Ego and civilization

Acharya Prashant
3 min readFeb 9, 2021

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Acharya Prashant (AP): The questioner says, “If everyone drops their ego, there would be no civilization and everybody would be roaming naked in the Jungle.”

We have to understand what is ego and what is civilization? What is it that is meant by civilization? Civilization refers to a particular order in living. A particular system in living, an orderliness. That is the meaning of civilization. Civilization refers to an orderliness in living. An orderliness, that is not random, it is orderly.

Order can arise from two distinct sources. Order can arise either out of fear, as you see in our society. That, if people are civilized then most of them behave in a civilized way because of fear of punishment, right? Order can arise from there.

And when there is fear, there is ego. Because you are afraid of somebody else, that’s what ego is. Somebody else is dominating your mind. So, we have seen order only of one kind, civilization only of one kind which is the civilization arising from fear. That, if I behave in an uncivilized way then I will be jailed or I lose my respectability.

Hence, the questioner is justified in thinking that the very basis of civilization is fear. The civilization that we see, is based on fear but it is not necessary that civilization or order must necessarily be based on fear.

Orderliness, civilization can come from another source, what source is that? That source is that of your intelligence. For example, we have this room and there are air molecules in this room; the molecules are not very tightly packed as well, we know the packing ratio.

For every unit of the molecule, that a molecule volume, that a molecule occupies, there are many times of volume that is free space, still what are these molecules doing all the time? They are colliding with each other and there is no order. This is what you call ‘Brownian motion’, random motion.

Whereas, if this room is full of people and these people are given different tasks for which they have to move about, constantly move about. Say, a group of people has been told to white-wash that wall, a group is mopping this floor, another group is taking care of the ceiling. So…