The first question:
What is the difference between a crystallized self and a big, strong ego?
They look alike, but they are as different as two things can be. Not only different, they are diametrically opposite. The crystallized self is not a self at all. It is called a crystallized “self,” but it is not a self at all. And the big, strong ego is neither big nor strong. It is very hollow – how can it be strong? It is very empty – how can it be strong, and how can it be big? It is neither big nor strong, but it has the “selfhood” in it, the “I-amness,” the feeling that “I am.”
The ego is the self. The real self is not a self at all. We develop the ego just to hide the fact that we don’t know who we are. It is very hard to see that we are so ignorant about ourselves, that we don’t know. To hide this ignorance, we create the ego. Ego is a deception, it is a deception that you are giving to yourself. It is really difficult to live without self-knowing, so we create a false ego. It gives a little consolation. One starts feeling that one knows who one is.
It simply hides ignorance; that’s why all the religions insist on dropping the ego. Unless you drop the ego and you face your inner being…the vastness of it is such that you cannot define it as “I am.” The vastness is so much that it cannot be contained by any concept, within any concept. You cannot call it “I.” It is all – how can you call it “I”? The real self, the real inner being, is existence itself. It is all.
But one has to face it. In the beginning, when you face it, it looks as if it is nothing. That is the fear. “The all” looks like nothing in the first encounter. If you get in tune with it, by and by, the negativity disappears and you start feeling its positive existence. Then it becomes your soul. Call it God, being, or any word that you want to choose; call it enlightenment, awareness. But one thing is certain: you are not there. Something is there, tremendously vital, infinite, but you are not there.
This will look like a paradox: when you come to know yourself you are not there; when you don’t know yourself you are there. You exist only in your ignorance. When knowledge has happened – when knowing has happened – you disappear. You disappear like darkness – just as the sun rises and the darkness disappears, you disappear like darkness when awareness arises. The awareness does not belong to you, it has nothing to do with you. In fact you are the barrier for it. It is because of you that it is not arising.