In the last two blogs, I explained three of the four parts of our mind—the buddhi, the manas and the chitta. The buddhi is our inner guidance system, always present, always directing us (when clearly heard) in ways that are good for us; the manas is that searching part of our mind that interacts with the outside world; and the chitta is our mental storage system which records our every experience.
The fourth part of our mind in this physical world, according to yoga, is the EGO, called “ahamkara,” in Sanskrit. In the spiritual developmental world, the ego gets the most attention. The ego gets criticized for causing us many problems. We see those ego problems surface in the political world or in the world of fashion or in the world where people push to get their own way in relationships or during encounters with authority figures.
Actually, the ahamkara, which means the “I-Am-maker” is essential and very important in our lives on earth. When we are born we have really no sense of who we are. I see this in my grandchildren. As babies, they experience themselves completely connected with their mothers. They are “mama’s.” Eventually, the toddlers start relating to “dada” and their siblings. It is their “ahamkara” that is deciding who they are and what they want to do.
As the grandkids grew I saw each one’s ahamkara develop some independence during the “terrible twos” and “thrashing threes, pushed by the autonomous, divine insistence of the buddhi and the desiring, grasping, knowledge-seeking manas.”
We all mentally develop in this way. We are constantly making ourselves into the “I AM” that our Spirit demands of us. We are making ourselves into: “I am a teacher.” “I am a woman.” “I am intelligent, fat, slim, wonderful, engineer, black, white, Republican, Democrat, Socialist, etc.” This I-AM-making continues even to the point of death.
We are constantly making ourselves into persons. We are constantly developing our personality through the promptings of our inner Spirit, through the disciplining of the outside world, through the push of all with whom we want to identify. The pressure of the outside world is very apparent during our schooling years as we attempt to “fit in.” Our ahamkara responds very strongly, especially in the first 21 years of our life, to the major animal urges that are rooted in our physical nature—our basic need for food, sleep, sex/affection, and self-preservation. All of us have to secure our relationship with each of those basic desires that are deeply rooted in our chitta.
So, our ahamkara uses all the other parts of the mind—the manas, chitta, and buddhi—to form the “I AM” that moves through this world. The ahamkara chooses, through the guidance of the buddhi, who we will be in this world. It all depends on the qualities, patterns, activities, experiences with which the ahamkara identifies. If it identifies with the color of the body’s skin, then we say, “I am white or tanned or a person of color.” If it identifies with our intelligence and our self-preservation need compared to others, we say “I am a genius compared to all those other people.” If it identifies with the cultural background and the current living situation, we say “I am an Arab-American, or German-American, or “Italian-American” or “Native American.” In the United States, most people’s ahamkaras identify with their name by saying “I am George, or Mary, or Jimmy.”
We tell the world who we are by that with which our ahamkaras identify.
Our buddhi, because it identifies with those qualities, tells us to act accordingly. We act according to what our “I-am-maker” has made.
In the yoga, though, we are not our bodies and their color; we are not our minds and our IQ; we are not our ethnic heritage, nor our wealthy background, nor our nationality, nor our physical strength, nor our political party or ideas. In yoga, we are Spirits with minds and bodies. Our True Self is Divine, Infinite and Perfect.
If our ahamkaras begin to identify with our true selves, like Jesus of Nazareth did when he identified with his Father (his understanding of God, his Holy Spirit), we would say “I am one with God.” We would then act like God. We would also see that we have the ability to impact the world as God does, daily!
I long for our Egos to identify with our True Selves!