[Advaita-l] Analysis of the Mind -5

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sun Jan 20 05:01:00 CST 2008

                 The Essence of Ego

The essence of our lives seems to be centered on our
ego.  Ego is the driving factor for success according
western way of thinking.  Without ego we cannot
survive, is the understanding of the many.  Unless we
understand what ego stands for, we can neither
understand how our mind functions nor we can
understand how we function in this life.  Most of the
western psychoanalysts identify the conscious mind as
the ego. According to Vedanta, ego is only a notion of
individuality in the mind, wherein ¡®I am¡¯ is
identified with ¡®this is¡¯ resulting in ¡®I am
this¡¯.  There is a fundamental human error involved
in the equation ¡®I am = This¡¯. The error arises in
mixing two diagonally opposite entities; a conscious
entity, ¡®I am¡¯, with an inert entity, ¡®this is¡¯,
in generating a notional entity called ¡®ego¡¯ or
individual ¡®I¡¯.  This is called error of
superimposition (adhyaasa), wherein qualities of
something other than ¡®I am¡¯ are superimposed on ¡®I
am¡¯. ¡®I am¡¯ is the basis or substantive, changeless
or independent variable, while ¡®this is¡¯ is a
superimposition, which continuously changes as
¡®this¡¯ that I identify with changes. Normally, when
I refer to myself as ¡®this is I¡¯, ¡®this is
myself¡¯, the ¡®self¡¯ that ¡®I am¡¯ is identified
with the ¡®ego¡¯.   Hence ego, for all practical
purposes is the ¡®self¡¯ that I am, and it is neither
pure consciousness nor totally inert entity.  We have
mentioned before that mind is made up of subtle matter
different from physical gross matter. Subtle matter is
still a matter and therefore mind is essentially
inert.  Hence mind can be objectified as ¡®this¡¯. Any
object is, in principle, an inert entity.   Mind being
inert is an object of study by psychoanalysts as well
as psychologists. While we stated that ego is one of
the components of the mind, it has a peculiarity of it
own that differs from the rest of the mind.  Although
mind is inert, ego partly rests on the conscious
entity, ¡®I am¡¯.  When I claim that I am an
individual, egotistically I am separating or diverging
myself as a separate entity in relation to other
individuals and the rest of the universe. I am ¡®so
and so¡¯, when I introduce myself as a separate
individual, the ¡®so and so¡¯ is the inert part that I
am identifying with. I am an individual separate from
other things and beings. That exclusivity of myself
from the rest of the universe happens in the mind or
with the mind as ¡®I am this¡¯ and ¡®this is mine¡¯.
This exclusivity is the basis of the survival of the
ego involving separation of ¡®I am not that¡¯ and
¡®that is not mine¡¯.  Thus, ego tries to find its
identification, by inclusion and exclusion of ¡®this¡¯
from ¡®that¡¯ or ¡®mine¡¯ from ¡®yours¡¯. Ego,
therefore, involves the notion of an individual
identifying with myself, a conscious entity, that
takes the role of a doer, knower, enjoyer, sufferer,
etc., on which the inert entity, ¡®this is¡¯, is
superimposed. Only a conscious entity can be a doer,
knower, enjoyer, sufferer, etc.  An unconscious entity
cannot claim the doer-ship or enjoyer-ship. It is the
ego that claims the doer-ship, knower-ship,
enjoyer-ship, etc. Is this ¡®true or false¡¯ has to be
established?  From our point, ego seems to be at the
gateway with one side being a conscious entity, the
individual ¡®I¡¯, the self that I am, and on the other
side the inert entity, where ¡®this¡¯ stands for all
my mental cognitions or mental states.  Any ¡®this¡¯
stands for objects perceived by the mind or objects
known by cognitive process by the mind. It includes
the tangible as well intangible objects. We have not
understood the process how cognition or knowledge of
external objects takes place in the mind or with the
mind. This will be discussed in detail later when we
deal with epistemological issues involving the mind. 

