In comparison to western modern psychology, which for the purpose of review; the ego is the liaison between the ID, or pleasure instinct and the super-ego, or social conscience, it is likewise viewed in Zen as merely a tool, and not viewed as our true essence. It is therefore something to transcend.
When Zen Master: Shunryu Suzuki was asked by a monk how much ego we should have, his answer was strikingly candid yet to the point—see below.
The Buddha referred to the ego-soul as the imagined creation of the discriminating mind which in its dualistic way of thought attempts to dissect and separate this from that, as he explains in the following sutra;
“The discriminating-mind is a dancer and a magician with the objective world as his stage. Intuitive-mind is the wise jester who travels with the magician and reflects upon his emptiness and transiency. Universal Mind keeps the record and knows what must be and what may be. It is because of the activities of the discriminating-mind that error rises and an objective world evolves and the notion of an ego-soul becomes established. If and when the discriminating-mind can be gotten rid of, the whole mind-plsystem will cease to function and Universal Mind will alone remain. Getting rid of the discriminating-mind removes the cause of all error.”
(Lankavatara Sutra, Chap. V, The Mind System, translated by Dwight Goddard).
This is remarkably similar to the poets scenario;
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…”
(As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII [All the world’s a stage] , William Shakespeare,1564 – 1616).
Incidentally, the very word persona is derived from the Latin word which means mask; as in a social role or character played by an actor.