Question: When does the ego develop in the child and why does it happen?
Sri Chinmoy: A child can start developing ego at the age of two, at the age of one, or even at the age of six months. Although the child has not developed the mind, unconsciously the child may want constant attention from the mother. If the child does not see the mother around him, even if there is no necessity, immediately he cries. The child is missing the mother, which is a good thing. But the child feels that the mother is occupied somewhere else, or that the mother is thinking of someone else, so instinctively the child wants to capture the mother. The moment the mother is somewhere else, the child starts to cry, and when the mother comes, immediately the child becomes calm and quiet.
Now, what is ego? It is a sense of separativity. So you see how the child wants to possess because of this sense of separativity. Possession itself is nothing but ego, the song of ego.
If a child is three years old, when his mother looks at another child, he becomes jealous, he won’t talk. In our Centres we have a few children who won’t talk if I look at their sister or brother. The children won’t even look at me. Sometimes I invite the children to the Centre and they know that they will get gifts. I am like Santa Claus waiting with their gifts for them. But if their turn comes a few minutes later than the others’, then they feel miserable. A child knows that he will get his gift when his turn comes. But if somebody else is getting a gift five minutes earlier, then he feels that he is not in a position to possess what he wants to possess. Then he becomes jealous.
So ego is possession, constant possession, whether it is a child or a grown up who is in the picture. When they fail in possessing something, then they are totally lost. Human possession wants to bind or to be bound. The son wants to be on the mother’s lap and he wants the mother to fondle him. So when we see that the child wants to possess the mother and to be possessed by the mother, then we have to know that ego has started.
But if the same child at the age of twenty or thirty can be spiritual, if he prays and meditates, then if he sees that his mother has gone somewhere else to pray and meditate or even to talk to her friends, then he will not feel miserable, because he is praying to God. He will say, “Let me do my duty and let my mother do whatever she feels best.” As a child, he could not tolerate his mother’s absence even when she was only one minute away. Now that the same person is grown up, he is praying and meditating and he can easily afford to be away from his mother physically for hours. So now the young man does not want to possess the mother the way he wanted to possess her when he was a child.
Sri Chinmoy, Transcendence of the past.First published by Agni Press in 1977.
This is the 347th book that Sri Chinmoy has written since he came to the West, in 1964.