Ahankara (ego) is the I-sense which makes us feel that we are separate from the Supreme consciousness. It is very difficult to recognize ahankara, it can be known only by its effects, and it affects a person in so many ways. Even if we recognize it, we do not know to handle it. Only Vedanta knows to handle ego, and spirituality is all about that. “The way of thinking and feeling are the deepest attachment in a person. Renunciation is the detachment of one’s thinking and feeling. Renunciation is not that leaving the family and moving to the forest”, Sadguru. In this article we discuss about the way a person reacts when he is affected by ahankara.
When a person associates with ahankara, he assumes ideas about himself and he leads his life based on these concepts without understanding the reality. If a person is not aware of the reality, he assumes his own image based on his hereditary, family, education, status, wealth, profession and many more temporary factors. He assumes these imaginations as the reality. When someone hurts his image, out of ignorance he considers that he has hurt his real Self and responds to it accordingly. He is disturbed badly. “Under the influence of ahankara (ego), calamity arises, out of ego anguish is born and desire arises. There is no enemy worse than ego”, (Essence of Yogavasishta, 1,35). Ahankara is finite. It can be compared with the waves of the ocean. Waves are nothing but ocean in a different form. Each wave has its individuality, when they lose their individuality the waves become the ocean. Similarly, ahankara imposes individuality on the supreme consciousness, when the concept of ahankara is dissolved by knowledge the Reality is realized. It is the ahankara which carves a place for itself at all the time.
When ahankara combines with the mind it gets disturbed. During meditation this impact can be observed clearly. During meditation, at the initial stage many thoughts passes on, but we may not be disturbed by it. It just goes on the background. Suddenly when ahankara arises, it gets associated with these thoughts and it disturbs the meditation. It is the ahankara which causes fear, instability, doubts about our ability, overconfidence and so on. All such negative traits only make a person weaker. If you are alone ahankara creates an atmosphere of fear. If we mingle in a crowd it makes you feel alone or separated from the rest. It always makes one feel higher (superiority) or feel lower (inferiority) than the rest. Wherever we are, it gives a feeling of loneliness. It always makes one to compare itself with others. It never allows the mind to be satisfied. When one goal is achieved, before enjoying the result it starts to compare and make preparation for the next goal. In fact, ahankara makes one a greedy person. A person with well developed ahankara is very difficult to be managed. Their ahankara does not allow them to have peace of mind nor does it allow others to live peacefully. Out of ignorance they are not aware that their ahankara is the cause of their problems.
Ahankara is formed in the initial stages of creation. Ahankara evolved from Mahat-tattva. The three gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) evolved from ahankara. Individuality is assigned to every combination of gunas. Ahankara combines with karmic tendencies and this combination takes repeated births. Until ahankara is well understood and overcome by knowledge, it keeps on taking repeated births. Ahankara, to maintain its individuality it prevents one from attaining the knowledge. It is the ahankara which creates a feeling of duality in a person. Ahankara is present in the mind. In deep sleep or in deep meditation when one drops the mind, only the infinity remains.
Ahankara is not the reality, when one tries to satisfy this unreal ahankara, it causes various problems. The use of ahankara is, it is only through this ahankara one is able to involve in the worldly activities. Only when we involve in the worldly activities our karmas get exhausted. However, at the same time ahankara must not be considered seriously. This balance must be maintained perfectly. Without ahankara we cannot involve in worldly activities, and at the same time, if we take ahankara seriously it affects us badly. Only spirituality can give the knowledge about this balance. One must use ahankara to work out the karmas and ignore it after use, that is one should not take ahankara seriously. For example, in the working place, we must be identified with our educational qualification, experience and professional status. In that situation, it is not proper to identify ourselves by our divine nature. However, our professional identification is not the reality. A person is more valuable than his profession. So in such situations, for the time being we must identify with our profession, but we must be aware of our true nature, and then we will not be affected by our intellectual ahankara. One must be mentally prepared to accept this balance and work out the karmas without being affected by ahankara.
