Q55. What is egoism?
Man possesses a divine essence. He is not separate from God, but on account of his self-assertion, he thinks he is. He builds round himself, wall of egoism which makes him forget “God in himself” and in all things. This is called Agyan or ignorance. Guru Nanak says, “Ignorance has its roots in the image of the self.” Some feel that Maya or the materialistic world, creates the sense of separateness of duality, but whether Maya or ego, the separation of the individual soul from the Universal Soul is the cause of much misery and subsequent transmigration. Man’ concern to build up a separate identity is the root of his suffering.
According to Sikhism, man is responsible for his own actions. Human self will – the ego – encourages man to bad deeds.
The egoism takes the form of a pride and vanity. These result from learning, power or money. They lead to arrogance and a sense of superiority which makes one disregard and ignore other men. This not only alienates them from their fellow-men, but also from God who views with disfavour, any person who stands like a Colossus, in complete oblivion of the Source of All Power. Egoistic actions are like chains draped round a person’s neck.
The cure for egoism lies within. If a man, subjects his will to God’s Will and regards himself only as an instrument of God, he rises above action and its chain of consequences. Self-assertion is the disease, self-surrender is the cure. Submission to His Will removes the barrier between man and God. Guru Ramdas says, “The bride and the bridegroom live together, with a partition of ego between them. Once this partition is removed, the bride enjoys her union with the Creator.” (A.G. p.1263). Only when man understands that all things are subject to God’s Will – including himself will he be able to live and move in tune with God. If, by the assertion of self, they cut themselves off from this Reality, they wander in the wilderness. But it is possible like the Prodigal Son, to come back to the bosom of the Father.