dRuk=power of consciousness; seer; Purusha; darshanashaktyoH=power of seeing; cognition; ekaatmata=identity; blending togetether; iv=as if; asmitaa=I-am-ness
"Asmita is the identity of blending together, as it were, of the power of consciousness (Purusa) with the power of cognition (Buddhi). "
Asmita is the identification of consciousness with the vehicle through which the power of cognition is being expressed. Asmita literally means I-am-ness or awareness of Self-existence. When, however, it identifies with one of its vehicles, it is no more pure and is bound by the limitations of Avidya. The identification of consciousness with matter proceeds progressively from subtle to grosser elements. In that process, the veil of avidya gets thicker.
At the grossest level is the identification with the physical body where the consciousness has been already conditioned by the intervening subtler layers. This identification is reflected in our normal communication patterns. Even though we may know intellectually that our sense organs are simply acting as instruments for the ‘self’ , we still say ‘I see’ or ‘I hear’ etc giving the false indication that seeing and hearing are done by the self. One can view this identification in at least three different stages. In the first stage, we identify the simple act of ‘seeing’ or ‘walking’ with the self. In the second stage, there may be two ‘levels’ of identification. For example, when we say "I have a headache" it implies that some disturbance in the brain is ‘felt’ as pain when the sensation is carried by subtler layers which recognize feelings and sensations. In the third stage, we bring in external objects into this identification. For example, we say ‘my son’ or ‘my house’ where this self-identification is now extended to these objects.
When we begin to understand the concept of asmita, it is easier to recognize the identification at the physical level. However, when we get into subtler layers of intellect and ego, this recognition becomes much harder. Thoughts, opinions, prejudices etc are much harder to deal with from the point of view of ‘asmita’.
Through the practice of methods and techniques which are given in subsequent sutras, one can begin to transcend these various layers, from the physical to the more subtler ones, until one reaches the state of ‘samadhi’ when all identification is destroyed.
“Asmita Is Tantamount To The Identification Of Purusa Or Pure Consciousness With Buddhi”
When the experiencer (purusha) and the experienced (prakriti) are united as an experience, it is called Asmita. When the real nature of the two is known, it leads to liberation and there is no experience. Their sameness is of the nature of cognition and implies absence of distinction between purusha and prakriti in the awareness. Experience of pleasure and pain arise from treating buddhi and purusha as identical. Identification of the organs of cognition, which provide the experience, with self is asmita – ‘I am possessed of the power of seeing" etc is an example of such identification.
"Ego is to consider the nature of the seer and the nature of the instrumental power of seeing to be the same thing"
Buddhi, as the power of sight (darshana shakti), is the instrument that presents the sense objects and other vrittis to the purusha (seer). Asmita, is the misidentification of buddhi, the instrumental power of ‘darshana’, with the soul (purusha). Asmita, in this sense, is also known as ‘ego’ that is responsible for imagining the body and mind, which are mere instruments, to be the self.
In other words, the act of experience entails identifying the experiencer with what is being experienced. This is promoted by the ego or asmita which, due to ignorance, identifies the non-self (buddhi) with the self (purusha).
Ego and ignorance are to some extent the same; they are different only in degree. Ignorance involves a not-yet specified notion of I-ness – identifying the self with non-self. Asmita, on the other hand, involves a more complete identification of the purusha with buddhi and other attributes of prakriti. For example, identifying oneself with one’s spouse and kids is ignorance, but actually feeling their pain and happiness is asmita.
Asmita has been used in two different contexts in the sutras. In sutra 1.17, while defining ‘samprjnata samadhi’, it was used in the sense of pure I-am-ness, with no misidentification with prakriti. In the context of the present sutra, asmita involves misidentification of self with buddhi. In Samkhya, this asmita is also referred to as ‘ahamkara’ which plays a major role in determining whether the mind directs its attention to purusha or prakriti. Patanjali does not use the term ‘ahamkara’. However, it is mentioned in Bhagavad Gita, "the soul, due to ‘ahamkara’ thinks I am the doer of deeds which are actually being done by the gunas of prakriti" (chapter 3, shloke 27).
