If we experience a physical attack on our body we would normally instinctively defend ourselves. We also defend ourselves when someone says we are wrong about something. Why? Because it feels like an attack. We defend our beliefs just like we defend our bodies, because both are who we are. Or are they?
It is logical that we protect our physical self, but why do we get so attached to our ideas and beliefs?
What are these thoughts, feelings and beliefs, and can you feel the resistance in you when they are attacked? Can you watch your reactions?
If you can, then what is watching? You Are.
And what are you watching? The Ego.
So, you and the ego are not the same.
The watcher is conscious of all that happens. When you can watch the ego without it taking you over then the usual defensive reactions tend not to happen as easily. When we are totally caught up in the experience of the thinking and feeling - when we live as the ego (which is the state that most of us live in most of the time), life is full of tensions and stress.
How does the ego come about? Well, from a very early age we gain our sense of self and individuality. This is the ego. Gradually this becomes more complex and entrenched in its beliefs and attachments - it takes on a life of its own, and we believe it is who we are.
The ego is essential for survival in the physical world, but in our modern life in an affluent society, most of us are fortunate not to only be forced to focus on food and shelter. So our ego looks around and begins to acquire external attachments. It becomes obsessed by acquiring and keeping and defending. An unchecked ego can take on extreme and bazaar beliefs. And it sees everything it attaches to as possessions, part of who it is, and as its life depends on these, it will defend them until death. All kinds of behaviour can result including incredibly selfish or hurtful thoughts, words and actions, all cruelty and wickedness that the human being can perpetrate.
We can easily see the ego in others, but can we see it in ourselves? Can we be the witness to our ego? It is only when we start to watch the ego that we sense the deeper self - our real self.