Ahymsin Newsletter Banner: Left is Swami Rama, Center is Yoga Is Samadhi logo, Right is Swami Veda

Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…

Sometimes students have written to or asked Swami Veda Bharati, Swami Ritavan Bharati, and other senior teachers in our tradition questions about practice.  This is one such “Question and Answer,” or Q&A.


My question is - Under the theory of karma, we understand that ego (ahamkara) is the root cause of the sense of doership, which in turn envelopes one in the karmic whirlpool. However, what is this ego? Where does it generate from? How does it generate? What is its source? What is the process? And finally, how does one get rid of this ego?


Lalita Arya (Ammaji), Stephen Parker (Stoma), and Carolyn Hume have answered this question.

From Lalita Arya (Ammaji):

"ego" is originally from the Latin meaning "I" translated into English...that I that sees, feels, smells, etc.

Without that "I" there is no "doer" as the questioner asks.

From where does it generate? When one takes birth, the "I" appears as identifying with that self. It has to have a reference, so I, the doer.

What is its source? The questioner answers this "in the karmic whirlpool".

How does one get rid of this ego? One does not so long as one is I... It is the I that asks the question, so that proves there is no getting rid of, in the ordinary sense of the word. BUT...

Let me divert into a story. There used to be a renunciate (or maybe still is) who never used the identity "I", he always referred to himself as "this self"...I thought when I heard him speak, Wow, what a clever way to get out of that who am "I" syndrome.

In our tradition, we have been introduced to the greatest of all practices for any human being and that is Meditation...we start with being encouraged to practice daily, faithfully, without expectations just following that eternal sound that our mantra introduces us to.  Eventually when the mind is really clear that same "ego - I" becomes absorbed in the greater consciousness. I love this quote that Lord Rama advises the sage Gautama to forgive - Let go of the knots of your mind until aham (ego) gives way to "atma"...(from SITA by D. Pattnaik).

Leave all the analysis aside as it involves the ego and just let go...eventually one day that "I" will disappear and when you open your eyes after that special session you will see the world as an extension not of I but of atma.

May that Moment be ever yours

From Stephen Parker (Stoma):

I love Ammaji’s answer.

Ego is the “I-maker,” our self-identifying function. It is part of what creates our individual mind. If you don’t have an ego, you can’t have a body. So it isn’t a question of getting rid of ego, but how to live in right relationship with it. Sometimes it gets the idea that it is the CEO of the mind (ātman) rather than the general manager. So living skillfully means living with an ego that can surrender at the right moment.
By cultivating mindful awareness, starting with breath awareness, you gradually loosen ego’ grip on the illusory ownership of actions and their results.

From Carolyn Hume:

Interesting answers from Ammaji and Stoma that are also practical.

Swami Rama has written, "The universe is the outcome of the two principles of one Absolute without a second: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (primordial matter). From Prakriti and Purusha all the animate and inanimate forms of the world are born, maintained, and destroyed. Nothing can exist without the Lord's Prakriti.  All the manifestations of the universe are diverse forms of Prakriti." 

Sankhya is one of the six systems of Indian philosophy. And it is thought that to understand the Yoga Sutras, one must first understand Sankhya philosophy. In this philosophy, Purusha is eternal, and Prakriti is co-eternal.

The Vedanta school of philosophy accepts consciousness as real with all else being maya or illusion, sometimes called apparent reality. It is consciousness from which matter manifests. Everything is the play or sport of Brahman. "...the philosophy of Advaita, which holds that there is one and only one absolute Reality without a second and that all that we see, the entire universe, is but a manifestation of the one Truth." - Swami Rama

In Sri Vidya, there is similarity of idea with the terms of Shiva and Shakti. "According to the science of tantra, the human being is a miniature universe. All that exists in the cosmos exists within individuals, and the same principles that apply to the universe apply to the individual. In this ancient philosophy, the entire universe is a manifestation of pure consciousness. And yet, consciousness seems to be divided into two aspects—one that is unchanging and unidentified with the manifest world, called shiva, and another aspect of consciousness, shakti, which is the subtlest of the created things. Shakti means power or potential. This aspect of consciousness is creative, dynamic, and energetic, and it brings forth the entire manifest world from itself. However, only part of the energy of shakti is involved in the creation of the manifest world, while the other, greater part, remains dormant. Thus both in the universe and in the individual, energy exists in two forms—dynamic and latent." - Swami Rama

Ahamkara along with Buddhi, Chitta and Manas are functions of the mind.

