Leave Ego And Shoes Outside!

The priorities of the Gurmat (Wisdom, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS) are totally different then the priorities of the mind which is ridden with egotism (Haumai), doubt (Bharam), illusion (Maya)…

In Gurdwaras, for example, we see signs asking people to leave their shoes (and socks in some Gurdwaras) outside before entering the Gurdwara building. In fact, many Gurdwaras have made special “shoe Room” to place the shoes. Furthermore, there is usually a separate shoe room for men and women near the entrance of the Gurdwara.

But, honestly, has anybody seen a sign in any Gurdwara in the world asking people to leave their false ego-sense (Haumai– ਹਉਮੈ) outside before entering the Gurdwara building for the purpose of learning the Gur-Giaan or Wisdom?

In fact, the Gurbani demands to remove the false ego-sense (Haumai– ਹਉਮੈ) before embarking on the Way of the Gurmat.

Obviously, the priorities are screwed up — the priorities of the Wisdom of the SGGS are different than the priorities of the false ego-sense (Haumai).

What’s the result of this screw-up? As evident, the result is lawsuits, legal disputes, assault with deadly weapons, shooting-fights, sword-fights, divisions, conflicts, etc., in Gurdwaras all over the world! The Gurbani asks:

  • ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥ ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਗਿ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੨੦॥: If you desire to play this game of Divine Love with Me, then step onto My Way putting your head on palm. When you place your foot on this Way, give up your head (false ego-sense), do not be afraid or shrink ||20||. (sggs 1412).

To put it otherwise, before we step on the Way of the SGGS, the Gurbani commands to “first” accept death (“ਪਹਿਲਾ ਮਰਣੁ ਕਬੂਲਿ”) — death of the false ego-sense or Haumai mind…

  • ਪਹਿਲਾ ਮਰਣੁ ਕਬੂਲਿ ਜੀਵਣ ਕੀ ਛਡਿ ਆਸ ॥ ਹੋਹੁ ਸਭਨਾ ਕੀ ਰੇਣੁਕਾ ਤਉ ਆਉ ਹਮਾਰੈ ਪਾਸਿ ॥੧॥: Pahilaa maranu kabooli… (sggs 1102).

Removing shoes before entering the Gurdwara building is a sign of respect, a commonsense hygiene, etc. Nothing wrong with it.

However, as time and again indicated in the Gurbani, the false ego-sense (Haumai- ਹਉਮੈ) is more despicable then the footwear or the socks! The Gurbani calls it the great disease (“ਵਡਾ ਰੋਗੁ”, “ਰੋਗੁ ਮਹਾ ਦੁਖ”, “ਰੋਗੁ ਕਠਿਨ”, “ਰੋਗ ਬੁਰੇ “, “ਦੀਰਘ ਰੋਗੁ”…) – mighty virus of the mind.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਝਗੜਾ ਪਾਇਓਨੁ ਝਗੜੈ ਜਗੁ ਮੁਇਆ ॥: Through ego, the world is caught in conflict and strife, and it dies (in these quarrels and suffers…). (sggs 790).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗ ਬੁਰੇ ॥: O Nanak! The diseases (born or begotten) of ego are wicked (sggs 1153).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਵਡਾ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥: Ego is a massive disease in the world (sggs 1278).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਰੋਗੁ ਮਹਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਲਾਗਾ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਲੇਵਹੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਗਇਆ ॥੬॥ Haumai rogu mahaa dukhu… (sggs 906).

Footwear however have a role to play in our daily lives. For example, they are useful when we are outdoors to get protection from dirt, thorns etc.

Not so with the false ego-sense (Haumai– ਹਉਮੈ) — the bad impact (ਬੁਰਾ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਵ) of Haumai on the mind is always despicable!

  • ਹਉ ਮੁਆ ਮੈ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਪਉਣੁ ਵਹੈ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਥਕੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਾ ਮਨੁ ਰਤਾ ਨਾਇ ॥: So long the mortal is smitten with “ego”, a river (of desires, Trishanaa) flow within. O Nanak! Desire is exhausted only when the mind is imbued with the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…). (sggs 1091). (sggs 1091).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਪੈਖੜੁ ਤੇਰੇ ਮਨੈ ਮਾਹਿ ॥: (O fool) your mind is tied with the rope of “ego” (ਪੈਖੜੁ-ਢੰਗਾ: A rope tied to the rear legs of an animal, which does not let the animal run or walk freely!) (sggs 1189).

Therefore, the Gurbani demands that no time can ego be entertained. The purpose of going to Gurdwara or any other spiritual practice is helping us learn the great lesson of surrendering the false ego-sense (Haumai- ਹਉਮੈ) so that we can improve the Inward Journey. To this end, the Gurbani demands that the bad impact (ਬੁਰਾ ਪ੍ਰਭਾਵ) of Haumai on the mind be removed.

  • ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਭੇਦੀਐ ਕਿਉ ਸੋਹੈ ਗੁਰਦੁਆਰਿ ॥: Until (one’s mind) is NOT pierced through with the Shabad, (until then one does NOT) look Beautiful at the ‘Gurduaari’ or the Guru’s Door (Inner Beauty: state of Bliss or Anand, abidance in one’s Jot Saroop…). (sggs 19).

Hence, there should also be written on the doormats and walls of the Gurdwaras to leave the ego outside!!

This is unlikely to happen because the people who run Gurdwaras and their crafty priest-employees (Pujaaree group) are full of it themselves!

It’s convenient and easier to remove shoes instead of removing the false ego-sense (Haumai– ਹਉਮੈ)! It takes courage to remove ego, because removing ego is like chewing the steel balls! Since it’s not easy to remove ego, the majority of us instead get attracted to Karamkaand (useless rituals or formalities).

The Gurbani’s declaration — “With your head in hand-ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ” — essentially indicates removing one’s ego (self-conceit…). It is a complete surrender of one’s head (i.e., false ego-sense). Because, the Gurbani says one must serve without ego (“ਵਿਣੁ ਸਿਰ ਸੇਵ ਕਰੀਜੈ”).

  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਗਾਖੜੀ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਆਪੁ ਗਵਾਇ ॥: It is very difficult to serve the Satigur (Shabad-Vichaar); (it’s difficult because to do so one must) surrender head (false ego-sense, self-conceit…) – give up ownself or selfhood (ਆਪਾ-ਭਾਵ ਦੂਰ ਕਰ ਕੇ). (sggs 649).

However, the Gurbani dares tell all of us that no one knows how to serve the “Gur (ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੋਈ ॥: Gur kee sev n jaanai koee (sggs 1078)).

Then, let’s ask the SGGS as to how are we supposed to serve (Sevaa) the “Gur” (“ਗੁਰ”) or the “Satiguru” (“ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ”)? The Gurbani tells us that we can serve the “Gur” (“ਗੁਰ”) or the “Satiguru” (“ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ”) through the Shabad-Vichaar (Reflecting on the Gur-Shabad, understanding the Gur-Shabad and living by its Brahm-Giaan or Divine Wisdom in daily life…).

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: The Gur-Sevaa is Shabad-Vichaar (Reflection on the Shabad — Upadesh, Giaan, Wisdom, Naam…). (sggs 223).

But the Gurbani reminds us that one can truly serve the Satigur only when his the false ego-sense (Haumai) is gone!

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਸੇਵਾ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਤਾ ਮਨੁ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਾਇ ॥: In ego, Sevaa cannot be performed so the mind goes wasted (useless, purposeless, troubled, no avail…). (sggs 560).
Therefore, as a Gurbani’s reminder, in addition to the signs for taking the shoes off outside, perhaps there should also be signs for taking the false ego-sense (Haumai- ਹਉਮੈ) off, outside!!


  1. “Perhaps better word to translate Haumai is Narcissism as ego has many good qualities, we will cease to exist if we did not possess ego.” – Dr. Harbans Lal

    Houmai is Houmai and not “NARCISSISM”. Houmai is very well dealth in Gurbani. Houmai is a wall that hinders ‘Gobind Millan’.

  2. Dear j,

    The goal of this human live is to realize God. We do not realize God because of our ego.
    In our minds we have a mental barrier (illusion of separation) that prevents us seeing God in everyone and everywhere.
    When this barrier is dissolved, that you might call that ‘we cease to exist’. At that point there is no I, you, we or them. Only Oneness.
    But that doesn’t mean that you cannot have (possess, be in) a human body. One who has no ego (has realized God) still breaths, eats, drinks, talks and sleeps. But his (or hers!) consciousness is 24/7 emerged in his/her Mool.
    That is what’s called the living liberated or being dead when still alive: these great beings have given up this world of sense objects, as if they were dead (left their body).

    Hopes this helps!

  3. Many thanks J Ji for taking the time to respond!

    Dear T Singh Ji,
    Please could you clarify the comment “we will cease to exist if we did not have ego”

    The statement you quoted is by “Bhai Harbans Lal” Ji above. Hope he can chime in and elaborate on it.

    My understanding is the goal of life is to extinguish ego completely, and yes the ego dies, and while the ego ceases to exist but the human being continues to live.

