Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai, Group meditation in London, UK
March 10, 1998 (originally in English) Videotape No. 631
Q: Sometimes I think when you're working, you feel apprehensive about becoming successful because your ego will grow with it. So I find that a bit confusing in the sense that if you're doing a certain job and you become materially successful, I think then you become more and more materialistic towards the work as well. And then because of your success, your ego grows as well.
M: I'm not sure about that. Sometimes you derive joy from being successful and having done something completely. It has nothing to do with the ego. For example, an artist sometimes will carve something in a dark cave alone, for himself. It has nothing to do with the ego. No one will go there and applaud him and say he's successful. He's just happy that the work is done the way he wants it.
We're also creators. If we create and complete something, we feel good! Even if it's ego, that's fine; it's not a bad form of ego. The ego is only bad when it harms someone, when it obstructs you from spiritual practice and progress or when it hinders someone else's progress because you prosper at their expense. Then it's bad.
So ego is just a word. Depending on how you use it, it's fine. That's the last thing to go before we die, which is good. But before that, we have to keep a little in order to work. Without the so-called ego, we don't even want to eat or to sit here. What are you doing here? You want to become a Buddha; that's also ego. You have to have something. It's just a motivation, a behind-the-scenes push to get us to do this and do that.
But if we give in completely to the ego, we become obsessed with it. And we become arrogant, we become ignorant, and we become consumed in all this kind of fame and glory or illusionary honor, then it's bad. But the so-called ego is like fuel for a car, or mud for a lotus or fertilizer for a rose. You can't go without it all the time.