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The Difference Between The Ego And The True Self According To Eastern Philosophy

The Difference Between The Ego And The True Self According To Eastern Philosophy

In Eastern philosophy, the concept of the ego and the true self is central to understanding the human experience and achieving spiritual growth. The ego is the part of us that cares about our own interests and desires and is driven by our need to be validated and controlled by the ego. In contrast, the true self is often described as the innermost part of the individual, the core of their being, which is connected to a higher power or universal consciousness. It has been associated with love, compassion, and wisdom. Throughout this article, I will explore how understanding these differences can lead to personal growth and fulfillment and how the ego differs from the true self in Buddhist philosophy.

Quick Answer

  • The ego is often described as the individual’s sense of self or identity.
  • In contrast, the true self is seen as the innermost part of the individual, the core of their being that is connected to a higher power or universal consciousness.
  • In Asian philosophy, the ego is driven by a need for validation and control and can lead to ego-driven motivations such as pride, greed, and a desire for power. On the other hand, the true self is characterized by qualities such as love, compassion, and wisdom and seeks to align with a higher purpose and live according to universal truths.
  • Eastern philosophy often aims to break free from the ego and tap into the true self to achieve spiritual growth and self-realization.

Definition Of Ego And True Self In Eastern Philosophy

In Eastern philosophy, the ego is often described as the individual’s sense of self or identity. It is the “I” that we identify with and is centered on our own interests and desires. Our egos are driven by their need for validation and control, which may cause us to make choices based on these factors.

Conversely, the true self is often referred to as the core of an individual’s being, which is connected to a higher power or universal awareness. In addition to being associated with qualities such as love and compassion, it is often seen as a source of authentic identity among individuals. In order to achieve universal truths and align with a higher purpose, the true self doesn’t concern itself with ego-driven desires and motivations. Self-realization and spiritual growth are often accomplished by breaking free from the ego and tapping into the true self.

Importance Of Understanding The Difference Between The Two

In order to identify which parts of ourselves drive our actions and choices, it is crucial to understand the difference between the ego and the true self. In order to make conscious and mindful decisions aligned with our authentic selves rather than driven by our ego, we need to become aware of the ego’s influence.

As a result, we can also cultivate inner peace and contentment by understanding the difference between the ego and the true self. Often, negative emotions are rooted in the ego, and we can free ourselves from these negative emotions by letting go of the ego. Finding inner peace and fulfillment can be achieved by aligning with our true selves.

It is essential for personal growth and spiritual development in this type of philosophy to understand the difference between the ego and the true self. We can live more authentic and fulfilling lives if we become aware of the ego’s influence and learn to let go of it.

The Difference Between The Ego And The True Self According To Eastern Philosophy

The Ego In Eastern Philosophy

Eastern philosophy offers an illuminating view of these two topics and to understand the difference between the ego and the true self. It defines the ego as something you are born with, yet it is not your essence. It’s composed of a set of beliefs and attitudes we develop along our path in life that shapes our sense of identity. Let’s take a deeper dive to really grasp the concept and what it means.

Eastern Philosophy’s Definition Of The Ego

Eastern philosophy’s definition of the ego is slightly different from what is commonly accepted in the West. In the East, though, the ego is seen as a separate part of consciousness that exists between our minds and bodies. The ego loves identifying itself with material objects and physical appearances, and ambitious desires and competitiveness characterize it.

This view of the ego sees it as something that controls us and keeps us from obtaining true wisdom and obscuring our path of enlightenment. As such, it’s essential to detach from our egos to access our true selves or higher consciousness. You can do this through various spiritual practices like yoga, meditation, or contemplation.

Basically, these philosophies see the ego as an obstacle or hindrance to reaching one’s highest potential. It encourages greed and envy, which can halt our growth toward real self-fulfillment. To overcome this obstacle, we must dissolve our inner need for recognition and control, revealing the peace within us, i.e., the pure essence of who we really are deep down.

How the ego functions

Our ego is responsible for maintaining order and control over our lives. Judging, comparing, and labeling what we do and don’t like creates boundaries between us and others. It hides us from potential harm and generates a wide range of fears:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of hurt feelings
  • Fear of disappointment

But this isn’t really who we are… it’s just protection from the world around us. According to this version of philosophy, under all of these projections is our “true self,” or higher consciousness connected to something greater than ourselves. As we let go of what binds us to our egos, such as victimhood stories and comparisons with others, we can access this true self and live life more fully in alignment with its values.

The Negative Effects Of The Ego On The Individual And Others

The ego is an integral part of our individual identities, but it can be a mixed blessing. It’s the primary instrument by which we chart our lives and make decisions about how we interact with others. However, Eastern philosophies view the ego as something to be cautiously observed and controlled due to its potential for creating feelings of separateness or “I,” leading to suffering and alienation from our true selves. The role of the ego in this context is not to dominate the self but rather to serve as a tool for directing action in everyday life without allowing it to consume you.

The Ego And The Illusion Of Separation

As a concept, the ego is often viewed as an illusion that separates an individual from the rest of the world in the sense of separation. As a result of the ego’s need to protect and defend the individual’s sense of self, this illusion of separation can lead to feelings of isolation, disconnection, and alienation.

It creates this illusion of separation by dividing the world into “me” and “not me,” and it reinforces this illusion through jealousy, envy, and fear. Not only can this make one feel isolated from others, but also from nature and the interconnectedness of everything.

