Part XXXVI– Real Self and false self
The individual or jIva arises as a combination
of ‘I am’ plus the localized entity
of body, mind and intellect with which I identify
myself. This false identification of myself (a
conscious entity) with ‘this’ or
non-self (an inert entity) is called an error
of superimposition or adhyAsa. This was discussed
earlier with reference to Brahman and the world.
This false self is called ‘ego’ or
ahaMkAra or localized I.
For the purpose of analysis, Vedanta classifies
the body as made up of gross elements in the
form of the body (sthUla sharIra) and subtle
elements in the form of the mind and intellect.
sharIra, body, actually means that which slowly
disintegrates. Thus all the bodies are ultimately
perishable in time. The subtle body consists
of thoughts or more accurately the flow of thoughts,
just as a flow of water is called a river.
Based on functions, the subtle body is further
classified into four components:
1) mind or manas, the emotional center
2) intellect, buddhi, the discriminative center
3) ego or ahaMkAra and
4) memory, chitta.
We can group all these together and refer to
them as mind.
We discussed some aspects of ego before in respect
of identification of ‘I am’ with
thought patterns or thought-content. In all my
worldly transactions at the level of vyavahAra,
when I say ‘I am’, it is the ego
that I identify with as the individual. Since
the ego is centered on the existent-conscious
entity that I am, it behaves like a conscious
entity, although the consciousness is actually
similar to a reflected consciousness. It is similar
to moon light, which is nothing but a reflected
light from the sun. Hence it has no existence
of its own, that is, there is no moon-light other
than the sun light. In other words, it has no
substantive of its own, other than the sun light.
Similarly, this body-mind-intellect complex
acts as a conscious entity in all of the worldly
transactions, but that transactability is not
of its own but comes from the conscious entity
that ‘I am’. Thus because of identification
with the BMI complex, a false ‘I’ is
created by identification of the true self with
a false self.
Are there two selves then – a true self
and a false self? No. The false self is false
and therefore has no validity of its own. The ‘true
self’ is the only reality. But at the transactional
level, the false self acts as though it is the
true self, since one has no knowledge of the
true self that one is. The error is again of
the type ‘adhyAsa’ where a false-self ‘I’ is
superimposed on the true self, ‘I’.
Hence when I ask you, “Are you a conscious
entity?” or “Are you an existent
entity?”, your immediate response is “Yes
I am”. But what you are actually implying
is: “I am an existent entity as ‘this’ and ‘this’” or “I
am a conscious entity as this individual ‘I’ with
the BMI complex”. You do not ask yourself: “How
can I be this, where ‘I am’ is the
subject and ‘this’ is an object of
Thus, the total consciousness that I am (which
is all pervading) is ‘as though’ reflected
in the local medium of reflection, the subtle body,
which then behaves as though it is itself a real
conscious entity. This reflected consciousness
(chidAbhAsa), is called jIva or the individual
self. Some refer to this as ‘soul’,
although what exactly this implies is not known.
From our analysis, it is the all pervading consciousness,
as though reflected in the local medium, subtle
body or inner equipment (antaHkaraNa) constituting
of the mind, intellect, ego and memory. An individual ‘I’ arises
by identification of total consciousness with the
Proceed to the next essay.