Q. Revered Master, are 'ego' and 'self-pride' synonymous? If not, what is the difference between the two? Kindly enlighten.
A. Ego and self-pride are not synonymous; rather, in a way, they are opposites. While ego plunges a person into darkness, self-pride takes one towards light. Ego results in one's descent, but self-pride leads one towards growth and progress. While ego is a negative emotion, self-pride is a positive feeling. Ego comes out of acquired items and objects; we feel egoistic on the things which we attain externally, and, hence, which do not constitute our basic or inherent nature. On the other hand, self-pride is an innate self-esteem and pride of one's Inner Self. While ego contaminates us, self-pride adorns and embellishes us. Ego is relative, i.e. in it the factor of comparison is involved; it is always seeking competition with others with an endeavour to prove that “I am better than you”. To an egoistic person, the whole world appears to be at rivalry. On the other hand, self-pride sprouts from self-belief. To cherish self-pride and self-esteem, one doesn't need to compare himself with others; rather, he needs to have a firm faith, trust and confidence in himself. The difference between the two can be understood through a simple example. For instance, a person with self-pride will say, “I have a good knowledge of mathematics.” Whereas, an egoistic person would say, “Nobody can have better knowledge of mathematics than me.”
An egoistic person is always trapped in the feelings of fear and insecurity, dreading that somebody may go ahead of him. As a result, he develops a “Crab Mentality”. What happens in a crab mentality? If you put several crabs in an open box, then, despite the box being open from the top, none of the crabs would be able to come out. Why? It is so because whenever one crab tries to go up, the other crabs pull it down. In a similar manner, when an egoistic person feels that someone is progressing, he gets into the mindset of jealousy and starts pulling his leg. However, the one with self-pride does not exhibit jealousy from his behaviour. His efforts are directed at progressing himself rather than pulling others back. A philosopher has well said, “If the other line is bigger than yours, then, there are two ways to make it smaller; first, by erasing or cutting the bigger line of the other person, and second, by increasing the length of your smaller line.” The egoistic person always adopts the first way, while the person with self-pride the second.
The egoistic person always wants to be praised. He always remains restless, seeking respect, name, and fame. Once, a lawyer came to me, and said, “Maharaj Ji, this time I am contesting for MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) seat. Kindly bless me and shower your grace on me, so that I win the elections and become an MLA.” I said, “It is well known that this time, the chances of your party winning is favourable. Then, why are you worrying? Your victory is explicitly assured.” And, the same happened. He won the election and became an MLA. Long time after becoming an MLA, one day, he came to me again. I had expected him to be happy as he got what he wanted, but he appeared disappointed. When asked for the reason, he replied, “Guru Maharaj Ji! Being an MLA is not giving me that happiness which I am looking for. I feel that once I become a minister, everything would be fine.” I said, “Looking at the kind of passion you have, the day seems not far when you will become a minister.” Well, he soon became one. After that, he desperately desired to meet me at least once. One day, when he met me, he folded his hands and said, “Maharaj Ji, just bless me once more, for I want to become the Chief Minister. I would get the feeling of accomplishment once I become the Chief Minister.” Then I told him, “Why don't you understand? Why are you wasting your life? Sometimes you are running after the seat of an MLA, sometimes you hanker for a minister's seat, and now for the seat of a Chief Minister… Let me make it clear to you, leave aside the chair of the Chief Minister, even on becoming the Prime Minister you would not feel satisfied. That which can give you a sense of accomplishment in life, you are not even asking from me. Only when you receive 'Brahm Gyan' and become a true seeker of God, you will be able to achieve the real happiness; otherwise, you cannot.” However, he did not understand my words and kept running for his desires. Such is the mentality and behaviour of an egoist person!
A renowned playwright, William Shakespeare used to say, “Praises are my wages.” An American writer, Mark Twain writes, “I can live the entire week on compliments alone”– meaning thereby that 'even if I am not given food and water for a week, I can survive, provided I am fed with compliments and praises. You must have heard the name of Julius Caesar; he had a great ego. It is said that when he was young, somebody kidnapped him, and demanded a ransom of 11,000 gold coins to release him. When Julius Caesar came to know about it, his ego was hurt. He thought, 'To release me, the great Julius Caesar, a ransom of only 11,000 gold coins! This would devalue me.' He appealed to the kidnappers that they increase the ransom from 11,000 gold coins to 2,50,000 gold coins, so that his respect and prestige is maintained. Ego can be that damaging! It's just hollow!
But, self-pride is not hollow. It stands on the foundation of one's dedication, faith, and self-confidence. A person with self-pride is not a coward, but is fearless and brave. He has the ability to face any situation with valour and courage. When it comes to accomplishing positive values and actions, he does not budge, and is even ready to give up his life. An incident happened in South Korea. The self-pride of the youth there got awakened, and they decided to do something for their country. They united themselves and jumped into the struggle for freedom. The one who was leading them was the son of the police chief of that time. The father had the vanity of being a police chief, and, hence, he made a lot of efforts to persuade his son and make him understand. But, the son did not listen to him. Then his father, the chief of police, locked him in a room. But, the son escaped from the window and joined the freedom rally. He was leading the rally and held the flag high. When the rally was stopped, the egoistic chief of police threatened his son– “Put the flag down... or else your hand will be cut.” The son started to hail for freedom with yet more vigour, and did not move even an inch from his place. Then, on the order from higher authorities, the chief of police (father) had to cut the hand of his son in which he was holding the flag. But, the son was brimming with self-pride, so he held the flag with his other hand. The other hand was also cut brutally. Even then, he remained steadfast on his mission and did not admit defeat. He held the flag with his mouth and started walking ahead, and behind him, a whole bunch of youth walked. The self-pride of the son won against the egoistic vanity of the father. The father took off his uniform and joined the rally.
Such is the invincibility of self-pride; it neither falters, nor fears, nor gets defeated. When Subhash Chandra Bose* came to India after clearing his ICS (Indian Civil Services), he had to appear in one written exam. When the question paper came in front of him, he got flamed and charged-up. He called the invigilators and pointing towards a question, said, “Please get this question changed.” Invigilators read that question, which asked for an English sentence to be translated to Hindi. The sentence read as, “Indian soldiers are generally dishonest.” The invigilators said, “It is impossible to change the question.” At that time, Subhash Chandra Bose while tearing away the question paper said, “It is also impossible that Subhash achieves any job by disgracing his motherland.” After saying so, he came out of the examination hall. The feelings which are reflected from this incident are those of “self-pride for being an Indian!"
Such is the profound difference between ego and self-pride!