Interestingly ahamkara is made of two parts: Aham = I and Kara is within the verb "to do." So one can perhaps say the idea of "I do," or of doer-ship.

Swami Rama has said, "It is necessary to have a comprehensive knowledge of the mind and its modifications, for it is the mind that stands between man and the Ultimate Reality....The origin of the mind is atma-shakti, the capacity of the Self... In the philosophy of raja yoga and Sankhya philosophy, mahat denotes the cosmic or universal mind, the first principle manifested out of the unmanifested one, Brahman. Just as a wheel rests on its spokes, and the spokes rest on an axle, so does our mind rest on the cosmic mind, and the cosmic mind rests on Brahman.... From mahat comes ahankara, or ego..."

One looks at the first 3 lines of the Yoga Sutras:

Now, at this auspicious moment of transition begins the instruction in the discipline following the past tradition.

Yoga is the control of the modifications of the mindfield.

Then (upon the dissolution of the vrttis) the seer now rests in his own true nature.

So the practices and teachings of yoga are tools to bring about the idea in the 3 lines above.

Swami Rama has written "You only attain joy when you forget ahamkara. But how is that possible for you to live without a sense of I-ness? That's not possible so it is better to 'polish' your ahamkara. Just as you polish your shoes and use them every day until eventually they are worn out, so should you polish your ahamkara - your ego."

Actually, you can read for yourself the philosophies found in Sankhya, Vedanta, the Yoga Sutras, and other texts and perhaps gain an intellectual understanding of what you think they are saying and decide what you think is plausible.

If you so choose, you can engage in the practices and follow the teachings of yoga and see where they lead you. "Valid knowledge comes from direct experience alone." - Swami Rama. This can be a long process because the layer upon layer of covering to which one holds; polishing will reveal more and more subtle layers as one goes on. And this is also a process of expansion, of letting go, of feeling more and more the flow of love, which eventually cannot be contained.

Talking of samadhi, Swami Rama says, "In this state the senses, mind and intellect cease functioning. Just as a river merges into the ocean, the individual soul merges into the Supreme Soul, and all limitations dissolve."

"...the stage of Nirvikalpa Samadhi in which the seeker becomes one with the One, Here is to be found the union of Atman with Brahman. This stage transcends the stage of intense love and longing for the ideal. For now the seeker merges into his ideal, and no sense of duality remains. Only one who is well established in the stage of nirvikalpa samadhi is an illumined yogi, and only such a yogi can truly guide other aspirants. Such a yogi is beyond the bondage of space, time and causation, and he is ever free, for it is possible for him to remain dissolved in Brahman and yet return to normal consciousness." - Swami Rama

Such a one is called a jivanmukta.

Since you have written about karma, I suggest you read Freedom from the Bondage of Karma by Swami Rama, The Royal Path by Swami Rama, chapter 13 in Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Rama (actually the whole book is a good read), The Art of Joyful Living by Swami Rama, as well as other writings.


Editor’s Note:

If you have a question about spiritual practice, you can use the "Contact the Spiritual Committee" link on the Ahymsin website to ask it.

Previous columns can be read at “Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…



The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation

Purification of Thoughts     Dhyana    Mindfulness
Japa     Dharana     Shavasana
Breath Awareness     Qualified Preceptor
Guru Disciple Relationship     Unbroken Lineage
Yoga Nidra     Silence Retreats     Full Moon Meditation

Copyright © by AHYMSIN ®