The first question:
Is it possible to be conscious of enlightenment, and be enlightened? Can the thought of being enlightened create ego in one? Kindly explain.
The first thing to be understood is: what is ego. The ego is not very substantial. In fact it is not. It is just an idea, a substitute without which it will be difficult for you to live. Because you don’t know who you are, you have to create a certain idea about yourself; otherwise you will simply go mad. You have to fix some indicators so that you can know, “Yes, this is me.”
I have heard, once a fool came to a big city. He stayed in a dharmashala. There were many people there – he had never slept before with so many people; he was a little worried and scared. The fear was that when he falls asleep, in the morning when he awakes again, how he will recognize that he is really himself? So many people…he had always slept in his room, alone, so there was no problem because there was no possibility. Of course, he was always himself, but here with so many people sleeping around, a crowd, he may get lost. It’s okay while you are awake, you can continue remembering yourself, but while asleep you may miss, you may forget, and in the morning you may be confused; you may be lost in the crowd.
Seeing him so worried and sitting on his bed, somebody asked, “What is the matter with you? Why don’t you go to sleep?” He explained his problem. The man laughed; he told him, “This is very simple. Look in that corner; some child has left his balloon. Bring it and tie it to your foot so in the morning you will know perfectly that it is you if the balloon is there.”
The fool said, “That’s right.” And he had to sleep, he was so tired, so he fastened the balloon with a string to his foot and went to sleep.
The man played a joke: in the night, when the fool was snoring, he took the balloon off his foot and fastened it to his own foot. In the morning, when the fool looked around, he started crying and weeping. A crowd gathered, and they asked, “What is the matter?”
He said, “Now I know perfectly that he is me, but who am I?”
Now this is the problem.
The ego is because you don’t know who you are. So a name, an address, a certain face that you have seen reflected in the mirror, in the photographs, the album – these all help. They are balloons fastened to you.