Ahamkara – Identity
When we look at the Samkhya Darśana (Philosophy), we see that Ahamkara, aka the ego, develops right after Buddhi, who is the Director of Discernment. In the Yoga Darśans, we are working to clarify our actions so that we experience our inner wisdom or Buddhi guiding our choices and preventing us from repeating harmful habits. The only way to do this is to develop an ego purposefully. Otherwise, the choices we make will be slanted, moving us away from truth, from unification, from purpose.
From a Yogic & Āyurvedic perspective, on of the reasons the modern world is challenging is because it guides us to create identities around group belonging, food preferences, jobs, activities, preferences, statuses etc. When we think of things this way, of course, we would want to underdevelop that version of an ego because it moves us away from a sense of community, of interpersonal relationship and responsibility, and also from our own reason for being born.
When the Ahamkara is positioned well, it gives what my teacher calls “individuation.” It allows a person to realize and enjoy the ups and downs of living their actual dhārma – their purpose of service for this birth – and commit to it without wavering.
When Ahamkara is developed this way, it creates an awareness of location. It allows you to assess situations calmly, discern where your needs are, how you can interact well with those around, and how you can prioritize what will truly bring meaning to your life and be of service to the greater good. And, by living like this, eventually Kama comes – pleasure. This relates to the Purushārthas where doing one’s Dhārma leads to Artha (Purpose), then Kama (Pleasure), then Mokṣa (Self-Realization)
When Ahamkara is off-kilter though and is driven by pleasure to the senses, social position, or any external means rather than internal, then it absolutely acts in a way similar to the negative impression of the ego often discussed. Then, attachment starts to wander in, induced by fear most often. This fear clamps our ability to perceive Buddhi, and therefore isolates the Ahamkara. In moments like this, its influence is based upon the external input from the senses, as well as the Rajasic and/or Tamasic inputs covering the mind.
What to Do?!
We all know that just because we “do yoga” doesn’t mean we’re actually “doing yoga.” Intention is everything and it requires specificity and an ability to both be in the body, mind, breath, heart, and also be separate from them. Sometimes I describe it as being a mother to ourselves. Another way to say it to be in the world, but not of it. The Bhavagad Gita reminds us that there is no possibility of life without action. Inaction is action, action is action, but how we make these choices, why we are choosing them, and what is the end goal are all important keys to differentiating what Kṛṣṇa calls “right action” from wrong action. This is moment to moment state of presence is how we develop stable Ahamkara, which enables us to trust our choices.
The challenge is that we are in our bodies and little personal universes constantly. COVID has exacerbated this isolation even further. So, the question is, how can we develop that Mother in us? That Buddhi? That ability to be in the world but not of it? How can we know if we are acting from a weak Ahamkara or a healthy one?
I have found Āyurveda provides an exceptional means to deepen our own personal sense of nuance. We go over those as well as the traps of modern Yoga in this workshop. It will be a mix of lecture and experiential practice. There will also be time for questions. I hope you’ll join!