Sunday, 6 January 2013

Mind the Ego

Tattvabodha is an introductory text for the study of Advaita Vedanta.  It is written by Sri Adi Sankaracharya. It outlines the basic concepts in a simple manner in a question and answer style.  Tattvabodha defines mind as a functional facet of one’s inner equipment, called anthakarana.  This anthakarana is a continuous flow of thought modifications called vrittis.  It has four facets. Mind, called manas, is one state where thoughts of doubt and indecisiveness prevail. Emotions also constitute the mind.  Intellect, called buddhi, is the second state where thoughts of decision and reasoning dominate. All knowledge arises in buddhi. Memory, called chitha, is the third state that acts as a storehouse of experiences as impressions from which flow thoughts of recollections. It is only on this basis of recollection that cognition takes place.  Ego, called Ahamkara is the fourth aspect associated with thoughts of doership that gives one individuality.  Ego is associated with all the other three facets as ‘I’ and ‘my’ factor.  Not only does it come into existence with each thought, it establishes a sense of ownership with them as ‘I doubt’, ‘I am happy’, ‘I decide’ ‘I know’ ‘I recollect’ etc.  This gives the ego a sense of constancy and a mistaken identity as one’s Real Self.

Ego is the mind-made self.  It is not present when mind is not present as in deep sleep.  Like mind it draws its strength from the past.  It takes its identity from personal and family history, educational accomplishments, social status, profession, possessions and group identifications like religious, racial, national, political, communal affiliations.  As an expression of self-esteem it is vulnerable and insecure and needs the reassurance of love and attention.  This it tries to achieve through control of the environs which leads to two type of fears: 
1) fear of losing control. This gives rise to a show of pride and arrogance which turns into anger, and all the negative qualities that flow from it, when thwarted in its attempts to control.
2) fear of being controlled. This leads to an emphasis on separateness as a measure of self-protection.  This also gives rise to guilt feelings that one is being ignored and one is not good enough to keep control etc. leading to depression.  This emphasis on separateness and superiority it considers as a show of individuality.
This mixture makes ego the basic cause behind most of one's sorrows and miseries. 

Sri Ramana Maharishi in his book “Updesa Saar” in verse 18 says
“Mind is thought-forms and the thought-forms are but dependant on the I-thought, ego. So know the mind to be ego.” He goes on to say in subsequent verses that if you enquire into the source of this I-thought, this I-thought, being only a phanthom self will disappear revealing the ever-shining self-evident Real Self, Athma.  But this enquiry is not easy because the enquiry is to be done with the aid of ego-dominated mind and it will employ all tricks and deceit to divert one from what is a suicidal course for it. That is why Vedanta emphasises Guru guided sastra vichara for self-enquiry which is only this ego vichara.  One may wonder why one needs external sources for looking into one’s self.  This is like looking into a mirror to look at your face for no amount of effort on your part will help you look at your face directly without the external aid.  This vichara can give one the knowledge that the I, one is using for everyday transactions and which he considers as his true Self is not the Real Self. This knowledge will remain at the belief level only, unless it is constantly practised to remind oneself that this I-thought is only a tool used for the limited purpose of everyday transactions with the external world and the Real Self is the infinite, changeless Supreme Brahman subject to no restrictions of space or constrictions of time. Then one will not be affected by any comments, praise or blame, from others for they are only directed at the limited I with name and form, past and future.  One will be living as it were taking nothing personally, with love and peace for one and all.  This is also the second of the four agreements of Toltec  wisdom/philosophy stated by Don Miguel Ruiz in his book “Four Agreements”, which runs as “Don’t take anything personally”.


1 comment:

  1. Directional.indeed.

    subbu rathinam