In the spirit of understanding EGO

The world has its latest scandal: VW. I won’t go into technical details as I don’t have the knowledge and anyway, I am a woman. I don’t have to understand the technical details, right? Sorry, just joking.

Anyway, what I do claim to understand though are the mechanics that drive huge corporations or any other huge system. Many huge corporations in any kind of industry have at one point or other been involved in some major scandal – from oil, pharma, food and banking industry to the latest scandal in the automobile industry. Why is that? We may very well ask and I am sure many do.

Underlying factor responsible for scandals

From a Yogic point of view it doesn’t really matter which industry and scandal we look at. There is always an underlying cause accompanying the problem. Now, if you are thinking greed or power or plain old stupidity I would say yes, that too. However, if you want to go to what underlies greed or the need for power or stupidity it boils down to the human being thinking we are in control of what we are thinking or doing. Actually, it is what is commonly known as Ego.

Main risk factor No 1

Okay, from a Yogic point of view we would also add the other four reasons for “catastrophies”, known as kleshas, i.e. ignorance, attachment, aversion and fear of death (for more see Patañjali: Yoga Sutras, Chapter 2 sutra 3ff).

However, when we look at the current main issue that I believe is THE RISK FACTOR No 1 in any big corporation or government system we are talking Ego. It is the driving force per se to calamities down the road. To be more precise we would have to look at deflated and inflated ego. Deflated, because these human beings might see but cannot do anything against what they see, inflated because these human beings don’t see and could do something against what they are doing.

Ego (I-am-ness) from Yogic point of view

What is the Ego (or I-am-ness) from a Yogic point of view? Patañjali defines the Ego in Ch.2, sutra 6 as “identification of the organs of cognition with the self.” What this means is that the human being believes that he/she is the one seeing with the eyes, touching with the hands, talking, hearing etc. It actually allows the human being to consciously interact with its environment. This is what makes us different from the animal world for instance.

However, there is clearly a downside to this possibility to consciously interact with one’s environment. As you might guess, the Ego is merely a reflection of the ever-illuminated self. Like the moon is reflected by the sun and as such is not capable to shine by itself, so the ego is a reflection of the absolute consciousness within every human being. In other words: the ego is NOT in control of anything. It merely believes it is in control, invincible and that everybody and everthing else has to follow it.

This is where it becomes interesting. As just about every human being more or less falls prey to this problem of ‘I-ness’ it then becomes understandable how we are able to manoeuvre ourselves from one problem to the next. Thus, when we understand that the ego is not really in control of its cognitive organs (including the mind) we are able to begin to control its effects somewhat. It is, naturally, an individual practice that can only be done by any individual itself.

Effects of unchecked ego’s

However, when that aspect (of the ego not really being in control of its organs) goes unchecked and is – on top of it – continuously fed by the system, by the environment and/or by the individual itself it is not so surprising that we have some highly inflated egos walking around in top positions (amongst other). From this it follows that decisions are made based on wrong assumptions which lead to mistakes – sooner or later.

Now, you may wonder why then some individuals can keep marching down a wrong road for so long without having to face the consequences or without anybody (or anything) stopping them? – The answer to that may very simply be that most other human beings also are under the spell of the ego (or any other of the four kleshas).

Bulwark against major scandals

Coming back to VW and Co: There can be no doubt that the best bulwark in any industry against major mistakes is Managers that truly understand the mechanics of their own ego and consequently remain vigilant against their own inherent weaknesses.

As long as that is not understood we are going to continue to see scandals here, power abuse there and mistakes that lead to further and further decline in individual freedom.

In order to finish on a happier note though (than the last sentence would imply): Mistakes of any kind truly are an incredible opportunity to understand the human being (i.e. oneself) and to change one’s own outlook. Every ego that neither inflates nor deflates (that too is a problem) can be looked upon as a well-balanced human being and thus a success story.