By Jayaram V
Ahamkar or ahamkara is a Sanskrit word, which literally
means the form of the self-sense (aham) or the actions of the self-sense.
The former meaning applies if 'kara' is used in the sense of
form (as in case of akaram), and the latter if it is used to denote
Thus, egoism generally used to denote egoism or the sense of
The opposite of ahamakara is nirhamakara. It is also the state
of Sankara or Vishnu, the Lord of the Universe.
The early Upanishads often speak of the Self as aham or associate
the word with it, as in case of "Aham Brahmasmi."
Another name of egoism is anava, the quality of being atomic
or small, which is considered responsible for bondage and suffering.
But the most commonlu used word for egoism is Ahamkara. An egoistic
person, ahmakari, abides in his own individuality and remains centered
His egoism is physical when he identifies himself with his body,
mental when he develops attachment to external objects and subtle
when he incurs karma and suffers from births and deaths.
In Samkhya, yoga and other Hindu schools and in other related
religions of Hinduism, such as Buddhism and Jainism, ahmakara or
ego-sense is an aspect of Prakriti (tattva).
It forms part of the internal organ and the subtle body. Mixed
with the gunas, namely sattva, rajas and tamas it experiences desires
and attachments of various kinds which keep the inner Self in bondage.
Egoism is a crystallization of pre existing thoughts and
desires resulting ia shadow self, which is subject to ignorance,
duality and illusion (maya) that veils the true Self and lets the
ego-sense take charge of the mind and body and act as if it is the
Ahamakara is not mere self pride or arrogance, except in a very
narrow sense. In a wider sense it is the very feeling of separation
that makes one feel distinct and different from the rest of the
creation and the Creator.
If I am is the ego-sense, I am Iam is the nature of the eternal
individual Self. The state of I am Iam denotes absence of separation
and duality. The ego experiences objectivity. It relates itself
with the external world. Hence it is always in a state of "I am
this" or "I am that."
The state of Iam I am is referenced in the old Testament, when
God introduced Himself to Moses on the mountain as "I am I am".
The state truly describes the nature of Brahman.
The whole universe is permeated with the sense of "I". There
is nothing else. It is the one self that appears as many. The feeling
of "you" and "I" exists in our limited consciousness.
Brahman Himself has both manifested and unmanifested aspects.
In His unmanifested aspect there is not sense of "I" at all. It
is neither this nor that. It has not state. In contrast the manifested
Brahman has the "I-sense" or the ego-sense. He is therefore also
known as Primal Being or the Universal Being. His ego, unlike ours,
is infinite and free from bondage and delusion.
The Isa Upanishad proclaims that the whole world is inhabited
by Brahman and everything here is Brahman. He is the prime mover
of all actions and events that happen in all the world. He is the
karta, the Doer.
However, because of our egoism, we accept our individualities
and indulge in ownership and doership. As the Bhagavadgita declares,
repeated contact between the senses and the sense-objects results
in attachment and from attachment arise delusion, ignorance, anger
and other evils.
We then indulge in desire-ridden actions and assume ownership
them. This identification of our actions and our seeking with our
egos results in our bondage to the earthly life and the cycle of
births and deaths.
The Bhagavadgita also suggests that egoism is the feeling of
separateness, which creates the sense of duality or the idea of
being distinct and different from others. It is the false perception
of the self that exists in all of us as individual consciousness.
The scripture is essentially a conversation between the
individual Self and the Supreme Self at one level or between the
ego-self and the Individual Self at another.
Arjuna stands symbolically for the ego consciousness. His suffering
is because of his limited knowledge, his sense of separateness,
his identification of himself with his body, his belief that he
is the doer of his actions and his anxiety about the results of
his actions. Lord Krishna represents individual Self or the Supreme
The ego is a part of the eight fold division of lower Divine
nature, which is made up of the five elements, the ego, the mind
and reason (Bhagavadgita. 7.4&5). Egoism is part of mind body
awareness, also called the kshetra or field in the Bhagavadgita
(3.5), while egolessness is part of the knower of the field or the
pure consciousness (13.8&9).
The ego is responsible for our thinking that we are the doers
of our actions and responsible for them. It acts under the influence
of desires. In the process it binds the beings to the mortal
world. According to the Bhagavadgita (3.27) all actions are performed
by the gunas (inherent in the being), but an egoistic ignorant person
believes that he is the doer.
An egoistic person suffers from the consequences of his own egoistic
actions. Drawn to his attachments, he is caught helplessly in the
ocean of life, from which escape seems very difficult. A being under
the influece of gunas is born in suffering and dies in suffering,
not knowing what cause his suffering or how to escape from it.
Escape from this mortal existence is possible only when a person
overcomes his delusion and egoistic thinking and leads a divine
centered life, practising yoga. Of the various forms of yoga, karma
yoga or the yoga of action is the first step. Actions should be
performed with detachment, as an offering and obligatory duty, and
without seeking the fruit of such actions.
As the Bhagavadgita (5.7) declares, the qualified karma yogi,
who is pure in his heart, who has controlled his mind and his senses
overcomes his egoistic thinking and limited vision. He sees his
self in all living beings and remains free even though engaged in
Depending upon how we approach about it, the ego or the lower
self , can be either a help or an impediment to us in our spiritual
endeavor. The self alone is the friend of the self and the self
alone is the enemy of the self (6.5). The self is a friend of him
who has conquered it and an enemy who has not (6.6).
Conquest of the self is therefore very important for peace of
mind and union with God. He who conquers his self is in the company
of the Supreme. He remains stable and serene in cold or heat, sorrow
or happiness, respect or disrespect (6.7). Giving up all desires,
without the awareness of any need, sense of ownership and egoism,
he attains peace (2.71)p>
AnAnd when he reaches this state he develops proper understanding
and attains a state of egolessness. He is freed from all desires
and attachment. He engages himself in desireless actions without
struggling and striving. He believes that he does nothing while
seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, walking, sleeping
and breathing. (5.8).
He becomes completely absorbed in God, having surrendered to
Him unconditionally, offering to Him his Self, his life and actions,
and merging his individual identity fully in Him. With his ego thus
gone, he becomes united with the Universal Consciousness and develops
the unified vision through which he sees the Self in all and all
in the Self (6.29). He finds God everywhere and worships Him as
the Inhabitant of all beings (6.31).
We know from experience that egoism is what makes feel worried,
anxious, disturbed, selfish and self-centered. Because of egoism
we seek things, compete with others, try to amass wealth in excess
of our needs and draw a distinction between ourselves and others.
It is very difficult to overcome egoism and develop a sense of
selflessness (nirahamkaram). We cannot related ourselves mentally
with others and with others without a center of individuality.
Yet, liberation is our goal, we have to deal with our ego and
overcome our egoistic attitude. It is the only means by which we
can break the walls of separation that exists between us and the
rest of creation and experience universality and oneness.
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