    Yes, because so long this mind is possessed by Haumai, it will remain crooked like a “dog’s tail” (“ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛ”). It becomes “Nirmal” (Pure, free of Bikaar…) upon shedding Haumai. This is the Gurbani’s edict:
    • ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰੀ ॥: Ih mann nirmal hayumai maaree: The mind becomes pure when Haumai is killed (sggs 1049).
    • ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਬਜਰ ਕਪਾਟ ਖੁਲਾਇਆ ॥ ਨਾਮੁ ਅਮੋਲਕੁ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਪਾਇਆ ॥: Killing Haumai, the rigid doors (of Maya, doubt…) are opened. (Such person) obtains the priceless Naam by the Gur-Grace (sggs 124).

    In other words, for this mind to realize its Mool (Source, Jot Saroop, True Nature…), Haumai must fold its tent and leave. This is the Gurbani’s edict:
    • ਨਾਨਕ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ ॥੪॥੯॥: O Nanak! Conquering Haumai, (one is) absorbed into (Hari, Mool Jot…). ||4||9|| (sggs 153).
    • ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਮੰਨਿ ਵਸਾਇਆ ॥: (The one who follows the Gurbani’s Instructions) killing Haumai, (he) keeps (Shabad…) enshrined within the mind (sggs 110).

    Thus, according to the Gurbani, death of Haumai does not mean one cannot continue to live.

    In fact, according to the Gurbani, one who has annihilated his Haumai becomes the living liberated (or living dead) and continues to live … a Gurmukh Lifestyle!
    • ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਸੋ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਜਾਇ ॥੬॥: He alone is called liberated-in-life, from within whom Haumai is eradicated (sggs 1009).
    • ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਹਉਮੈ ਛੁਟੈ ਜੀਵਨ ਮੁਕਤੁ ਸੋ ਹੋਇ ॥: (sggs 948).

  4. Dear T Singh Ji,

    Please could you clarify the comment “we will cease to exist if we did not have ego”

    My understanding is the goal of life is to extinguish ego completely, and yes the ego dies, and while the ego ceases to exist but the human being continues to live.

  5. I feel we should try to get the meaning of HAUME from its fundamental grammar.And in this context I find this word “HAUME” as FEMININE GENDER ,SINGULAR but DUAL NUMBER.
    Within gurbaanee this word is being refered to SAREER(i)and further SAREER(i) is being refered as AASAA and MUNSAA.
    This is as per my observation from within SGGS ji.

  6. Many thanks Bhai Harbans Lal Ji for taking the time to respond to this post.

    Perhaps better word to translate Haumai

    We use the word “false” ego-sense!

  7. Perhaps better word to translate Haumai is Narcissism as ego has many good qualities, we will cease to exist if we did not possess ego.

  8. Everything will be done by “Satiguru” only.
    Thus one needs to recognize Satiguru .

  9. Many thanks Harpreet Kaur Ji for taking the time to respond to this post.
    Welcome to the Gurbani Blog Ji!

    ways through which we can eliminate ego from ourselves.

    The Gurbani has very simple way of thinning the false ego-sense.
    As indicated by the Gurbani, ego is directly proportional to the degree of our worry (ਚਿੰਤਾ)! This is the “thermometer”!
    That is to say, if one worries in life, then be assured that that person is also suffering from the chronic disease of ego (“ਹਉਮੈ ਦੀਰਘ ਰੋਗੁ ਹੈ”).
    Next, how much? More worries mean more ego. Less worries mean less ego. No worries mean no ego.
    Implication is that if there is no worry, there is no ego! Here is the Gurbani with its very simple formula for us:
    ਚਿੰਤਾ ਜਾਇ ਮਿਟੈ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ॥: Worry departs, and ego is eliminated. (sggs 293). 
    ਹਉਮੈ ਬੂਝੈ ਤਾ ਦਰੁ ਸੂਝੈ ॥: When (one) understands ego (Haumai), then (one) knows the (Tenth-Dasam) Gate (sggs 466). 

    then why do we long for making successful careers? Why do we long for building great mansions, owe luxurious cars etc.

    The Gurbani indicates that the Gur-Shabad (Divine Wisdom, Aatm-Giaan, Brahm-Giaan) is the “terminator” of ego!
    ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸਿਆ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਖੋਇ ॥: The Gur-Shabad abides within the mind, and egotism is eliminated from within.

    False ego-sense is NOT the state of a building, or a great mansion, or a luxurious car, etc.
    Rather, false ego-sense is the sate of the mind.
    Therefore, it’s the instinctive mind which gets modified through the Vichaar and implementation of the Gur-Shabad (Divine Wisdom, Aatm-Giaan, Brahm-Giaan).
    Once the mind gets so mended, buildings remain as buildings, mansions remain as mansions, cars remain as cars, the world remains as the world….

    However, once died in the Shabad, the mind DOES NOT remain the same!!!

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