The Ego And The Illusion Of Permanence

The ego’s illusion of permanence can cause suffering because it ignores the inherent impermanence of all things. Everything changes and the ego’s resistance to change can result in suffering.

Spiritual growth involves understanding the role of the ego in creating the illusion of permanence. As a result of letting go of the ego and aligning with our true selves, we can find inner peace and contentment despite life’s impermanence by breaking free from suffering caused by resistance to change.

The Ego And The Desire For Control

A person’s ego is often seen as part of their consciousness that seeks stability and security by controlling circumstances and outcomes of their lives. This desire for control can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • A need to control others
  • A need to control one’s own emotions and thoughts
  • A need to control the external environment

The ego will go to great lengths to maintain control and can create a great deal of suffering as a result.

The Ego And The Importance Of Humility

Humility is considered a virtue in philosophy that helps individuals let go of their ego and align with their true selves. Humility involves recognizing one’s own limitations and imperfections and being open to learning from others.

Individuals who cultivate humility can let go of their egos’ need for validation and superiority and align themselves with their true selves, characterized by compassion, and openness. Individuals can grow and develop spiritually as a result of this and experience inner peace and contentment.

The True Self In Eastern Philosophy

According to Eastern philosophy, our true self is found through self-realization or the understanding of our deepest feelings and emotions that lie beyond the realm of rational thought. You can do this by unleashing and embracing the inner knowing we already possess or, in other words, a journey to become who we truly are.

The Difference Between The Ego And The True Self According To Eastern Philosophy

Definition Of The True Self

In contrast to the ego, Eastern philosophy defines the true self as something spiritual within us, our connection to something much deeper outside ourselves, or what some would call enlightenment or liberation. The True Self is conscious of something greater than individual desires or preferences and wants to reach a place beyond personal achievements and goals. Its focus is not on acquiring power or possessions but on finding harmony with nature and expressing compassion for all living beings.

The Qualities Of The True Self And How It Differs From The Ego

The true self is one of compassion, contentment, connectedness to all life forms, acceptance without judgment, and a greater purpose in life. In the true self, we live in harmony with everything living, understanding that everything in the universe has its place; it embraces peace and joy for whatever comes our way.

The Role Of The True Self In Spiritual Growth And Self-Realization

In order to transcend the limitations of the ego and grow spiritually, we must explore our deepest inner depths and connect with our true selves. Through this process of inner exploration, we come to know our true nature, which allows us to reach greater levels of understanding, peace, and self-awareness.

The ultimate goal for most Eastern philosophies is to reach a sense of oneness or unity with yourself and the universe and recognize our role in life’s unfolding evolution. Having direct contact with our authentic selves through meditation, yoga, or any activity that enables us to connect with our core being can help us tap into powers that bring out greatness from within while being humble in service to something greater than ourselves — whether nature, truth, or Spirit.

The Relationship Between The Ego And The True Self

In embracing both equally, the true self and the ego work together in harmony – the true self brings inner peace and structure, while the ego provides grounding. Ultimately, they work together to bring balance into one’s life as we learn to constantly adjust them in perfect harmony. Nevertheless, if we allow them to be out of balance, we suffer adverse consequences.

How The Ego Can Obscure The True Self

A person’s ego is concerned with how others perceive them, so they adopt roles, titles, or identities to maintain appearances. Trying to fulfill these socially prescribed roles, even if they do not match our true essence, can drastically alter our behavior. It may also comfort our egos to outdo or compete with others to feel validated, successful, or worthy.

Therefore, while the true self is motivated by feelings of love and acceptance of our imperfections, the ego is motivated by fear and insecurity and demands constant validation from society’s standards of success or adherence to traditional roles. 

As part of discovering our true selves, we need to learn how to observe the ego without becoming overwhelmed by its false narratives and cultivate the inner core of unconditional love that radiates from our true selves to grow.

Techniques For Breaking Free From The Ego And Accessing The True Self

Breaking free from the ego is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor because it leads to uncovering and accessing your innate self (which some in eh West might call the soul), which can lie buried beneath layers of conscious thought, behavior, and social conditioning. You can uncover the true self by employing several techniques according to Eastern philosophy.

The Difference Between The Ego And The True Self According To Eastern Philosophy


The process of meditation allows you to identify unhelpful or futile mental patterns that keep you trapped in an ego-based mindset by making you aware of thoughts and issues in a non-judgmental manner. Mindfulness involves being attentive to the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Regular practice of this technique will help you gain better mastery over your emotions and control over negatively charged thoughts – both of which are essential for breaking away from deep-rooted patterns to access the true self.

Yoga/ Tai Chi/ Qigong

Trying out activities such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong helps bring the focus within so that one realizes their existence beyond physical experiences and situations. Reconnecting with more spiritual aspects of life and tapping into higher levels of consciousness helps create lasting shifts in perceptions and understanding, revealing one’s true nature that was once hidden behind the layers of false identities created by the ego.

Final Thoughts

Eastern philosophy teaches us that a healthy ego is essential to taking part in life. Still, it’s only when you let go of the ego and connect with your true self that you can experience spiritual fulfillment. Therefore, taking the time to exercise mindfulness and live a more conscious lifestyle can help you make sure to keep your ego in check and focus instead on developing your true self. 

With consistent practice, soon enough, you’ll be on your way to living an inspired and authentic life free from the limitations that one’s ego forces upon us. Am I there yet? Well, unfortunately, no, but I hope to strive to eventually allow my true self to come to the forefront and enable me to live a far more satisfying life free from negativity.