In the normal life of an individual in society, the ego is important, although it’s actions must be managed to permit people to find ways to work together and achieve results. Wherever we turn, we can see the benefits of keeping the ego in check and subordinating the individual’s role within a team or group dynamic. This is, however, not to say that the ego has no value or use in society. It is more a matter of degree and mode of expression that determines whether any collective effort will succeed or fail.

In the practice of the integral yoga, where the stated goal is to shift the standpoint from the normal human standpoint and the limited actions of mind-life-body, the ego stands as a stumbling block that restrains the progress and binds the individual to the lower nature. A shift from the ego-standpoint to the divine standpoint implies, not the ‘management’ of the ego, but its eventual elimination. This does not mean the elimination of the individual nexus of action, but the individual no longer considers himself separate and isolated from the rest of the creation, but simply one of an infinite number of individual viewpoints that together make up the totality of the action of consciousness in the universe. The individual is a power of expression for the Divine, not a separate entity and certainly not the point of reference for determining what action should be undertaken and in which manner.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “…even in ordinary life there must be a control over the vital and the ego — otherwise life would be impossible. Even many animals, those who live in groups, have their strict rules imposing a control on the play of the ego and those who disobey will have a bad time of it. The Europeans especially understand this and even though they are full of ego, yet when there is a question of team work or group life, they are adepts at keeping it in leash, even if it growls inside; it is the secret of their success. But in yoga life of course it is a question not of controlling ego but of getting rid of it and rising to a higher principle, so demand is much more strongly and insistently discouraged.”

“To be impersonal generally is not to be ego-centric, not to regard things from the point of view of how they affect oneself, but to see what things are in themselves, to judge impartially, to do what is demanded by the purpose of things or by the will of the Master of things, not by one’s own personal point of view or egoistic interest or ego-formed idea or feeling. In work it is to do what is best for the work, without regard to one’s own prestige or convenience, not to regard the work as one’s own but as the Mother’s, to do it according to rule, discipline, impersonal arrangement, even if conditions are not favourable to do the best according to the conditions, etc., etc. The impersonal work puts his best capacity, zeal, industry into the work, but not his personal ambitions, vanity, passions. He has always something in view that is greater than his little personality and his devotion or obedience to that dictates his conduct.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 6, Sadhana Through Work, Meditation and Love and Devotion, Work pp. 129-145

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.