It is a curious thing to see the sense of identity develop in a child, when they first start to understand that a name, a sound is being used to address them. And then that first toy, which of course opens the floodgates to a lifetime of gathering material possessions. Freud theorised that the ego develops in the first three years of a child, which is a manifestation of the basic or primal human instincts. The superego, or the filter that helps with discernment of socially acceptable behaviour starts to emerge when a child is around five years old.
Social conditioning, especially in an overpopulated country like ours, can sometimes inculcate a scarcity mindset, almost as a natural mechanism of self preservation. It doesn’t help that as a people, we have been under exploitative foreign rule for the best part of the last 500-600 years, which possibly also contributes to a genetic memory of lack. Small wonder then that we find ourselves constantly jostling to be ahead of the pack, be that to get off as soon as an aeroplane touches down, or brain-muscling our way into the best engineering or medical schools.
As the winds of economic prosperity begin to sweep over the hinterland, and as more and more of our fellow countrymen and women start to experience a sense of financial and social security, the hope is that we will heal as a people. However there is more to this than just social healing, greed forms a core past of that basal human ego and the amount of regulation by the superego isn't uniform across everyone.
Some people just will naturally be more ambitious and less empathetic and want more for themselves even at the cost of their fellow human beings. It's absolutely okay to be ambitious, but to land grab what rightfully belongs to others is plain wrong. This unhinged ego is what Buddhism calls the 'small mind', which cannot think beyond itself. The more it gets, the further its hunger for even more grows, until it's out of control and loses all sense of objectivity and justice.
Our ancient texts tell the tales of some of these narcissistic individuals, the most popular probably being Ravana. An accomplished Yogi, who had everything and yet couldn't overcome his lust for more. When the quantum of evil grows to crazy proportions, it becomes a hazard for society and it is then that Narayana has to take things in his own hands and incarnate. As we prepare to celebrate Vijayadashmi, let's resolve to tame our ego and ignorance, and reap the benefits of being born in such an ancient culture replete with wisdom, and use spirituality to balance our needs with our wants and desires.