There is a school of thought in meditation that you simply have to let inner peace come to you, that if you stop building sand castles the tide will reach your feet which is the kind of talk that can put some people off the whole idea. It claims that the Ego is your own personal version of a bad demon tempting you to stay in the world of material thing, tricking you into thinking that you are a person with desires, needs and wants. That all people are because of this are at their core evil (or unthinking automatons which is almost as insulting!), that being human, thinking that you are an individual is a personal kind of hell. And all you have to do is stop buying in into the illusion of self by the simple act of stopping the merry-go-round of being (which turns out not to be simple) and you will experience complete liberation. And it is this kind of talk that people do not like, they want to have a sense of agency and purpose, they want to do good things, more than that they like being a person and I do not disagree.
It would be better and more useful to people to promote the early benefits of meditation, better concentration, a calmer attitude to life and the ability to make better decision. Whilst I wholeheartedly buy into the idea that it is good to have some idea of what the long term destination of meditation is, it is useful to understand that the three characteristics of reality is impermanence, dissatisfaction and non-self, and that the aim of meditation is to experience these characteristics for yourself (personally a long way from experiencing it myself but I do like the idea of it).
I do feel that going around telling people that they do not exist is perhaps not the best sales pitch to the general public, indeed it is probably quite offensive and alienating for a lot of people. It certainly does not easily marry up with people's lived experience, they certainly feel like they are people, individuals making choices about their lives, and there is a reason why the first rule of science is that if experimental data does not match what our primary senses tell us about the world you need extraordinary proof to overrule them. If some came up with a theory of gravity where apples floated upwards people would need extraordinary proof to believe it.
The experience of most people is that their choices matter (they might have a limited range of options but there is a choice), that they have agency in their lives and they want to fulfil their desires. The sales pitch of “you do not matter”, certainly has a niche appeal, I find the idea delightful to play with, but at the same time it repels the mass market because it is viewed as an excuse for failure, that someone has not made a difference and they are now trying to excuse it. The skilful use of this idea to further meditation certainly makes it a powerful tool, to use it as a focus for your meditation and recognising it as an aim for that practice is incredibly useful, to know that to experience it is a milestone, a place to aim for but to use it as an excuse not to make any effort is simply contrary to reality.
I am unaware of any enlightened person who has sat for a moment and become enlightened for the rest of their lives, I have heard lots of stories of people sitting for twenty years and spending tens of thousands of hours gaining mastery, and it seems to me that to do so requires quite a large dose of “self”. These do not seem to be people who are just letting life be and are doing nothing because they do not exist, in fact it seems like they are the exact opposite they are the ultra-athletes of the mental world. It seems like these people need the kind of ego that is willing to be disciplined enough to concentrate on the exact moment they are experiencing, if it was easy and you truly have to do nothing, you would not need a difficult sales pitch, you would not need to convince people that experiencing non-self was possible because a majority of the people would be enlightened it would be the norm, you would be taught at school or you could just watch a five steps You Tube video and be done with it.
So if you want to persuade people to meditate, you need to be a more gradual stepped approach to what meditation is and what the benefits are, without losing the overall story of what meditation is about. To motivate people to take the long journey, it is perhaps unhelpful to pretend that you are already there when clearly we are not. It is useful to point out that music is only beautiful because of silence, charcoal drawing has beauty because of the white empty spaces, and so the illusion of self is only possible because of the reality of non-self.
I think it is okay to say meditation is hard but worthwhile, and the early stages of meditation is about building your concentration and that even if you go no further, that greater concentration will have immediate and lasting positive effects in your life. The theory really does not matter at this early stage of encouraging people to build their skills, and to say that egos does not exist at the precise moment you are trying to get the corroboration of an ego is perhaps not the best hostage negotiation stance to take. Maybe it is better to build a connection to that ego, to tell it that there is a better version of itself, or more thoughtful, considered and successful kind of an ego. If we want the ego for us to sit and concentrate, it is worthwhile pointing out benefits of greater concentration.
There is an inner and common desire of all people to grow as a being consciousness, both in terms of having a richer sensory experience and in the more everyday kind of sense, of being a better person. And whilst the terminology might be different for everyone, it is implied that this better person will act with a right mind and right action or at least better action. That is a story that people want to hear, that they can get excited about and even ignite their desire to be a better person. It is okay to treat your ego like an old faithful dog who did their job, who protected you when you needed it and who can now sleep on the porch and enjoy the breeze, after all it did an amazing job of looking after the child that you were, not perfect but the best it could do.
And if once people start that journey, you can tell them about the exciting destination that they are getting to travel to, that is possible to enjoy the journey, that the quality of the journey does matter, that it can be shared, that you can become of more benefit to the people that you love through the practice of morality or being a better person. That is why morality, concentration and wisdom are the three disciplines because how we act is important, it is central to being a better and whole human. It is the manner in which you live your life, the way you treat people that matters, that you can embrace hard kindness and compassion to make better decisions, that you take on responsibilities for others and wholeheartedly fulfil them with the best of your abilities and it is a good thing.
Meditation is at it's core about turning towards our external world by changing our internal view away from being in our ego, instead seeing through it to the world around us from our core inner self, so that we can truly see that world beyond it as it truly is, our family, friends and community without the distortions that being in the ego causes. That instead you are able to become someone who listens from a place of joy and love rather than fear and worry, then maybe as an added bonus one day you will also be able to listen to the universe.