In Greek mythology, Narcissus was the son of the River-God Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was a hunter known for his stunning beauty who could make anyone fall in love with him. While several versions of the story of Narcissus can be found in history, most of them agree that Narcissus rejected all romantic advances until one day he saw his own reflection in water and fell in love with himself.
It is through the name Narcissus that we have derived the word narcissism. This inflated sense of self-worth is nothing but the ego at work.
The ego is a sense of self, made up by the mind. It is nothing but stories and thoughts that you use to define your character. It is not the real you, but a phantom image that you carry around.
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Anything that you use to identify yourself with this limited third dimensional reality is a way for your ego to manifest. Whether you identify yourself as the owner of all your possessions or your abilities, fame, or beauty, it is a way for your ego to falsely make you feel good.
You manufacture a sense of superficial self that is not you, but one that identifies with the materialistic nature of this reality. And this begins at a very early age in life, when kids learn to identify their sense of self in the mirror or when they understand that something is “their toy”.
However, this limited false sense of self, the ego, thrives on comparison. It only feels good if others do not have what you possess. Having something exclusively enhances your identity of self, which is why most people feel so proud when they achieve or buy something.
Imagine that you woke up one fine morning to find that you had a billion dollars in your bank account and a Ferrari in your garage. It will be such a huge massage to your ego. Your false sense of self that you identify with will be elated beyond belief. But when you find out that everyone else on the planet also had a billion dollars and a Ferrari, then suddenly that temporary joy doesn’t feel quite as good. This is because it does not enhance the identity of your superficial self.
The ego is a trap. It is a trap for your mind that begs superiority over others just so that your superficial sense of self feels good. This craving for superiority results from an underlying sense of lack which makes you feel like you are not enough.
Ego also causes duality to exist. You love some things and you hate other things. The ego has split your identity into a self that loves or hates. But who are you? Are you really the one doing the loving or the hating?
This is why most animals live their life in a wholesome way. They live joyously in the moment without being weighed down by the constant need for superiority over others.
Eastern philosophy has recognized the sham of the ego long before any other tradition. They have recognized that this identity that we call the “self” is just a character being played and it is not the real you. It is a mental construct that is mistaken for who you are.
The story of Narcissus ended with him becoming obsessed with his own beauty and it did not end very well. But you have the power to change your story. This is why meditation was derived as a means to detach from the phantom self. If identification with our thoughts is ego, then stillness of the mind is the real divine self.
But people have not yet awakened to this. Most people are in a dreamlike state. They are half-asleep and still go about identifying with their superficial self. As thoughts are continuously arising, there is no way for most people to awaken to this fact. As a result, they stay in this dream state and they are controlled by their ego.
If you, for a moment, pause and take a step back, then you would realize that underneath that false identity is pure divine presence. You are like a star in the sky that always compares itself to other stars. When you stop thinking for a moment, you will detach from this ego and you will become aware of this moment. From a detached perspective, you will realize that you are not just a star in the sky, but you ARE the Universe. Your real underlying sense of self thus comes to life.
You are not the thoughts that cross your mind every second of the day. You are the gap between the thoughts. There is a reality where there is no thinking and no duality. That is consciousness. This divine emptiness is called Shunyata in Buddhism, and it is who you really are. That is the Universe realizing its essence through you.