The first question:
In the west I was trained as a social worker. I was taught that it is important that a person respects and loves himself and feels worthwhile. I was taught that it is important to give support to help strengthen the ego. You say kill the ego. I am confused.
The ego is needed because the true self is not known. The ego is a substitute, it is a pseudo entity. Because you don’t know yourself you have to create an artificial center; otherwise functioning in life will be impossible. Because you don’t know your real face, you have to wear a mask. Not knowing the essential, you have to trust in the shadow.
There are only two ways of living in life. One is to live it from the very core of your being – that has been the way of the mystics. Meditation is nothing but a device to make you aware of your real self – which is not created by you, which need not be created by you, which you already are. You are born with it, you are it! It needs to be discovered. If this is not possible, or if the society does not allow it to happen…and no society allows it to happen, because the real self is dangerous – dangerous for the established church, dangerous for the state, dangerous for the crowd, dangerous for the tradition – because once a man knows his real self, he becomes an individual. He no longer belongs to the mob psychology; he will not be superstitious, and he cannot be exploited. He cannot be led like cattle, he cannot be ordered and commanded. He will live according to his light, he will live from his own inwardness. His life will have tremendous beauty, integrity. But that is the fear of the society.
Integrated persons become individuals, and the society wants you to be nonindividuals. Instead of individuality, the society teaches you to be a personality. The word personality has to be understood. It comes from a root persona – persona means a mask. The society gives you a false idea of who you are; it gives you just a toy, and you go on clinging to the toy your whole life.
The one way is to live through meditation – then you live a life of rebellion, of adventure, of courage. Then you really live! The other way to live, or to fake living, is the way of the ego – strengthen the ego, nourish the ego; so that you need not look into the self, cling to the ego. The ego is an artifact created by the society to deceive you, to distract you.