Questioner: Throughout the Gita Krishna appears to be utterly egoistic, but this morning you said it was because of his egolessness that Krishna asked Arjuna to surrender to him, giving up everything else. But Buddha and Mahavira don’t say this to their disciples. So is there a difference between their kinds of egolessness? If so, what is the basic difference between them?
There are two ways to achieve egolessness. One way is through negation. One goes on negating his ego, negating himself, gradually eliminating himself until a moment comes when nothing remains to be eliminated. But the state of egolessness achieved like this is a negative one, because deep down one is still left with a very subtle form of ego which says, “I have made short work of my ego.”
The other is the way of expansion. The seeker goes on expanding himself, his self, so much that all of existence is included in him. The egolessness that comes through this way is total, so total that nothing remains outside of him – not even this much, that he can say, “I am now egoless.”
A seeker who follows the technique of negation attains to the soul, to the atman, which means that the last vestige of his ego remains in the form of “I am.” Everything of his ego has disappeared, but the pure “I” remains. Such a seeker will never attain to God, to the supreme. And the seeker who follows the way of expansion, who expands himself to the extent that he embraces the whole, knows God straightway. He does not have to know the soul.
Krishna’s life is positive, it is not negative. He does not negate anything there is in life, not even the ego. He tells you to enlarge your ego so much that the whole is included in its embrace. And when nothing remains outside you as “thou” then there is no way to say “I am.” I can call myself “I” only so long as there is a “thou” separate from me. The moment “thou” disappears “I” also ceases to be real. So the egoless “I” has to be vast, infinitely immense,
It is in the context of this immensity of the “I” that the rishi, the seer of the Upanishad exclaimed, “Aham brahmasmi,” “I am God, I am the supreme.” It does not mean to say that you are not God, it only means that since there is no “thou” only “I” remains. It is I who am passing through the tree as a breeze. It is I who am waving as waves in the ocean. I am the one who is born, and I am also the one who will die. I am the earth, and I am also the sky. There is nothing whatsoever other than me; therefore, there is now no way even for this “I” to exist. If I am everything and everywhere, who am I going to tell that “I am”? In relation to what?
The whole of Krishna is co-extensive, co-expansive with the immense, the infinite; he is one with the whole. That is why he can say, “I am the supreme, the brahman.” There is nothing egoistic about it. It is just a linguistic way of saying it: “I” is just a word here; there is no I-ness to it. Krishna’s “I” has ceased to be.