Part XI – Ego or ahaMkAra
Our current notions of I am ‘this’, ‘this’ and ‘this’ – all these constitute the EGO or ahaMkAra in Sanskrit. Ego is the notion of I that arises by identification of myself or the true self that I am, with an inert entity - this body, or this mind or this intellect (BMI-complex). When I say ‘I am this body’, I am identifying myself with the body. Therefore the body’s modifications become my modifications. When the body is fat, I am fat and when the body is dying, I feel I am dying. Thus it is the false I that arises out of the consciousness in association with inert entities in the form of the BMI complex. It is referred as ‘reflected consciousness’ (chidAbhAsa or pratibimba) when I identify myself with the body, mind or intellect. For all practical purposes we exist only in this plane where the reflected consciousness is taken as real, without realizing that it is the pure consciousness and not the reflected one that is my true identity.
Therefore inquiry into ‘who am I’ involves negation of the ego, negation of the reflected consciousness that I think that I am in order to claim my true identity. Some Neo-spiritualists (I do not want to use the term Neo-Vedantins or Neo-Advaitins, since it is a contradiction in terms) think that all we have to do is to meditate and inquire ‘who am I’ by rejecting who I am not. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as it appears. The reason is that it is the ‘ego’ trying to reject the ‘ego’ – a thought rejecting the thought that ‘I am not a thought’. Therefore, any attempt to reject the ‘ego’ will end up crystallizing it in a different form.
E.g. I am a yogi now, instead of a bhogi (one who enjoys sense objects). The ego has only changed its costume. Renunciation of ego actually involves its complete surrender and we will address the nature of surrender later when we address the subject of sAdhana or spiritual practices.
In order for me to reject something, I need to know what exactly it is that I am rejecting. Hence, the process of rejection should also involve understanding of ‘what is this’? ‘This’, or idam in Vedanta, constitutes the entire Universe that can be pointed to as ‘this’. We need to understand what this universe (jagat) is and where it came from in order to help us understand what exactly I am rejecting when I say, “I am not this”.
Here are some rules for negation:
- That which is real cannot be negated, since it is real - that is the definition of ‘real’.
- That which is unreal need not be negated, since it is non-existent. (There is no locus for existence at any time – this is the definition for ‘unreal’.
- What can be negated or should be negated is that which we think is real but is not really real.
- That which appears to be real but is not really real is what is called mithyA and the power that makes it look like real, even though it is not real, is called mAyA.
Proceed to the next essay.