What is Ego
There seems to be so much confusion on non-self the me and so on. Especially in the neo-vedanta circles where they seem to equate Ego with mind. Or some others seem to think of it as a separate cunning entity which has command over our faculties. Others say we have to get rid of Ego altogether, that Ego is the enemy. What is Ego really?
First off: it is not Ego that is perceiving the world. It is consciousness that is aware of the world but it does so through the mind. The mind - conscious is the Jiva which is Sanskrit for individual. The Ego is not the same as mind. It is in this mind that Ego lives. According to Vedanta 'Ego, Ahamkara (I-maker), is that function of the inner instrument that appropriates" (see It from Bit from Chit at 46"). It is an integrating function, it unifies as it were all that goes on in the mind. It is a very useful function thus. It solves the combination problem how do all thoughts feelings etc. come together. Ego must then also be the story teller, it weaves everything together into a story. Ego is the dreamer then. It can disappear if we give full attention to something (then there is no bandwidth for Ego left) then we are in Flow, in non-dual awareness. This gives this particular feeling of a shift in consciousness that the individual dream has stopped. There are still some thoughts but they are not 'my' thoughts. So it is not that all thoughts are from Ego but most of them are driven by it. Ego is the contact point between consciousness and mind. The subconscious serves the Ego. Ego gives instructions and allows information to enter. The gatekeeper.
So having an Ego is not a problem per se it is even necessary some of the time (esp. when we are communicating or engaged in creating knowledge see Useful thinking). The problem starts when we identify with Ego.
When we talk about Ego as a problem then what we are really talking about is our identification with Ego. Believing that somehow I am the Ego instead of I have an Ego being just a function of the mind. This is problematic.
Ego is a thinking habit. A process kept going by our attention. The story is created while we go, on the fly using the power of imagination (of the Ego). Just like the dream is created. Habitually thoughts are formed and many of these these thoughts start with "I". That is Ego. It is not a separate entity but a function generating the thought process. It becomes obsessive when we identify with Ego because of the belief in separation. Mind accepts as true this separation which is just a belief. There is nobody that has this belief. We cannot say that Ego has this belief or the person has this belief. Ego cannot act it can only produce appropriating, unifying thoughts. Mind has this belief. This belief creates the Egoic thinking habit.
The problem is that this belief in separation, this identification, creates emotions and complexes, energy formations in the body, identities really. This is the pain body. These complexes can get triggered as the subconscious tries to defend or serve the identities (the subconscious serves the Ego - which is good and which it what is supposed to do). and the mind will generate Egoic thoughts (which are but sound pattern imaginations). The more complexes the deeper the ignorance the more egoic thoughts. We talk of a big Ego. A big Ego refers to the number of identities and and depth of identification with them and consequently the frequency of Egoic thought rooted in the beliefs of permanent identities.
Thought is not so much the problem. It is obsessive thought that is the problem and obsessive thought is the result of a big Ego. It does not allow silence and only in silence reality is perceived.
We love our ego we attach importance to it (self-importance), we give it credence, which is like mind allocating faith or love from consciousness to it, and give the egoic thought ample attention feeding them as it were.
All we are saying is to try a different perspective. That perspective will dawn when we let go of this belief in separation and the belief in an actor. When we give up identification with Ego habit. When we surrender control.
When we give up identification with Ego we are not giving up the mind. It is not possible to participate in this world without mind or without a healthy Ego. So we can totally know if we are enlightened. Mind will know. From its clarity, its silence and from the absence of worries of suffering and so on.
I largely agree then with Aaron Abke in his video What is Ego? According to him "The Ego is not your instincts, intuition and intention. The Ego is what commentates on your instincts, intuition and intention". To him it is also a program. But I would not limit it to instincts, intuition or intention. See my Useful thinking note. It is an imaginary person, an imaginary friend we dearly love. The process is the commentating (as there is no reply we cannot say conversation) on the imaginary person "Me". Me thinks I nailed it here.
So mind boots up a stream of comments directed at this imaginary friend because in mind there exists the belief of separation and Ego. But see also the note about useful identities in Self Enquiry a New Take