Some teachings refer to death of the ego as a prerequisite, or as a casualty, in awakening or enlightenment. Metaphorically this may be true, but many teachers and seekers take this literally.
When teachers speak of death of the ego, what they are really pointing to is a shift of identity, from the limited boundary of ego-based identity to a broader, deeper, more profound recognition of identity transcendent of ego. A shift of identity means one’s “sense of self” is no longer constrained to an “ego I” which is often felt as a point of reference somewhere in the body.
Such a shift that releases us from the limited identity-sense of the ego is astonishing and can seem for a while to wipe out the ego. But this temporary failure to recognize the ego eventually clarifies and the awakened one realizes the ego is still functioning.
Perhaps those seekers or teachers who claim that their awakening destroyed their ego are being dramatic to make a point, misleading though it may be, or simply have not matured sufficiently in their awakening to recognize the ego is still present and functioning, while their awakened “sense of self” is no longer identified with the ego.
Some teachers point to “ego-less-ness” or “selfless action” as a sign the ego has been vanquished. But again, the ego is still fully operating. Awakening may bring with it a higher order of compassion which motivates the awakened one to engage in remarkable acts of kindness and beauty or acts of giving or sharing. But the ego is still there. One is simply not identified with it.