Identification and Ego
What is the Ego? The Ego is an identification of reflected consciousness and body/mind. The Drg Drisha Viveka also mentions identification with the Witness but I find that difficult to understand still. It is basically an idea that maintains duality as the supposed subject of experience separated from the others/world. More than idea, it is a belief.
Thought is an evolution of feeling. Feeling is information flowing in prana. Thought adds names and concepts in the mix.There is a sphere of prana around the body intimately connected to it and separate from other bodies. There is awareness or experience of thoughts (by the way the different body system is that every outer layer is permeated by inner layer. So body is permeated by prana, prana is permeated by thought, thought by vasanas, and everything is permeated by consciousness). Now the I thought is raised and this is the recognition of the body, feeling, mind and also consciousness thereof as a separate being. A working concept allowing us to communicate with language offering the ability to refer to own body mind complex and maintaining a dual world for that matter (not sure whether duality is a necessity though). However when we start to belief that we are this working concept of I then this is identification. It is then a thought that wants to maintain itself. Then we call it Ego. This belief is ignorance. It is this belief that locks this awareness in a perpetual motion of thought screening us from our real Self. What is this belief? That is the million dollar question but I intuit it is love malformed as attachment. It is a power of some sort could it be faith? It is something very subtle. We know from experience that only through dispassion we can break the knot discrimination only being in service of dispassion. It is the veiling power of maya. When consciousness detaches from thought, thought becomes subconsciousness and the world ceases to exist. Freedom is the ability to do that.
Because of the idea of separation the Ego has desires/fears (volition) and feels it is acting. It maintains itself as a continuous process of thought driven by the desires and fears. The mind can cognize and Ego is a particular mode of mind that supposes a subject associated with the body/mind. We might say a neurotic or obsessed state of mind as it insist on spinning thoughts to maintain a illusory reality.
Take away the desires/fears or volition element and Ego ceases to exist. Action will be spontaneous, in harmony with the environment. Dispassionate in other words.
The point is to identify with the absolute (Turiya) instead of with feelings, thoughts. It is like the man sitting on at the banks of the Ganges, sometimes seeing a corpse float by sometimes a garland of flowers. Don't jump into the river and clutch either of them.
Sean Web gives a succinct definition: “Ego is the mind’s perception of Self”. “Ego is what stands in the way to spiritual enlightenment and cause of all suffering”.
People are defined by how much they are Egoic vs Non-Egoic mind.
Important to note that Ego is an entity (process rather) in the subconscious mind. Of course subconscious mind as conscious mind is nothing but a thread of conscious thought. Infinitesimal compared to the subconscious. Come to think of it what makes a thought a conscious thought? It is attention. The attention is on the thought. So attention is hopping from thought to thought (probably in the same region of the brain?). Intention then keeps the attention fixed on one place. Voila focus. Ppl say attention is love or interest. Intention→Attention→Manifestation.
I would go as far as to say that recognition of Ego in yourself is the first and most important step towards liberation. Once Ego is understood it is relatively easy to diminish its role and find spirit. Recognition of Ego in others is the key to skillful behavior (and teaching!).