I think that an understanding of how asmita (ego or ahamkara) plays a role in our day-to-day life is critical in developing effective stress management skills. I believe that stress happens when we misidentify the self with our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and opinions. I wrote a blog post some time ago on how the mind functions and how the ego gets involved in our day-to-day activities. Please read that post and provide your feedback.
Eckhart Tolle in his famous book "The Power of Now" also makes a similar claim when he says that ego is at the root of all suffering. He says that ego drags us into the past or the future as it doesn’t feel comfortable in the present moment. We can only feel peaceful and stress-free when we are in the present moment. The moment we step into the past or the future and try to dwell there, stress and unhappiness creeps in.
sukha=pleasure/happiness; anushayI=accompanying; raagaH=attraction; liking
" That attraction, which accompanies pleasure, is Raga"
Raga is the attraction towards any person or object that causes pleasure or happiness. Attraction in this manner happens because the soul in bondage, having lost its inner source of bliss (ananda), gropes for happiness in the external world. Any object that provides such an experience becomes dear to it.
"Attachment is that modification which follows remembrance of pleasurea"
An experience of pleasure results in a latent impression which subsequently can lead to desire or craving for the same experience. In attachment, desire and senses are drawn involuntarily towards objects. When desire deepens into greed, the sense of right and wrong becomes neglected. By this the self gets linked up with the senses. The detached self, in this case, appears to be bound with the latent impressions of pleasure.
"Attachment stems from experience of happiness"
Attachment is craving for pleasure by one who remembers past experience of pleasure. Ego is the root of attachment just as ignorance is the root of ego. Ignorance and ego cause the deluded mind to associate the self with the latent impressions of past experience of pleasure.
duHkha=pain; anushayI=accompanying; dveshaH=repulsion
" That repulsion which accompanies pain is Dvesa"
Dvesha is repulsion felt towards a person or object which is a source of unhappiness. Raga and dvesha go together – they are like the opposite sides of the same coin. Here are a few facts about raga and dvesha:
Raga and dvesha which bind us to external objects condition our life in such a way that we begin to think, feel and act according to these biases.
Raga and dvesha bind us down to the lower levels of consciousness where consciousness functions under the greatest limitations.
Dvesha binds us the same way as raga. We are tied to the person we hate even more than the person we love since it is more difficult to transmute the force of hatred. Vairagya is not just freedom from raga but equally from dvesha.
Raga and dvesha belong to the vehicles (elements of prakriti) but owing to avidya we associate us with them.
These are responsible for much of human misery
"Aversion is that modification which results from misery"
Aversion is the feeling of opposition, propensity to hurt and anger towards misery or object producing misery, arising from recollection of misery experienced before. As in Raga, the latencies of misery are falsely attributed to the self and the inactive self is regarded as the doer.
"Aversion stems from experiences of pain".
The comments are identical to those of Aranya.
Raga and dvesha are mentioned quite frequently in Indian literature as the cause of suffering. In the Bhagavad Gita there is a often-quoted passage (shlokas 2.62-63), sometimes referred to as "the ladder of destruction" –
"Repeated focus on an object results in affection ‘sanga’. From affection results strong desire ‘kama’. If you are not able to satisfy the desire or kama you will end up with anger ‘krodha’. Increased anger results in increased ego and focus on the inner self ‘sammoha’. When this happens, past experience ‘smriti’ is forgotten and a person loses judgement ‘smriti vibramaha’. Lack of judgement results in destruction of wisdom ‘buddhi nashaha’ and finally the person is lost ‘pranashyati’." In the very next shloka (2.64) it talks about freeing oneself from raga and dvesha:
"But, moving amidst (unavoidable) sense objects with sense organs which are under control and which are free from likes (raga) and dislikes (dvesha), a man of self-control enjoys tranquility".
One question that often comes up is whether having a desire is bad. I believe that when we have a pleasurable experience, its memory in the future will result in a desire for a similar experience. However, it becomes a ‘raga’ (attachment) only when that desire becomes a craving and results in suffering if not fulfilled. If we can develop an attitude of indifference to the outcome of a desire, then having a desire is not bad.
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