Performing any deed, good or bad, has repercussions. A bad deed obviously sets us up for a load of bad karma and bad luck. But how could a good deed, that sets us up for good karma, punish us?

The punishment comes from the illusion that someone performed the deed. When we perform a deed from a standpoint of “I” am doing it, the deed leaves tracks behind. A deed performed with no “I” present is a different story. Most of our deeds, however, are of the former type with a healthy “I” thought backing them up. Only the rare deeds that are quite spontaneous, i.e., without thinking about them, escape this trail of karma; be it good karma or bad karma.

If our deeds are premeditated, then an “I” thought is behind them. Here, we project ourselves into the future as we plan some kind of action, for example, setting a goal or fulfilling a dream. When our “I” thought is indeed behind our actions, as it usually is, this means that we have acted out of illusion - the illusion of a substantial entity called “ourselves.”

“What harm can that do?” we may ask - and the answer is . . . a lot! The idea that a substantial entity lurks behind our thoughts and actions creates our ego. “But an ego is necessary to live,” is the familiar reply. “We build our ego from childhood, and our ego is what propels us through life!”

… Exactly.

Not only through this life, but through countless lives as well, lifetime after lifetime. The strength of this thought - that we are real - is what carries us from body to body, as we are reborn repeatedly. The power of this “I” thought and its past actions (karma), makes it imperative that we are reborn back into physical existence, and the newborn child cannot avoid carrying on into perpetuity the illusion of its “self” that seems so real.

Once a child is conceived because of this “I” thought, the consequential body is born with sense organs, and what are sense organs good for? Sensing stuff! Once the child senses stuff, like food (I want more!), or pain (Get me outta here!), an ego is formed as the child imagines its “self” laughing and grasping at things that it likes, and crying and pushing away things it dislikes!

So it learns to grasp at, attach itself to, and love pleasurable things, while pushing away, disassociating itself from, and hating things not pleasurable. This creates desire on one hand, and aversion on the other, all framed within a context of an entity of some kind performing the grasping and pushing away – an “I” thought - that goes about its business of performing its “good” deeds, and its ‘bad” deeds.

Before you know it, however, the child grows up and its lifetime comes to an end, and even though death is shunned here in the west - where we never talk about it and dress up our dead people to make them look as if they are still alive, and then put them on display - death is final. But the “I” thought that has been built up is not final. The idea of it continues past the demise of the body and mind, and this is what is reborn; the tendencies to act in certain ways, our habit patterns; with the main habit being our fictitious idea of our “self.”

It’s a catch 22 - birth, ego formation, death, ego continuance, rebirth. This endless cycle would be okay if it wasn’t for the fact that life basically sucks. If you don’t believe it, wait awhile! The ego is what makes it all good, however, and takes our mind off the fact that we are in an organic body subject to all kinds of complications, the least of them being that we will surely become old, decrepit, diseased, and then die! Yuk.

So, how can we escape all of this? We have probably died a million deaths and cried an ocean of tears in all our previous lifetimes. How much longer should we continue down this road?

Ego death is a tough one, ask anyone who has seriously pursued truth from a spiritual angle. Even if we had a clue about how to dismantle this ego of ours, how many would be willing to go there? This is not for your average yogi bear! People magazine rarely has articles entitled, “How to kill your ego!” The fact is, however (from a spiritual perspective, which offers the only real freedom from this cycle of pain), that we are caught in bear trap, where it is painful to remain, and even more painful to extricate ourselves. So what do we do?

Pretending that life is light and love only works as long as life is light and love! But that is not a certainty. So maybe the place we should begin, if we are at all interested in discovering things about ourselves, is using life as an experiment, and really discover, for ourselves, if life is in fact a lark, or, is it never ending conflicts that are smoothed over by a perception that the ego is above the fray?

If we find, over a lifetime of trials and tribulations, that life in fact is difficult, then wouldn’t we be wise to experiment on how exactly we can stop this nonsense? Is there a way out, permanently? Not for just this lifetime, but eternally? Is there something we can do by utilizing this illusion of an ego to help us in some way?

There is a way out, and it is easy – cut off the feet of the ego, which is desire. Ever wonder why you are so busy that you don’t have time to pee? …Yep; desire.

And how do we cut off desire? We begin by noticing how our entire life is nothing but desire. The power of this noticing, this observation, is amazing, and the resulting transparency reveals exactly how we run around in circles that are but illusions driven by an ego. Observing ourselves, however, requires a little trick; we can’t observe as we normally observe things - it takes a little mind training.

Meditation is the fastest and most effective way to switch a mind’s consciousness so that it can observe at profound levels. The first experience of meditation will convince you of this. If you only begin by watching your thoughts every evening before you retire, which is a form of meditation, you will quickly discover how thoughts, which are the basis of your ego, dominate your mind and allow no breathing space at all. Once you catch on to thoughts, and the obvious tricks they play, you will be on your way to freedom from the ego, especially after you experience the potential of a mind absent of thought, and the creativity that is found there.

You’ll only have to use the ego a while longer to become a warrior in this discovery of your “self.” Then you can drop it, and when you drop it, the next rebirth will be different. How different? That’s for “you” to discover.

But imagine if there was no longer a “you” in existence to discover anything. Just imagine that.

Hmm… could this be a clue to your ultimate freedom?

(Your ego won’t like this article!)

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit