-An antithetical viewpoint
Offering my respect to that irritating grain of sand that initiates the forming of the pearl I will dive right into a topic that has been bubbling on the surface of my mind for a while. Do remember my blogs are written as a bit of fun and light heartedly.
Establishing having an Ego
Being my nature to ponder on the spiritual and the so called spiritual, the intellectual and the so called intellectual, and finding it exciting to engage in this pursuit in my time away from my sadhana, it has become a rather enjoyable pastime of mine. In reality, some of these realisations are a result of the said sadhana when the lens turns and shines a light upon, among other subjects, popular sayings that belie a belief system. In fact you can call this my rubik’s cube, sudoku or crossword puzzle, so to speak. An engaging of the intellect to keep it sharp and not dulled or rather lulled into complacence. An Adi Shankaracharya inspired dialogue/debate occurring within myself; it is not uncommon for me, to find myself in conversation with my Self!
This habit, I realise now, had started very young when often I would find myself deeply (deeply yet humorously, for sure) pondering the vedantic philosophies discussed at home and the meaning of brahminical mantras constantly chanted by my elders. Stories from the Bhagavatam, the Mahabharat and Ramayan, the panchatantra would all be examined while being enjoyed. Adi Shankaracharya was a great favourite of my father and his quotes were applied to many and sundry situations internally and externally. This inculcated an atmosphere of debates and discussions, sometimes heated but always ending in a handshake, on which my father insisted.
“Where the mind is without fear,” wrote Tagore, “and the head is held high, where knowledge is free.” A poem that had impacted me deeply as a child. Even then I had known that though the poem was directed towards the country as a whole, it applied to each individual; for what else is a country made up of, if not its citizens. “Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it’s way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit,” continues Tagore. Into that heaven of freedom I would wish to be awakened as a young adolescent. Needless to say that did not bode well for any adult in my vicinity, be it teacher or parent who would ask me to follow obediently what was asked of me and what they deemed was the best for my development. Everything would have to pass this self study. That’s not to say I have not indulged in many spontaneous actions and learnt insightful lessons from all of them some pleasurable some not-so, all contributing to the formation of my ego as it were.
It would be correct to say, hence, that I had expended a sizable amount of my years in the attempt of developing intellectual skills which it would in later life not be wrong to call a well developed sense of the self, popularly labelled ego by philosophers and pundits. Said acquired skills also used to demolish without prejudice, perceptions that did not resonate with my own realisations. As usual, the views expressed here are mine alone, arrived at after much pondering in my free time and anyone who disagrees with them I accord a more than cordial shake of the hand.
A Not so Gentle Coaxing
New age yoga studios quickly follow a catchy phrase without due diligence.
First expressed in eastern philosophies, it is a common statement today used by priests, clergymen, gurus and pundits to ask the congregation to leave the ego outside with the shoes. This apparently to keep their flock humble and not fall a prey to pride. The idea mooted is that the ego is an obstacle on the path towards the Lord God.
This statement has always irked me and if asked to leave my mind or ego outside with my shoes while attending watering holes of any hue, it immediately makes me more attentive and a bit suspicious. It is meant to be a cute statement meaning don’t be argumentative but I find it an assault on a discerning mind. The ego of the person inside trying to override the ego of the person entering! Not so Om Shanti after all!!
Ego, A Brief Summarisation
Simply stated, ego in Latin stands for I. Any person using this I word excessively is perceived as an egoist. For me, though this was too simplistic a definition of the ego. I craved for a more detailed understanding of ego as identity, as an understanding of the self and a tool for gathering knowledge and wisdom.
A throwback to college where being a student of philosophy, I had studied Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his theory of a priori and a posteriori. Putting it simply and keeping it light, they are the two methodology of gathering knowledge by an individual mind and goes to form the substance of the ego. A priori the first based on deduction and reason is independent of experience and the second a posteriori is empirical and based on subjective experience. Most western philosophers give precedence to information and knowledge gathered through the former a priori as it’s, according to them, a more scientific approach, an objective study which determines that a particular formula when applied would in every instant bring the same result. The latter path of a posteriori is empirical and based on information gathered from subjective experience, a method which for obvious reasons, is very difficult to compute. The latter is usually debunked by those referred to popularly as ‘intellectuals’. But I have found both work in different ways to help the individual mind gather information.
In the Sanatan philosophy the sanskrit term used is Ahankar. Ahankar which does not just mean the ‘I’ but the ‘I maker’. The first sign of ego is developed by the infant at the moment of birth. The first I of identifying with the external form grows roots.
According to my understanding the identity of Aham or self strengthens as the baby grows by identifying with traits of its gender, family status and name. This sense of the self deepens further as the manas- the mind, and intellect- buddhi becomes more consolidated with social conditioning and upbringing and the very personal experiences in that souls journey. The I then refers to itself as the sum total of all 5 koshas, the panchakosha – the body of flesh, the body of breath, the body of mind and emotion, the body of intellect and the body of intuition. How this I collects information, knowledge and wisdom depends on how the I perceives the world through the 5 senses, panchendriyas. Further the substance of the I is textured by the play of the three gunas, the clarity or otherwise of the vivek buddhi.
Interestingly Krishna in the Bhagavad Geeta has pointed out how the earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, buddhi (intellect) and ahankar form the eight grosser manifestations of the energies of the descending Purusha– pure consciousness. All serious practitioners of yog sadhana know that the body consists of all these elements and together they form the grosser I. For clarification Purusha, in my understanding, has no ‘masculine’ connotation here. More on this in my next blog.
This is a vast topic by itself and my reason for touching upon it here is only to lightly stroke on the nuances of what is meant by an ego.
Case in favour of not leaving the ego out
Let me begin by saying that according to me, those who have an Ahankar, an ego will not be successful in leaving it behind. And those who can leave it behind need not enter at all, for after all they without Ahankar become -Nirankar- निरङ्कार्, without form, formless.
Patanjali in his treatise of YogSutras says yog (union) is calming the vagaries of the fluctuating mind. The mind, the ego is the sense of lower self, which is transformed to the realisation of the Universal Self. The calming of the fluctuations and turbulence of the mind is the basis of yog sadhana. If you have already achieved it you need not enter at all, if you haven’t, leaving it behind what will you transform? It is after all the ego that has to pass through the crucible of fire to purify itself into Atman, then Paramatman.
One of the tenets of niyam is swadhyay, self study; turning the lens inward in order to observe and experience the transformation of the chitta and the manas all a part of what forms the ego. Having left the mind and ego self outside, what is there to study.
3. शरीरे संहारः कलानाम्
“The destroyer is within the body,” read the Shiva Sutra discovered by Vasugupta on a boulder in the territory of Rishi Kashyap around the 9th century CE. The movement of discovery is inwards and outwards. As the seeker takes the first step into the room the spirit within recognising that effort inwards is filled with joy and moves to embrace and reward this endeavour by a soul in returning to its parent source and the ego dropping all its beauty and ugliness regains its natural form of splendour.
As a practitioner of yog sadhana for this and many lives, I am palpably aware of the movement of my consciousness from grosser to more subtler aspects of my being. It’s a transformation from the grosser emotions and passion to the subtler love and light which is the purpose of the practice for many. The journey of the transformation itself is what gives joy. It is to learn this transformation that we enter any room and if asked to leave the ego outside it will defeat the purpose of the sadhana, we may as well just be mindlessly anywhere.
Finally, complete leaving of the Ego is when you realise you were never the Ego nor any of its manifestations. Adi Shankaracharya in his NirvanShatakam explains.
I am not the mind, intelligence, ego or conscience
Neither am I the sense of hearing, taste, smell or sight
I am not the sky, earth, fire or air
Eternal Bliss attribute of Shiva I am, Shiva I am
Earlier Krishna explained the descent of purusha– pure consciousness into ego and here Shankaracharya explains the ascent of ego into purusha– pure consciousness. Still a vestige of I aham evident in the last line and a degree of separation as the attribute rupa of eternal bliss, in my understanding if the last coat of ego had dissolved in Shankaracharya, there would have been no NirvanShatakam.
Note: Most of my writing comes from casual conversations around a cuppa or a random sentence left floating or observing a rather repetitive spiritual anecdote. There are many blogs that are already arising from this one. If you enjoyed reading and would like me to ramble on like this more. Leave a comment with your own bubbles of thought and we will thus have a conversation. And yes sure bring in your ego, Egos welcome!!