Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century


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Definition - Ananda Wood

The Sanskrit 'ahaMkAra' is a compound of two elements. One is 'aham' meaning 'I'. And the other is 'kAra', which means 'doing' or 'acting' (from the root 'kRR^i', meaning to 'do' or to 'act').

Thus 'ahaMkAra' signifies an 'acting I'. Here, an instrument of action is identified as 'I'. And different instruments give rise to differing identities, with many selves that each may get to be called 'I'.

One of these selves may be identified as a body, acting towards other objects in an outside world.

Another of these selves may be identified with the body's living faculties, which express an inner mind in body's outward actions and which take perceptions back through body's senses into mind.

The mind in turn may be identified as a more subtly acting self, whose inner functioning conceives a world that is perceived and thought about and intuitively felt.

The English word 'ego' signifies these acting selves, which are identified with personal faculties of body, sense and mind. But, as these selves act personally, a problem is inherently raised. What knows these various selves, whose personal acts are liable to make mistakes?

A more truly knowing self called 'I' is essentially implied, in order to correct mistakes of any instrumental self which is involved in bodily or sensual or mental action. In search of truer knowing, a truer 'I' must be identified, beneath our personal identities and their involved self-images as actors in a physical and mental world.

The idea of 'ahaMkAra' or 'ego' is thus used to point beyond all changing action, to a disinterested 'I' that is completely detached from all changes in the world seen through our partial personalities.

In the Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1, the ego and a truer 'I' are somewhat metaphorically described, as a pair of birds that perch upon the tree of life. The passage is appended below, followed by a free translation.

dvA suparNA sayujA sakhAyA samAnaM vR^ikShaM pariShasvajAte tayor anyaH pippalaM svAdv atty anashnann anyo abhicAkashIti

[On one same tree, two birds are perched, associated as a pair. Of these, one eats and tastes the fruit. The other of the pair is that which does not eat, but just looks on.]


Note from Dhyanasaraswati

i have always wondered why the letter 'I' as personal pronoun is capitalized ? Does it have something to do with the EGO ? no , not at all , my friends !

Here is Why according to an internet source ....

"Ego has nothing to do with the capitalization of the pronoun I. Printing and handwriting have everything to do with it. In Middle English the first person was ich - with a lower-case ‘i’. When this was shortened to i, manuscript writers and printers found it often got lost or attached to a neighboring word. So the reason for the capital I is simply to avoid confusion and error."

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012