Translation of a lecture on Ahankaar (Ego) by Sant Singh Maskeen

I am listening to, and translating, Sant Singh Maskeen ji's lecture on Ego tonight. He starts by reciting the following Sahaskriti poem by Guru Arjan Dev ji:

hey janam maran moolaN ahaNkaaraN paapaatmaa.
mitraN tajant satraN darirh-aaNt anik maa-yaa bisteerniH.
aavant jaavant thakant jee-aa dukh sukh baho bhognah.
bharam bha-yaan udi-aan ramnaN mahaa bikat asaaDh rognah.
baid-yaN paarbarahm parmaysvar aaraaDh naanak har har haray. ||49||

The root weakness that humans have is ego. Ahankaar.  I am I am I am.  That is the root of all problems. As long as there is ego, there is birth and death of the soul.  Ego is the cause of birth and death. Ego is the root of birth and death.  Guru Nanak has said,

Haume Eha Jaat Hai Haume Karam Kamaye
Haume Ehee Bandanaa Phir Phir Joni Paye

Ego has a character. Whatever man does, he does it because of ego.  Whether he is doing something religious, or he is doing something social, or he is doing something political. Ego is the root. Ego is fused into whatever he is doing. And whatever is done because of ego, causes birth. And birth causes death. And with ego, the cycle is repeated. Birth and death, birth and death, birth and death and so on! So ego initiates a long journey of birth and death.

Guru Arjan Dev ji says,

hey janam maran moolaN ahaNkaaraN paapaatmaa.
O soul of sin, egotism, you are the root of birth and death

Every living creature has its characteristic flaw.  We see for instance, in elephants the disease of sexual desire is prime. In flies, dristha rog (visual disease?) is prime. In fish, rasna rog (disease of taste) is prime. In bumble bees, nasika rog (nasal disease).  In deer, the disease of sound (naad rog) is prime.  Guru Arjan Dev ji says,

Haume rog manukh ko deena
Kaam rog Maigal bas leena
Drishta rog pach muye patanga
Naad rog khap gaye Kuranga
-Bhairav Guru Arjan Dev

These diseases are the cause of bondage. These diseases are the cause of sadness. And the root cause of all human suffering is ego. Ahankaar.

Ahankaar can be present sometimes in a sthool roop, or physical form.  At other times it can take a sooksham roop, or mental/psychological form. Sometimes you have ego about materiality. At other times, one has ego about the height of spirituality. Sometimes there is ego about life, sometimes there is ego about the ways to nirvana. In general, the sthool roop ahankaar is rooted in wealth, youth, beauty, and power.

Joban dhan prabhtaa kai mad main
Ahinas rahey divaanaa
-Dhanasri Guru Tegh Bahadur

Day and night he roams like a mad man. 
In the madness of youth, in the madness of wealth ... 

Wealth can be in your pocket, or it can be in one's thinking. One can be youthful, or one can have the desire to be youthful. One can have political power, or one can have desire for political power. Power makes you mad. Even the thought of power makes you mad. Youth can drive one to madness, but even the thought of youth can drive one to madness. Its the same thing with wealth.  One may have wealth in one's bank, in one's home, or one may have wealth in your thoughts, in your meditation. Man has to become mad as a result! That is why Guru Tegh Bahadur says,

Joban dhan prabhtaa kai mad main
Ahinas rahey divaanaa
-Dhanasri Guru Tegh Bahadur

Man considers himself great. And he considers others small.

Aapas Ko Deeragh Kar Janai
Auran Jo Lag Maat
- Bhagat Kabir in Raag Maru

He considers everyone small. Even if someone is great. Even if he himself is inconsequential, he considers himself great and considers others small. Irani sufi sant Hafiz says,

Dar Mehfile kay khursheed Andar shumaar zarra ast
Khud ra buzurg deedam shartey adab navashad

In whose presence sun is just a particle of sand
You want to be called great?

Thats where lack of wisdom takes man. The higher one's ego, the higher is their lack of wisdom. 

There is a great Urdu poet explains this in a different way:

ilam kay jahool say behtar hai jahool ka ilam
Maine yeh daras paaya apni vaseerat say

The wisdom of stupidity is better than the stupidity of wisdom. If you have become somewhat wise, but then you have become even more egotistic, then ego is proof that wisdom is not in control, it is standing on stupidity, it is standing on ego. Ego stands on stupidity. That wise person is unwise if he has ego. 

Bhagat Ravidas ji says it very beautifully:

Hum Bad Kab Kuleen Hum Pandit 
Hum Jogi Sanyasi
Gyani Guni Sur Hum Daate 
Eh Budh Kabhai Na Naasi

"I am great poet, I have excellent lineage, I have deep wisdom, 
I am a great Yogi, a great Sanyasi
I am so wise, I am so good, I am so powerful, I am so charitable," 
this thinking never goes away!

Craziness of ego has taken over man.  He thinks there is no one better than himself.  

They say that it is often the people who are virtuous end up being egotistic. Ego stands on virtues. Because if one does not have virtues, it is hard to have an ego. At the same time, fools are often maligned by ego even when they lack virtues. But a fool's ego is not as heavy. It does not harm him much. That ego is standing on foolishness. 

Nanak te nar Asal Khar 
Jo Bin Gun Garab Karan
Ikna naad Na bed 
Ras Kas Naa jaanan
Ikna Surat Naa sidh
Akhar ka bhyo Naa lahann

The real donkeys are those that have an pride without having any virtues. They are carrying the load of ego without really having any goods. 

Asthool ahankaar often stands on virtues. The eyes of an egotist, the mind of an egotist, the swagger of an egotist, makes a clear showcase of ego. Bhagat Kabir says, 

Chalat kat tede tede
Why do you walk slant?

An egotist can't walk straight. If he were to walk straight no one would notice.  He walks slanted so people would notice him. The egotist wants all eyes on himself. 

The nirvana person walks in the light of God. The egotistic person wants everyone's eyes on himself. 

Chalat kat tede tede
Asht charan bistaa Kay Munde
Durgandh hi Kay bedhe

Who do you think you are, says Kabir. A bunch of bones, with some muscles, and some fat on that, and some skin on top. Full of foul smell. Why are you walking with a swagger? What are you so proud of? These bones. These muscles. Fat? Skin? Or the foul smell?

Guru Arjan Dev says,

Karpoor bahut sugandha

[to be completed; stopped at 12 minutes/60 minutes]

Translation of the poem used as the central idea for this lecture.

mitraN tajant satraN darirh-aaNt anik maa-yaa bisteerniH.
You forsake friends, hold tight to enemies, spread out countless illusions of Maya. 
aavant jaavant thakant jee-aa dukh sukh baho bhognah.
You cause the living beings to come and go until they are exhausted. You lead them to experience pain and pleasure. 
bharam bha-yaan udi-aan ramnaN mahaa bikat asaaDh rognah.
You lead them to wander lost in the terrible wilderness of doubt; you lead them to contract the most horrible, incurable diseases. 
baid-yaN paarbarahm parmaysvar aaraaDh naanak har har haray. ||49||
The only Physician is the Supreme Lord, the Transcendent Lord God. Nanak worships and adores the Lord, Har, Har, Haray. ||49|| 
(p-1358 SGGS)