Unfreezing the Stories of My Ego with Vedanta
atmaiva hy atmano bandhur atmaiva ripur atmanah
The mind is the friend of the person, and his enemy as well.
Bhagwad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 5
In the Vedic Spiritual Studies Program at Vedika Global where I am a student member, Acharya Shunya taught us about the stories of our mind that makes us lock ourselves into a small container and attach ourselves to the people and things we feel we own. We tend to forget that we are the unlimited source of truth, consciousness and joy, so we need not get locked into limiting stories of chase and attachment.
The human mind is made up of three primordial qualities of nature known as sattva, rajas and tamas. Tamas has the nature of inertia and darkness. Rajas activates us but also tends to create agitations and projections in the mind. However, the redeeming quality is sattva which is the cause for balance and clarity in the mind. When sattva is our mind’s dominant state, the other two qualities also operate efficiently - we have enough rajas so as to perform our activities and enough tamas so that we can go off to sleep at night. It is the excess of the rajas and tamas (at the cost of sattva) which causes suffering, and not otherwise.
Acharya Shunya explains how Tamas leads to veiling of reality (so we cannot know our own spiritual Self), and Rajas leads to projection of a false reality (so we believe that our mind body based self is our only reality). Naturally, this core lack of discrimination exists in a mind which is overrun by excess Rajas and Tamas. The veiling and projecting qualities of Rajas and Tamas also birth a uniquely self ignorant ego based concept of “me” in the mind (known as Ahamkāra) and false beliefs of “mine” stemming from this ego (known as Mamakāra).
Ego in Vedanta (ahamkāra) can be described as the spiritual darkness which has an effect of blocking us from our own truth of Self. As a result, we start believing in a misconception that I am the body, mind and intellect. This happens due to excess tamas. It is like the electricity saying, “I am the bulb.” It is like the great river saying, “I am the glass of water.” It can also be described as the “I am this” condition wherein we start identifying ourselves with attributes of the mind, body and intellect. We forget that we are the independent witness consciousness, a spiritual, boundless, limitless entity.
From this misconception is born a sense of false “mineness” or mamakāra which can be described as the “I have” story of the mind. We tell ourselves, “I have a dull mind,” or “I have a brilliant mind,” or “I have an ugly body” or “I have difficult parents”. In other words, we start identifying ourselves with objects, people or situations around us. Acharya Shunya teaches us that what we have or possess, we are not. We are forever pure consciousness, forever free of all bondages and attachments. When our sense of happiness stems from people or situations around us, it may ultimately lead to sorrow as people and situations outside of us are forever changing as we have no control over them. The only thing that we can control or work on is our own mind. Instead of trying to possess others or crave for approval from outside, we can try to inculcate a sense of gratitude towards the little support we get from people around us. This in turn frees us from the potential stories of likes or dislikes that the mind can build up towards others or ourselves and as a result we can then focus on winning over or seeing through the false set up of our own ahamkāra and mamakāra.
Acharya Shunya explained that to win over ahamkāra (ego) and mamakāra (ego based attachments) we can purify our minds by developing sattva proactively. To do that, we can eat fresh sattva enhancing foods like ghee, honey, seasonal sweet fruit, and cooked recipes (that I learned in my teacher Acharya Shunya’s Awakening Health Course), speak our truth and not deceive anyone, least of all our own selves. We can learn to take mindful decisions in life which may be a bit challenging in the immediate context, but they ultimately bestow us with inner (sattvic) strength in the long run and sustain us and the society. Our every moment in life can be deliberately mindful and purposeful.
I apply this same knowledge learnt from my spiritual teacher Acharya Shunya to bring a change in my life too. I have educated myself professionally with a few technical skills. This choice of profession was largely a result of several situations and not something I thought I wanted to do. Since I never accepted this wholeheartedly, I have always remained in a complex wherein I believe I am intellectually incapable and challenged to be in the profession I am. This is my story emanating from my ego anchored in Rajas and Tamas. This sometimes leads to paralysis in work and constant fear of losing my job because I think I am not worth it. I used to also fear speaking up because I was not confident of my own thinking. Over a period, thanks to the spiritual knowledge I have received from my teacher, which helps me step back and watch the play of rajas and tamas and gradually enhance sattva, I have questioned those defeating thoughts and at times, even talked back to my mind, acknowledging at a higher level of inner examination that neither do I have a dull mind (tamas) nor do I posses an anxious, fearful agitated mind (rajas). In fact, I will find that I am capable of doing any job that comes my way, once I mindfully apply myself to it (sattva). So rather than being fearful about my job, let me go inwards, contemplate on my potential versus the same old story of limitations, and then re-approach my job from a place of inner witness and infinite potential (sattva).
Sure, it sometimes takes me longer than others, but I am able to complete my tasks successfully, with this new more deliberate approach of letting go of an old story born from my ignorant ego perspectives and stories (I am incapable, I am unworthy, etc). Trying again (with the aid of new knowledge and perspectives gained spiritually) is the most important part and each time I have overcome my fear, I feel much stronger within and have grown both intellectually and emotionally. Hence, now the false thoughts do not come back as often as they used to. I am relatively free in my mind therefore to plant new seeds and new ideas about myself. Now, I do my work to the best I can, and I also voice my thoughts or speak up where I feel it is important to do so.
Mistakes and accidents do happen and my recourse is to apply the learnings of Vedanta. The best part is that I am now using the same mind which used to once torment me to reach my divine potential. It is clear that without knowledge of Vedanta, my mind was like my enemy. Today this same mind is becoming my friend, leading me to my own true Self. Thanks to my mind anchored in Vedic wisdom, I am no longer wasting as much time, getting caught up in the drama of the world.
The author Vidya Deepa Gupta is a student of Acharya Shunya, and serves as a core volunteer, supporting in the A/V team and leading the Hamsa Dhwani, a special mantra chanting group.
Learn more about how you can study Vedanta with Acharya Shunya in her Vedic Spiritual Studies Program.