Imagine standing on a scenic mountain peak and looking out at the world in all directions without any obstructions.
These days, if we see someone behaving selfishly, we might say they’re “being egotistical.” If someone thinks you have a really “big ego,” they may even post a blog calling you an “egomaniac.” From the standpoint of our mental health, it’s important to have self-esteem or what some psychologists call “a healthy ego.”
So when we’re talking with our friends and mention our “ego,” what do we mean?
From a Buddhist point of view, the ego is something made up by the mind. It’s the sense of self — a flash of “I” or “me” that we believe in and cling to. It’s the basis of our feeling of self-importance. It’s a story, a myth of self that we keep telling ourselves.
That “self” is the center of our universe. No matter what we’re doing, our actions always come from, and reflect back to our sense of self-consciousness. This ego-self we cling to is the source of most of our problems. Wherever we get hung up in pain and confusion, there we’ll find the ego.
The Buddha taught that the root cause of our suffering—ignorance—is what gives rise to this tendency to “cling.”