The ego shifts our focus in “I am so fallen” from “fallen” to “I”

Usually, the ego afflicts us with megalomania, making us believe that we are far greater than what we actually are. But when we understand the fallacy and folly of such a mentality and guard ourselves from the ego’s megalomania, it attacks us with a subtler, more sinister illusion: false humility. Let’s see how.

The essence of the ego’s illusion is self-centeredness. Aptly, the Bhagavad-gita (16.18) deems the ego a demoniac quality that keeps us alienated from God. Usually, this illusion manifests as self-congratulatory self-absorption: “I am so good-looking, so clever, so great.” But it can also manifest as self-condemnatory self-absorption: “I am so fallen, so sinful, so useless, so helpless, so hopeless.”

No doubt, such feelings can be expressions of genuine humility. But quite often, those very feelings can be hijacked by the ego so that undiscerning seekers like us may end up fixated not on the “fallen” part, but on the “I” part. The ego thus transmogrifies humility into self-pity. The pretense of humility becomes the ego’s strategy to make itself the center of attention – at least our attention and even others’ attention.

How can we deal with such a sinister attack of the ego? By shifting our focus from humility itself to the purpose of humility: the practice of bhakti-yoga. We want humility so as to be freed from self-obsession and free for absorption in Krishna and service to him.

By meditating on how Krishna loves us, no matter how fallen we are, and on how we, despite our fallen condition, still have the opportunity to love and serve him, we can shift our focus from ourselves to Krishna. Thus evading the false humility that is the trap of the ego, we can grow in the true humility that is the accelerator of bhakti.

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