A questioner asked Sri Ramana Maharshi:
'How does the mistake of wrong identification come about?'
Ramana: 'See if it has come about! The ego does not exist!'
Identification with the body and the person is based on learned concepts. A small child has to experience and internalize them step by step. Over the years, these learned patterns are activated by corresponding experiences and perception is merely a comparison with them. This usually happens so automatically and quickly that we are not even aware of it. The controlling mechanism creates the artificial sense of self, the ego.
Spiritual traditions tell us that these mental tissues always remain subjective and relative. It is only thoughts that validate thought patterns. One comment provided an apt metaphorical comparison:
"The snowball of the ego has attained enormous size by the time it has rolled down the mountain of life. But when we examine its center, we find that it is hollow."
In order to gain reliable knowledge, the starting point must be awareness rather than comparison with learned patterns. This is precisely the deep meaning of spiritual teachings and their practical application. They show us ways to look into the innermost part of consciousness and to experience from there.
Sri Ramana's statements often sound revolutionary to our ordinary minds. They can and they must be verified in our own practice. Here sages and saints of all spiritual traditions agree when they say that the first, fundamental consciousness is absolute awareness, beyond birth and death, filled with love for all creation.