Principles and Concepts

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 Agyaan or ignorance. Guru Nanak says:

ਅੰਤਰਿ ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਗਵਾਈ ॥
“Deep within, there is ignorance, suffering and doubt; through the spiritual wisdom of the Guru, they are eradicated.”
(Ang 1291)

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’s concern to build up a separate identity is the root of his suffering.

According to Sikhi, man is responsible for his own actions. Human self will – the ego – encourages man to bad deeds.

ਦਦੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੇਊ ਕਿਸੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਕਰੰਮਾ ਆਪਣਿਆ ॥
ਜੋ ਮੈ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੀਜੈ ਅਵਰ ਜਨਾ ॥੨੧॥
“Do not blame anyone else; blame instead your own actions.
Whatever I did, for that I have suffered; I do not blame anyone else. ||21||”
(Ang 433)

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 Raam Daas Ji says,

ਧਨ ਪਿਰ ਕਾ ਇਕ ਹੀ ਸੰਗਿ ਵਾਸਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਭੀਤਿ ਕਰਾਰੀ ॥
ਗੁਰਿ ਪੂਰੈ ਹਉਮੈ ਭੀਤਿ ਤੋਰੀ ਜਨ ਨਾਨਕ ਮਿਲੇ ਬਨਵਾਰੀ ॥੪॥੧॥
“The soul-bride and the Husband Lord live together as one, but the hard wall of egotism has come between them. The Perfect Guru demolishes the wall of egotism; servant Nanak has met the Lord, the Lord of the World. ||4||1||”
(Ang 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.