In eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism and the modern New-age movement, people are taught that they need to overcome their egos to become "enlightened". Even in religions like Christianity have a similar concept, where to "enter the kingdom of heaven" a person has to become humble and meek. In the new-age moment the ego is portrayed as the bad guy, and seems to play a similar role as the Devil does in Christianity. So instead of the Devil encouraging us all to commit sin, it is the ego that plays this role.
To be fair there is good reasons to believe that the ego is a Devil. Because it is easy to claim that all the suffering that we experience in our world is created by the ego. The ego is a sense of self, which in itself seems harmless enough, but a sense of self gives a feeling of separation from everyone else. Which in turn leads to selfishness because the individual person's needs and desires become more important to him than the needs of others. Then if others also have this sense of self, there becomes competition from others to have there individual desires completed. Which creates the situation of some people gaining more while others miss out. This can lead to violence and intimation as some will find this the easiest way to gain what they want. Creating within people hatred and fear of others where people have to fight others not only to gain what they want but to simply survive. From this can lead to a sense of hostility and conflict as the other is perceived as a threat to the self. This causes a clash of egos as the egos of different people compete with each other for wealth, power, love and status. The ego in effect creates a vicious circle of hate and fear as each ego fears other egos and attacks other egos as a way of defending the self.
The effect of the ego we can see in our history and in the world to-day. All wars are created by the ego, as war-leaders attack other countries to gain land, wealth and power or because they fear being attacked themselves. The ego also creates inequality in society as the rich and powerful want greater wealth and power at the expense of the poor who they exploit. So it means we can blame all the wars, poverty conflicts and suffering of the world on the ego.
Because of this many religion believe that as the ego is the cause of suffering and they assume that if we are able to destroy the ego then suffering will cease. Eastern religions have attempted this though meditation and other spiritual disciplines. Many people through these methods have claimed to have overcome the ego, which has resulted in these people being acclaimed as being enlightened. Unfortunately the concept of enlightenment is probably one of the most powerful ego-trips a person can have. Because many of these "Enlightened Ones" can have armies of followers who worship them as gods, hang on every word they say and obeying everything the "enlightened master" tells them.
Religions like Christianity and Mohammedanism and political systems like Communism and Fascism have attempted to overcome the ego though force and indoctrination. Where the individual person was encouraged to forget his personal needs in favour of that of the state. Unfortunately, although the common people were not allowed to have a ego this didn't apply to the leaders. Who took all the wealth and power they wanted and some like Stalin, Hitler and Mao Tse-Tung became ego-maniacs. So today we can see that the ego is still with us, and all attempts to overcome it have failed, but if all the ills and problems of people and society can be blamed on the ego then we should try to understand what it is and why we all have one.
All religions believe that the world was created by a creator. Even though they might disagree about the nature of that creator, we have to assume that an intelligence that is clever and powerful enough to create our universe has to know what it is doing. So in would seem crazy that such intelligent would create something like an ego that causes so much suffering unless it has purpose. We cannot assume that the ego is a mistake as some people seem to believe because the creator if it can create the universe then surely it can rectify such a mistake. So this means that the ego must have a very useful service.
The ego not only causes us all suffering it also shapes our lives, and none of us would be human without a ego. Because without a ego or sense of self we all would be at one with each other and all that there is. Which sounds wonderful, and is claimed that this is the state of enlightenment that we all should be searching for. Until we realize that in becoming one and there for no longer having a ego we would no longer exist. We would all simply be a small part of a greater intelligence, with no free-will of our own. So we would become like a colony of bees or ants, with no individual having a sense of self and everyone working for the good of the whole.
So it seems that we have a choice we can be an individual with free-will but have to put up with the suffering that the ego causes. Or become one with each other so there for living in harmony with everyone with no suffering but also with no sense of self or free- will.
If we accept that our creator is not stupid or uncaring, then we have to accept that there is a solution to this problem. If we look closely at suffering we find that even this has a purpose because as many spiritual people have realized it is though suffering that we learn. We have to accept that the ego is us, it is not separate from us as many religions claim. It is we who cause suffering to ourselves and to others, not because we are evil or sinful but because we truly do not know what we are doing.
Unfortunately our creator is limited in what it can do to help us to learn in overcoming suffering. This is not because She is not unlimited but because we are limited in our understanding. Our creator has the same problem as a parent of a child. If the parent looks after the child too well the child doesn't learn how to look after itself and is unable to become independent from the parent. If the parent gives the child too much freedom the child learns quicker to look after itself but is more likely to make mistakes and cause suffering to itself and to others. The creator cannot even give us the benefit of Her great wisdom, because that would discourage us from thinking and creating for ourselves.
When our Creator created us She not only gave us our ego, which is the gift of individuality, but the gift of being able to love. Surprisingly love is not something that comes naturally to us but something we all have to learn to do and it is because we havn't completed all our lesions in love that we are unable to control our egos.
There are very many lesions in love, but the most important ones are on how to love ourselves, to love others unconditionally. To both give and receive love, To love others as individuals, To love all people as a whole. To love others who hate us and do us harm and how to balance the love we have for ourselves and the love we have for others. In our relationships with others we live in a sea of love, but love is a very powerful force, too powerful for us to handle. Creating both suffering and joy for us all, but it is only by working with love that we learn to understand it and learn to use it without being harmed by it.
We are all learning about love in many very different ways, but the biggest different in the very different ways men and women are learning about love. If we look back in history then we see that, that in all societies of the world it always has been that men have dominated women. This domination has allowed men and women to learn two very different lesions in love. For the last five thousand years of recorded history men have been learning how to love himself. By learning to love himself he has learnt how to create a ego, or how to be a individual. Women at the same time have been learning how to love others unconditionally, in very adverse conditions. Women have learnt to love men and children who have given her very little love in return, and in many cases women have received only abuse from men in return for there love.
It might seem surprising that we have to learn to be able to love ourselves, but we can see the very great differences between people and the way they are learning about love. On one hand there are many people who live in poverty who believe they are unworthy to receive anything. On the other hand there are ego-maniacs like say Alexander the Great, Napoleon or Hitler who through conquest, have caused the deaths and maiming of millions of people and the destruction of whole communities. Who only do this so that they can say, "Wow, look how many countries I've conquered".
There is nothing wrong in loving oneself and we are on this Earth to learn this, but a person who love themselves without also learning to love others is out of balance. Likewise a person who is able to love everybody except themselves is also out of balance.
The whole of the patriarchal age has reflected the unbalanced state were men have only learnt to love themselves and women have only learnt to love others. Today in the twentieth century we are starting to see men learning how to love others and women starting to learn to love themselves. But this is only a beginning men still have a long way to go to reach the degree of unconditional love and self-sacrifice of a normal woman. While woman likewise still have a lot to learn to have the large ego the average man has.
This is why we are moving towards a new matriarchal age where the roles of the sexes will be reversed. Where men will learn to love others and women themselves. It will only be when both men and women have completely learnt the lesions of loving themselves and loving others will both sexes be able to come together in equality and complete love.