Verse 24: Self Center

Verse 24 introduces Ahamkara – the notion of “I-am-ness.” It can be tempting to translate Ahamkara as ego, but I feel that the word ego carries too much western psychological mechanistic baggage. “Ego” feels too narrow for Ahamkara.

I am thinking of a large boulder rolling down a mountain. It crushes plants, it crashes into other rocks crushing them into smaller rocks, it free falls and lands on another large rock outcropping, and some pieces are chipped away from it forming new smaller rocks that begin their own journey down the mountain, and eventually, it settles somewhere in the valley at the foot of the mountain. Whatever gives the boulder its “that-ness” that is Ahamkara.

I am thinking of a pond on an early misty morning. It has a stream running into it and a stream running out of it. The surface of the pond water can barely be seen because of all the mist. I look at the soil I am standing on at the edge of the pond. It is so moist that my weight upon it squeezes water out of it. It is almost impossible to separate the pond from its environment, but there it is: a pond. Whatever gives the pond its “that-ness” that is Ahamkara.

Every cell in my body has a “that-ness.” Every molecule has a “that-ness.” Every blade of grass has a “that-ness.” Every raindrop and every snowflake has a “that-ness.” Does every thought have a “that-ness”? Does every relationship have a “that-ness”?

Just like the boulder, pond, snowflake, and molecule, there is a “that-ness” around which I am formed. It is where my notion of “self” originates.

Amahkara seems like an inevitable effect of Discerning Intelligence (Mahat – verse 23). For discernment to have any meaning there needs to be a “this and that” that can be discerned. Ahamkara is the source of individuation – the source of “this and that”.

Ahamkara plays a key role in the Samkhya tree of causality:

  • It is the only special object caused by Discerning Intelligence (Mahat).
  • All the other special objects of Samkhya emerge from it.
  • It directly causes 16 special objects .

Ahamkara can seem like a source, as if I am “self” and everything revolves around that. However, that illusion is revealed by placing Ahamaka in context. Ahamkara is caused by Discerning Intelligence which in turn is caused by the conjunction of Spirit & Nature. When the context is forgotten, Ahamakara can indeed seem like “self-centeredness.” However, in context, the illusion of “self-centeredness” is replaced by an awareness of “self” as a center.

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