Q: 1. If I erase the ego, what’s left? Apathy and suicide? I thought the ego was responsible for the will to get a better life. The force that keeps you going. Like Revolver says, “It’s the only reason you get up in the morning”.
2a. Is the point being made that there is something greater than this life? Like the continuation of the spirit and perhaps reincarnation?
2b. Or is the point that I should be aware of the ego while keeping it, therefore controlling it instead of letting it control me?
A: Answer to question 1:
That is an astute observation to assume that if you erase the ego that apathy and suicide would arise, however, with some clarification perhaps we can find new understanding. First, you are absolutely right, typically we think of the ego as a survival mechanism, our animal nature, and driving force to live, however as it dissolves its interests and values change. For example, an extremely strong/primitive ego is the epitome of neanderthal man. Life is lived based in extreme fear and absolutely everything is seen as ‘me’ versus ‘you’. Life is a matter of survival and propagation of one’s seed/egoic self. As attachment to the ego dissolves the animalistic nature dissolves as well and life becomes gradually more based in lovingness and peace. Therefore, one could say that without an ego there would only be pure love for there would be no perception of ‘others’ to contended with anymore – fear would have also simultaneously dissolved with the ego for they are one and the same. All would simply be seen as One (Radical Nonduality) so there would only be respect, love, peacefulness, happiness, and kindness radiating from such a being.
The ego is the source of all fear, so without attachment to it/fear you could imagine how inwardly calm and confident we’d be. Without attachment to the ego, life actually continues seamlessly except now we are able to see the brilliance of life all around us in every moment. Whether the body continues or not wouldn’t really matter, by that point existence would have been realized as eternal and guaranteed.
Awaken to the magically divine, timeless existence that this is.
What Jason Statham’s character is referring to when he says ‘it’s the only reason you wake up…’ is that based on how imbedded the ego is it will dictate your life in search of approval. In this case he’s describing the typical human of today who runs the consumer treadmill trying to find satisfaction and fulfillment through the external world instead of the internal and spiritual. However, back to our example a second ago, this would mean to an animal ego its desire every morning is to find food and stay alive and be defensive against all contenders or predators who get in the way and threaten its survival. To a dissolved ego there wouldn’t really be desire anymore because there’s also no longer any feelings of lack, separation, or fear. All unfolds of its own and life is seen to be mystically spontaneous and autonomous with no ‘doer’ behind actions, no ‘thinker’ behind thoughts, and no ‘feeler’ behind feelings. There is nothing left other than to simply accept, appreciate, and love life as it arises with all its highs and lows, as well as appreciate all others, ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and go amongst life in peace, such as an enlightened sage.
Hence we can observe that after Jake transcends his ego he is at peace and even when threatened by death he has a peaceful haze about him and a smirk emerges on his face while Macha, his ego’s perceived enemy, is insecure and begging to be feared (need for approval of worth). Jake sees clearly Macha’s attachments and therefore his insecurities and fear and simply drops his own weapon that is now useless to him and then simply walks away…
The process of ego self-identity however is an incredibly sophisticated and cunning mechanism within the human psyche and has a vast range of expressions. What you suggested as apathy and suicide is actually the full consuming force of the ego that seeks to desecrate and destroy life, including itself. “Greed gets them all in the end.” The ego will consume itself to its own demise. Meanwhile the abandonment of the ego, release of attachment to it, is actually the fullness of unconditional love and peace – Jake’s unperturbed state at the end of the film.
Answer to question 2a: Is the point being made that there is something greater than this life? Like the continuation of the spirit and perhaps reincarnation?
Yes, the teaching that can be inferred is that without an attachment to a human ego, or self-identity, who are you then? Without attachment to ego identity what/who must you be if you still exist? For example, if you’re not your name… who are you? If you’re not your gender, who are you? If you’re not your ethnicity, who are you? If you’re not your bank account amount, who are you? Furthermore, if you’re not a human body… who are you? If you’re not the mind… who/what are you then? This is the process of self-inquiry and is the relentless questioning of how we come to define ourselves.
Just who or what am ‘I’ exactly? Who or what is the ‘I’ or ‘me’ that I believe myself to be?
Essentially to dissolve the ego we must pursue the question of, “how is it that I exist in the first place…”
Reincarnation is the concept that a soul/consciousness evolves eternally to Self-Realization and uses whatever vessel appropriate to best continue its growth and maturity, in our case, a human form. Human life offers us endless choices to make that are all spiritual at their core and can either be loving (ego destroying – Unifying with Divine) or fearful (ego promoting – Separation from Divine). The choice is up to us, how do we want to use this sacred opportunity? All choices are right and none are wrong so follow your bliss, what do I honestly want?
Answer to question 2b: Or is the point that I should be aware of the ego while keeping it, therefore controlling it instead of letting it control me?
The ego is a limited identity that we unknowingly accepted. It loses all power when you realize its fallacy and illusory nature. The easiest example is I tell you your name is John when you’re born and you accept that, yes this is ‘who I am’…John… But in reality you’re not John, you’re no name in fact, you just are. Names are the easiest examples of ego formulated identity. Some other easy examples are being a male or female, or our interests or values, our fashion choices, amount of money we have, our job, our hobbies, etc. These things are all just aspects of our experience, they are not ‘who I am’. With some contemplation we will realize that a lot of what we have come to accept as ‘who I am’ is actually a complete illusion that we’ve come to accept…which is the ego… Hence Jake says, “if you knew this, you wouldn’t do this…Someone is hiding it from us.” He’s referring to the fact that the ego is hiding the truth from us in order to not be figured out because if it is figured out it will instantly lose all power.
As soon as we realize we are not our name, it instantly has no power over us anymore and it becomes completely irrelevant. As soon as we realize we are not what we physically look like, it instantly becomes irrelevant to our true fulfillment. As soon as we realize we are not our job, it instantly becomes irrelevant and has no power over our happiness. As soon as we realize we are not our body or gender it instantly becomes completely irrelevant to our experiences of joy. You see where I’m going with this?
No matter what the ego-identity attaches to it is ultimately an illusion that has no inherent truth to it and belief in these illusions keep us from experiencing everlasting joy and gratitude for life. All ego attachments lead to fear of loss of the particular attachment and thus lead to vulnerability and suffering. The ego can also be used as a synonym for attachment, and all attachments are the source of all suffering and so I often say the ego is suffering. Hence in the process of Jake’s liberation he is constantly stripped of every possible attachment he had, particularly money and his dignity which were his particular strongest attachments. Once all attachments were relinquished by doing the exact opposite of what the ego wanted he found infinite peace since nothing could possibly take from ‘who he truly is‘. To go beyond all fear is to go beyond all ego identities no matter what they may be.
May you realize that which your heart desires.
Wishing us Peace and Love always brothers and sisters
For more on this topic see Insight from Revolver