It is ahankara that makes one think about the past and the future and causes instability in the mind. Ahankara normally identifies with the unfulfilled desires. It associates itself with hopes and desires. It cannot remain alone, at the same time it needs a special place in the crowd too. Ahankara can be positive and negative. If it is positive ahankara, it gets boosted up and imposes superiority complex and it carves a special place for itself. If it is negative, it imposes inferiority complex and still it does not mingle with others. Either way, ahankara is a problem maker and it should be dealt properly. One should always be aware of the ahankara so that he will not be affected by ahankara. Whenever ahankara arises, one must be able to manage and control it; else ahankara will suppress our true nature. Then we will recognize ourselves by our ahankara and not by our true nature. When we recognize ourselves by the ahankara, we are affected by the different vagaries of the mind.
All kind of negative traits like restlessness, anxiety, fear, tension, compassion, pride and so on are created by ahankara and the mind reacts to it. Ahankara creates a feeling of negation and a feeling of loneliness, and in that weak moment it makes the mind depressed and makes it think of negative traits like taking revenge, committing suicide, attempting murder, insulting or hurting others and so on. Ahankara will not allow us to expand. It will not allow us to accept our failures. It blames others for our failure. It rejects change and keeps everything intact. It induces the mind to have wild imaginations and all the imaginations will be centered on the ahankara.
Ahankara always makes one to think of the past and future. Achievement is not in the past or future, it lies in the presence of the present. For instance, if we plan for a picnic, the mind thinks about arrangements, but ahankara makes the mind to think about the consequences. Ahankara creates goal and makes the mind restless. This weakens the mind and a weak mind cannot perform a perfect action. This naturally affects the result of the action. Ahankara fails to accept the fact that goal or result is the extension of the work done in the present. Mind is vast, but ahankara controls it. Mind accepts the weakness projected by ahankara. Ahankara is one of the obstacles for Self-realization. It goes to the extent of even doubting the teachings of the Guru. It makes the mind feel that the whole of self-realization itself is a gimmick, because when the mind realizes the truth, the ahankara cannot have its grip on it and the ahankara has to dissolve. When the mind becomes weak, the ahankara wins. Ahankara creates havoc in a weak mind. Ahankara appears and disappears in the mind. Ahankara makes the world appear as real. Vedanta makes one to understand this ahankara, and help one to realize his non-dual nature and rest in the universal consciousness. If mind surpasses ahankara and connects with its substratum, then it will rest in peace.
Majority of the obstacles are caused by ahankara. Whatever we experience, ahankara makes comparison, elevates expectation which ultimately leads to mental agitation. When we observe ahankara, it disappears. When ahankara associates with different mental events, it emerges out as different ahankara namely materialistic ahankara, physical ahankara, intellectual ahankara, emotional ahankara, religious ahankara and so on. It creates sharp division between the likes and the dislikes. If the ahankara is not comfortable with any matter, it creates unnecessary problems and provokes the suspicious mind.
Ahankara disturbs the concentration of the mind by engaging it in unnecessary imaginations and creates unnecessary excitement or frustration. When one ignores the karma phala (the fruits of action), it helps to reduce ahankara to a large extent. When the mind is agitated, then definitely the mind is in the grip of ahankara. Effort taken in any field makes the ahankara to become stronger. Therefore care should be taken to make effort without being affected by ahankara. It is a common mistake to misunderstand the ahankara as the Self. When someone hurts the ahankara, we mistake it as hurting the Self and react to it accordingly. Ahankara is the assumed concept, whereas the Self is divine. “Weapons cut It not, fire burns It not, water wets It not, wind dries It not. This Self cannot be cut, burnt, wetted nor dried up. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable, immovable and ancient”, Bhagavad Gita 2, 23,24. This is the nature of the Self, then how can anyone hurt It?
Life is like a dream, the karmic tendencies will make the life to move in its own pace. Each and every thought is attached to ahankara, but one has to realize that he is beyond the ahankara and the mind. Thoughts or ahankara is not a problem, but when one associates ahankara with the thoughts, and then it becomes a problem. When we understand about ahankara, we will know the way to handle it and be able to lead a peaceful life.