drg-darsana-saktyoh eka-atmata-iva-asmita I
False identity (asmita) happens when we believe the Seer (drg) and the instrument of perception (darsana) are one and the same (eka-atmata).
PRACTICAL LIVING We now know that our main source of suffering (klesa) is misunderstanding (avidya) from the previous two sutras. But how do we know if we’re misperceiving? Well, Patanjali describes 4 other klesas that help us understand when our lenses are scratched. This sutra presents the first of those four: asmita. Asmita is an over-identification with something other than our essence (atma). In western psychology, this is referred to the ego.
If someone asked you: “who are you?” what would you say? No, really, pause and answer that question before reading on.
Most often people respond by saying things like “I’m Sue, I am 46 years old, mother of two, a nurse. Oh, and I am a semi-professional swimmer.” Our ego identifies with external things that are constantly changing.
How does that lead to suffering? Well, what happens if Sue (in the example above) injures herself and cannot swim anymore? She will probably be in a lot of emotional pain because so much of her time, effort, money and self-identity went into being a swimmer. What happens when Sue’s children leave the house to go to college? Parents who over-identify themselves with their children (i.e. have organized their lives around their children’s) suffer a lot when they no longer have their children to think about all the time.
The ego manifests in many ways in our lives. Think about your lifestyle: your job, your hobbies, the food you eat, where you shop…When I became a mother, I had to drop my title of “Director of Teacher Training” and JUST be a “Teacher”. My ego was shattered. I identified myself with that title a lot. And now I can laugh about it 🙂 But back then, it hurt, I’m not going to lie. The ego fills a void, an emptiness that we are not comfortable with. It does so my labeling itself as many things so it ‘knows’ who it is and what it does.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Patanjali says that we are souls who have a body and a mind. The soul, however, even though it’s the Seer, cannot perceive on its own, and that’s why it needs the mind. The mind, which is composed of our senses and intellect, is under the influence of continuous changes in our emotional moods, mental habits and the environment. Therefore, it is not the most reliable perceiver. Asmita, the ego, however, does a great job convincing us that it is THE perceiver, the one and only.
The mind has no awareness in itself. It gathers information, modifies it so that it can understand it, and then presents it to consciousness (purusa). Due to the fact that the mind changes the information it perceives, Patanjali says it cannot perceive the truth. It only perceives its own reality (based on what it has experienced in the past).
The ego is the reflection of consciousness (purusa) on the mind. The two seem like they’re the same, but one is the original, the other just a duplicate. The following quote summarizes it all: “We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are”.
It is a deep concept, yes. For now, reflect on how you over-identify yourself?
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Eleni, my dear Eleni. My one and only Greek-Aussie! I love this woman and no distance prevents us from chatting our lives away. An amazing friendship started almost one decade ago and was cultivated through hikes in the mountains of Los Angeles, through beautiful conversation about life in the US, American husbands, Yoga, Ayurveda, and just about anything two people could talk about. Eleni darling, I cherish our friendship so much! Your desire and ability to grow, to love, to live life passionately, to see humor in challenging times, and to help others is inspirational! Whether across the country or across the globe, I can see this friendship only growing and deepening. Thank you friend, for simply being my friend! Love you lady!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will explore raga – desire and attachment!
So many times in my life my ego pushed me (atma) my essence.
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Oh man, I am really working on my Ego! It is one thing to recognize the attachment to ideals of ourselves, it is another thing entirely to release the grasp, to not hold so tightly onto an idea of one’s self. But once that grip is loosened, what remains? The work to be done is to not search for another idea to attach to, but rather to let go of such tight definitions or ways of being. At the same time, I think we also hold onto ideas of what we are not, or can never be – these too, are the Ego working. Right now there are some things in my life where I have to move toward the negation of a negative quality so that I can loosen it’s hold on my idea of myself!
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