The most important point of interest from the analysis
of the mind is that it appears to show a dualistic
nature; one side a conscious entity and the other side
an unconscious entity or subject-object duality.
Interestingly, it is worth to note that the dualistic
nature seems to be the fundamental to all
manifestations in nature, wherein we connect two
seemingly unrelatable entities into one.  The 20th
century scientists became familiar for the first time
with dualistic nature of the matter; its wave form
through de Broglie's wave length, and its particle
form as atoms and molecules, etc, culminating in
Einstein¡¯s famous equation E = mc2, where ¡®c¡¯ the
velocity of the electromagnetic wave, forming the
connecting link between matter and energy. Through
these equations we learn that energy is matter in
motion or matter is energy localized. From Vedantic
perspective, both energy and matter are inert and thus
grouped under one as matter only, although energy is
more subtle than gross matter. Vedanta goes even one
step further in establishing the ultimate dualistic
nature involving consciousness on one side and matter
on the other. Ego represents a symbolic equation of
the two denoting I am = this.  Matter can be
considered as consciousness in apparent motion or
perturbation in consciousness.  It is cognized as a
¡®thought¡¯ (vRitti) in the mind, which actually is
¡®an apparent¡¯ movement of consciousness or like
¡®thought wave¡¯, a perturbation in the ocean of
consciousness.  Mind is defined as a flow of thoughts
(vRitti dhaara) as mentioned earlier. Movement of
thought is analogous to motion of a wave in the ocean
of consciousness. Wave is nothing but ocean itself
with superficial surface perturbation; hence it is not
different from ocean.  Similarly the thought wave is
superficial movement of consciousness; hence not
different from consciousness. We can deduce
figuratively from this that mind, which is a basis for
the flow of thoughts, can be thought of as
crystallization of consciousness in motion. We will
arrive at this independently by looking at the
creation at macro scale and at micro scale (as in
dream world). Thus apparent or experiential dualities
are inherent natural expressions of all
manifestations, as Vedanta declares. This is the
secret of creation too, says Vedanta.  Individual ego
represents the essence of creation, but at a micro
scale. Ego manifests with the equation of
consciousness with matter.  Consciousness cannot be
equated with matter, yet this appears to be happening
in the apparent duality of the world.  When a subtle
wave form of ¡®energy¡¯ is equated to gross ¡®mater¡¯,
we brought in a fundamental constant ¡®c¡¯, velocity
of light, as the connecting link.  This equation is
simpler, since ontologically both energy and matter
are inert.  However, in equating the consciousness
with matter, we have an impossible situation, since
they are diagonally opposite entities; one is
consciousness and the other is inert matter. We need a
connecting entity that makes this impossible link
possible. That connecting link is called ¡®maayaa¡¯,
which can be considered as a type of force (shakti)
that makes the equation possible. There is no exact
translation for the word ¡®maayaa¡¯ although it is
translated as ¡®illusion¡¯. Any force is only
recognized by its effects. Maayaa is that force
because of which consciousness, which is one without a
second, appears as many. It is like one gold appearing
as many varieties of ornaments, since gold has that
potential to become many. Force is a potential
manifested as action. Therefore maaya is defined as
that which makes impossible possible (aghaTita
ghaTanaa paTiiyasii maayaa). There is no separate
proof for its existence than the very manifestation of
one into many.  

We utilize this force all the time without realizing
it. For example, when I sleep, my mind projects a
dream world of plurality consisting of many beings and
objects.  Thus waking mind has the potential to appear
as many in the dream.  If I am dreaming as a fireman
putting out the fire of a huge building using a hose
and water, while you are all watching as  spectators
in my dream commenting, criticizing, complementing,
etc, as a dreamer I experience all that dream world of
plurality as real made up of objects and beings. In
fact, I, as a dreamer while dreaming, do not even
think that it is a dream. ¡®I am¡¯ there very much in
the dream as one of the subjects in the dream,
identifying with a body, mind and intellect that is
separate from the other bodies, minds and intellects.
In fact, I, with my tiny dream mind, see the dream
world as if it is outside my tiny dream-mind. However,
the whole dream world of plurality is inside the
waker¡¯s mind.  The power by which a waker¡¯s mind is
able to project many things and beings in the world of
dream is maayaa. Any change in movement is a force.
The proof of the maayaa is the dream world itself
arising from one entity, waker¡¯s mind, which in turn
is supported by consciousness.  Only a conscious
entity can dream. Hence mind being inert entity cannot
itself dream unless supported by a conscious entity
that I am. In fact, mind cannot exist without ¡®I
am¡¯.  For a dreamer, all the dream transactions are
real, until he wakes up. The blazing fire of the
building, the hose, the water, and the fireman, as
well as the all spectators, each with their own
individual minds, are all real, as long as the dream
lasts.  There are sentient beings as well insentient
things in the dream world.  Only when awaken from the
dream, the whole dream world merges into the waker¡¯s
mind. In fact, the dream world arises from the
waker¡¯s mind, sustained by the mind and goes back
into the mind.  Was the matter that was created in the
dream real or imaginary?  It is real from the point of
dreamer but appears to be unreal from the point of
waker. The dream water cannot wet my bed in the waking
world, although it can put out the fire in the dream. 
If the bed is wet, it is not from the dream water.
Thus the reality of the dream depends on the
reference; waker thinks it is unreal, while the
dreamer thinks it is real. 

