The Forms of Egoism
We can classify the forms of egoism into three categories Tamasic, Rajasic and Sattwic. The tamasic ego identifies itself with its disabilities and failures and wails “I am a poor wretch, unhappy, miserable and good-for-nothing” and wallows in this hopeless condition clinging to its weakness and misery with a secret and perverse joy. Laziness and unwillingness to make the necessary effort is the characteristic quality of the tamasic ego; constant depression is the sign or manifestation of this tamasic ego. It is the most pernicious and dangerous form of ego because it cults-off the individual from all light, energy and hope and blocks all progress-material, psychological and spiritual.
The next higher form of ego is the rajasic ego of the vital being in man which identifying with its capacities, achievements and possessions says: “I am strong, rich, successful, healthy, happy and famous. I have achieved this or that. I possess this or that, I will achieve this or that and possess this or that tomorrow”. Desire, ambition and the competitive spirit are the main driving motives of the rajasic ego. Domineering pride and arrogance, restless activity, anxious striving are its characteristic qualities. The rajasic ego helps in the evolutionary progress of man upto a certain stage. It helps him to raise from tamasic torpor and indolence to the dynamic throb and activity of life. But once the individual is awakened to the higher life of yoga, rajasic ego becomes a bar to his further progress.
Then comes the sattwic ego of the higher mental being, the ego of the thinker and the saint and the creative man which silently flatters itself for its knowledge, talents and virtues saying: “I am wise, intelligent, inspired, original, creative, knowledgeable, pure, virtuous, saintly. I am loving, compassionate, kind, honest, sincere, humble, simple, straightforward, childike, devoted, balanced selfless, egoless”. The characteristic quality of the sattwic ego is a subtle self-deception the nature of which Sri Aurobindo describes in a cryptic verse: “Haughtily humble in its own conceit”.
The other characteristic manifestation of the sattwic ego is a patronising tolerance and compassion for what it thinks as low and inferior. It looks down upon others with a superior smile saying “well, my path and the ideal is the highest. Those who follow the other paths and ideals are children in various stages of development but not yet ready for the highest which is mine. Let them evolve slowly. I will give them my uplifting and compassionate hand from my higher pedestal of superiority”. But we must remember here that this attitude is not entirely an egoistic falsehood. It is the distorted perception of some great truths of life. Inequality in the manifestations of nature, various stages of evolution and the need for those in the higher stages of evolution to give a helping hand to men in the lower levels, all these are facts of life. The spiritual consciousness perceives these truths with the eye of a universal, impersonal and unegoistic vision as an objective, scientific fact of life. But the sattwic ego perceives these truth in the narrow and distorted vision of its 1imited personal point of view.
The sattwic ego also, like the rajasic, is a helper in the evolutionary progress of the individual. It helps man to raise from the grossly selfish life of the vital being, however successful and grand it may be, to the pure, subtler and the more rarefied life of the higher mental being governed by some intellectual, ethical and aesthetic values.