Recently, a friend told me that she wondered if she only wanted to go to see a certain teacher because that teacher recognized that she was awake. Was it only her ego that wanted that acknowledgement, she wondered.
I said that since ego doesn't exist, how could that be? Maybe it was just that that which is awake in her wanted t be seen, I suggested.
As I ponder this answer, I don't think it was complete enough.
I always go back to Adyashanti's saying to me, years ago, “Only ego wants to get rid of ego.” This turns the whole question on its head.
I define ego as the thought of separate-hood. We come to think we are separate – perhaps mainly because we see “me” over here and everything/one else “over there.” (This explanation doesn't completely satisfy me, however, because after awakening it doesn't quite look like this anymore. So it seems that this way of seeing is also just conditioned by thought.) Anyway, whatever the reason, there is a “me-thought” and that me-thought is threatened when it realizes it isn't absolutely solid – that it is just one aspect of the emptiness that is everything. So it starts to tell stories that the awakened person, now seeing things from a different perspective, will buy. One of those stories is, “It's egotistic to let on how awake you actually are.” You have to hide your Light under a bush, in other words. So the awakeness gets to peek out once in a while when it is summoned, but it doesn't get to show itself on its own.
The me-thought can't just deny the awake-ness entirely because that won't be believed anymore, so it makes up the story of how owning the awake-ness smacks of ego. Very clever of it.