Vedanta looks at the dream world, compares with the
waking world and shows parallelism between the two.
>From the Vedantic perspective, both worlds are not
real. They are not unreal either, since they are being
experienced.  Unreal like horns of a rabbit cannot be
experienced.  Real is defined as that which remains
the same at all times.  In both dream world and the
waking world, what remains the same is myself, I am,
only taking different roles in each world. Hence ¡®I
am¡¯ alone is real. It is the waker¡¯s mind supported
by the consciousness that ¡®I am¡¯ is projecting the
world of plurality of beings and objects in the dream.
 ¡®I am¡¯ there in the dream world (in the above
example playing the role of a fireman).  Thus creation
of the dream world became possible with the
combination of consciousness entity ¡®I am¡¯ with
inert entity ¡®this is¡¯, which is the essence of ego
too.  Maayaa, therefore, is that power that makes this
equation possible. In the case of the dream world, I
have the power to create that dream world, although
the kind of dream that I dream is not known a priori. 
My dreaming as a fireman must be the result of some
suppressed desires of wanting to become a fireman that
could not have been fulfilled in my waking state.
These desires are exhausted in my dream, so that my
mind is now free from these suppressed desires, so
that it can act fresh.  Thus dreams are exhausting
mechanisms provided by nature for cleansing the mind. 
Vedanta says the waking world is not much different,
as we shall see later. 

Coming back to our basics, when I equate myself as
¡®this¡¯, creation or separation of an individual
¡®I¡¯ essentially has occurred. We attributed this
identification as result of dualistic nature of the
mind where subject and object thoughts, both arise in
the mind, where there is the possibility for an error
involving identification of subject, I, with object,
¡®this¡¯.  This is an error, because I am not
¡®this¡¯. Yet, I take my self as ¡®I am this¡¯, says
Vedanta, only because I do not know that I am pure
conscious-being, without any ¡®this¡¯ attached. Being
means existing. Thus Vedanta says I am pure
existence-consciousness. I cannot add any more
qualification to ¡®I am¡¯ since anything that is
qualified is an object and not a subject.  Only
objects have qualifications. ¡®I am¡¯ always is a
subject and not an object. I cannot objectify myself. 
Therefore conceptualized ¡®I am¡¯ is not I am, since I
am not a concept. ¡®I am¡¯ is a fact.  In the equation
¡®I am this¡¯, I am trying to objectify myself as
¡®this¡¯ with qualifications.  This happens because,
when I do not know who I am, I take myself to be other
than who I am.  Thus ¡®I am this¡¯ error arises in my
mind because of my self-ignorance or ignorance of my
true nature, says Vedanta. 

This error of superimposition can occur only if there
is some common ground between the conscious entity,
¡®I am¡¯ and the inert entity ¡®this is¡¯. The common
ground between ¡®I am¡¯ and ¡®this is¡¯ is the
¡®Existence¡¯ itself.   ¡®Am¡¯ in the ¡®I am¡¯ denotes
my existence, and ¡®is¡¯ in ¡®this is¡¯ denotes its
existence. The divergent parts between the two are
consciousness on one side and inertness on the other.
¡®I¡¯ denotes a conscious entity and ¡®this¡¯ denotes
an inert entity, since ¡®this¡¯ is an object of my
knowledge.  Even though ¡®I am = this is¡¯ is an
invalid equation and can never be true, it is taking
place as evident in all our transactions in the world.
In fact, no transaction can ever be possible without
this identification. All transactions involve ¡®I am
this¡¯ and ¡®this is mine¡¯ notion, which is ego.  I
cannot even introduce myself by just saying ¡®I am¡¯
without adding any ¡®so and so¡¯ to it. Without ego,
no one can transact in the world. Then, where is the
problem, if I can only transact with this notion that
¡®I am this¡¯, and no transaction can be possible

