who I had befriended and really liked but I would have to respect that he just wanted to be known as one of the many yogis in this world.
I now had just one day left. I definitely felt so much calmer than when I had arrived. I had a lot to think about including everything I had learnt that day. I had wanted to be good at things in the past in order to prove a point but I had resolved that from that day forward if I was going to be good at anything it would be so that I could enjoy it and share it with others.
That evening when I was with the family I spent extra time playing with the kids. I had bought toys for them from a shop in the village as going away presents. I had found out from the Rais what time I could get a bus to the nearest big city the next day after my meeting with yogi ji. From there I would get transport to Delhi and from there fly back.
I knew my mum must have been missing me so I had something to look forward to for when I got back home to England. Before I went to sleep I kept as many things ready and packed as I could.
[Stay tuned for Chapter 19: Happiness next week]
About Namit Kathoria
Namit Kathoria has a Bachelors Degree from King’s College London in Pharmacy and a Masters Degree in Clinical Pharmacy from Queen’s University Belfast. He is also a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and has worked the Pharmacist Advisor to NHS Direct. He hence has a vast knowledge of health which he applies to his yoga teaching. He has studied yoga across the world including various parts of his native India including Dharamshala, Rishikesh and Mysore. He currently teaches yoga retreats in Spain at Yoga Sutra Shala in Sayalonga. To read more please visit www.retreats-yoga.com.