The core of the human problem rests on this and
solution to this problem also rests in correct
understanding of the problem.  If I know as a fact
that I am a conscious-existent entity and not ¡®this¡¯
that I identify with, except for transactional
purposes since I  have no other choice, then there is
no problem. It is like enjoying the sun rise and sun
set, knowing the fact very well that sun neither rises
or sets. Or a more appropriately, it is similar to
actor playing a role in a drama.  I am an actor
playing the role of a beggar in a drama and getting
paid millions for that action.  I can play the role
beautifully and enjoy the play, knowing well that I am
not really a beggar and in fact I am going to
accumulate more millions because of that action. If I
really think that I am a beggar, forgetting that I am
actor playing that role, then the drama becomes
miserable. Firmly rooted in my understanding that I am
an unqualified existence-consciousness, but playing
the drama of life taking different roles in life, son,
husband, father, friend, employee, citizen, etc
understanding very well that I am none of the above-
then the game of life becomes beautiful drama- comedy
or tragedy ¨C but fun to play with.  There is only one
ball, but both teams go for it, then only it is a
sport. One will win and the other looses, yet that is
fun.  Why do we have to play ¨C there is no cause for
play other than fun.  Play is natural; even a cat
plays with a ball. There is no ¡®why¡¯ for a play. Win
or loose, playing is fun. Loosing to a strong time is
more fun than winning over a mediocre team.  Hence
many philosophers call creation as play of the Lord
(leelaa vibhuuti), since there cannot be a reason for
play other than that it is fun. However, if you ask
¡®why should the Lord play at my expense?¡¯, then you
are inquiring deeper into the truth or secret of

It is ¡®I¡¯ that is playing the drama of life taking
different roles. If I do not know how to play or do
not know the rules of the game, then play becomes
miserable. There is where the human problem and human
suffering rest. When I transact with the world as ¡®I
am this¡¯ not knowing my true nature and taking
¡®this¡¯ as my real self, then all problems will
arise.  It is similar to an actor behaving like a king
outside the drama, not knowing that the role of the
king that he is playing is only for that particular
scene. We have to put him in asylum before he starts
ordering everybody around as a king. Roles will have
problems, since that is part of the drama. However, if
I start taking the problems of the roles as my
problems, then it will become a serious problem. 

When I do not know ¡®Who I am?¡¯, and take myself to
be really ¡® I am this¡¯ that I identify with will
create problems. This is a fundamental human problem,
since it is the basis for all human suffering. The
basic reason is any ¡®this¡¯ is limited, since
¡®this¡¯ is not ¡®that¡¯ or does not include ¡®that¡¯.
  All ¡®this that I have¡¯ becomes what I am due to
this error of identification. Hence, when I take
myself as ¡®I am this¡¯, the limitations of ¡®this¡¯
become my limitations.  No one likes to be limited.
Intrinsically everyone wants to be unlimited, since
that seems to be my nature. Limitlessness is freedom
from all limitations.  Everybody wants to be free,
free from any dependence on other than oneself.
Therefore every effort is made to make ¡®this¡¯ that I
have as big as possible, to make it limitless. Thus
¡®more I have¡¯ becomes a means to become ¡®more I
am¡¯.  Ego wants to survive at any cost by becoming
bigger and bigger. It is never happy or contended with
what it has, since whatever it has is limited and not
limitless. Hence wanting to have more becomes the
fundamental survival mode for the ego. Ego also
survives by excluding others. Exclusions become more
evident by complaining, criticizing, fighting, etc.
All the negative emotions that get crystallized in our
transactions are means for survival of ego.  All
desires involving, I and I want, are expressions of
the Ego.  If I cannot get what I want, then I
complain.  I am angry if others get what I want.  I
complain and I criticize.  When two people meet, they
will be complaining about the third person. Fear comes
from the second person and politics comes with the
third person. 

A mind that is contended and free from ego-centric
desires is not the mind that is conducive for the
survival of the ego. On the other hand, ego survives
in having a mind that is always longing for something
or the other. ¡®I want this and this and this..¡¯ 
becomes the song of the ego, from birth to death. It
always wants to want and never satisfied with what it
has, until it has everything. Everything means
infinite. One cannot gain infinite by adding finite
things.  Yet, ¡®longing to become infinite¡¯ seams to
be inherent in all beings, as the fundamental struggle
for freedom. Ego can never become infinite, since
¡®this¡¯ part of the ego in ¡®I am this¡¯ is always
finite.  Yet longing to become infinite never ceases.
Hence human life becomes a constant struggle to become
¡®something¡¯ which one cannot become. When I realize
that ¡®I am not this¡¯, which Vedanta capitalizes its
teaching as ¡®not this¡¯, ¡®not this¡¯, suggesting to
drop all identifications with all ¡®this¡¯, what is
left behind is pure ¡®I am¡¯ without any
qualifications or identifications.  That I am is pure
existence-consciousness, which by nature is limitless
too, since existence has to be infinite, and
consciousness that I am is not different from
existence. It is not that I become infinite, ¡®I am ¡Ô
infinite¡¯, says Vedanta; and infinite cannot be
pointed as ¡®this¡¯. Note the identity equation
symbolized by ¡Ô, instead of an equal sign, indicating
infiniteness is my intrinsic nature, called in
Sanskrit as swaruupa lakshanam.  Hence the inherent
struggle to become infinite by gaining this or that is
only a reflection of gaining my own true nature.  I
cannot gain my own true nature, since it is already my
true nature.  Infinite need not have to become
infinite, since it is already infinite. However, if I
¡®think¡¯ that I am finite and try to become infinite,
we have a peculiar problem ¨C we are creating a
problem where there is no problem. There cannot be any
real solution to this problem. Only valid solution to
this kind of problem is only to recognize that there
is no problem to start with. Hence understanding my
true nature, that is knowing ¡®who I am¡¯, is the only
solution for problems generated by mistaking my self
to be ¡®this¡¯ or ¡®that¡¯, something other than
myself.  Hence, recognition of the invalidity of the
equation, I am=this, is the solution to the problem. 
The solution looks very simple, since I know I can
never be ¡®this¡¯ ¨C subject ¡®I¡¯ is different from
object ¡®this¡¯. Yet, it appears to be very difficult,
like trying to win over by real fighting with an
imaginary ghost. 

The difficulty arises if we ask further in terms of
who is trying to realize ¡®Who I am?¡¯ ¨C Is it the
ego or is it pure ¡®I am¡¯, since we have only two
components.  Pure ¡®I am¡¯ is already infinite
existence-consciousness and there is nothing to
realize ¨C other than just BE what it is.  (Actually
we are using words which are finite by nature and do
not even describe that ¡®what I am¡¯ stands for. Hence
Vedanta says ¨Cfinite words or mind cannot reach but
return back¨C yatho vaacho nivartante apraapya manasaa
saha). Infinite cannot be described ¨C even the word
infinite is only a negative description, that it is
not finite. Hence from the point of I am, there is
nothing to reach, nothing to describe, nothing to
acquire, no where to go ¨C other than saying ¡®I am
that I am¡¯, which is not saying anything substantial.
So ¡®I am¡¯ need not have to realize since it is
already ¡®I am¡¯.  Does ego has to realize that I am
not this? Ego cannot realize ¡®I am not this¡¯ since
its essence is I am= this. For it, ¡®not this¡¯
becomes another ¡®this¡¯ only, meaning we tend to
conceptualize ¡®not this¡¯ as another ¡®this¡¯.  Then,
what is the solution? Solution therefore is in clear
understanding that Ego cannot realize, and ¡®I am¡¯
need not realize, but only discarding my identity with
ego and claiming my eternal nature that I am.  That is
just shifting my gears or my vision.  This is the
essence of meditation.  That involves reducing the
reality that I associate with the ego only to
transactional reality, and claming my eternal reality
as existence-consciousness that I am.  Then what
happens to I am as I am? I remain as I am, that
eternal ever existent consciousness that I am, but now
realize that the only transaction utility of the ego
is in playing the game of life, as it should be
played. It is now like an actor, who knows who he is,
but still playing the drama of life knowing very well
that the drama is not real but only for fun or
entertainment. The drama script has not changed, the
roles have not changed, the problems of the roles
still remain, but only thing that changes is my
attitude towards the problem of the roles. I play the
roles more effectively and beautifully to my
satisfaction without any regrets and without any
complaints, since it is fun to play. I can even change
the script to the degree possible or select the roles
that I can play better.  Since I have already entered
the stage of life to play different roles, I might as
well play the roles that are given for the benefit of
the others, who also have entered the scene to play
their roles.  Life is a drama involving many players
and many scenes and one has to play the game as long
as one is on the stage of life.  Best way to play is
not to forget that you are an actor and the play is
only a drama and for fun or entertainment.  Here
playing itself is the entertainment. How good you
play, how satisfyingly you play the given scenes is
all that matters. 

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