Another story from Swami Vishudhananda’s book “Pakshpata-rahit Anubhavpraksh” in Hindi. The book is written in Yoga-Vashishtha style where various stories are narrated using Shrimad Bhagwat [and other] Pauranic characters to bring home Advaita concepts. Following is the translation of “ahamkara” (pages 514-516).
Once upon a time, ahamkara (the ego) assumed human form and entered a gathering of sages. He introduced himself:“I am ahamkara! Avidya (ignorance) also known as maya is my mother and Sat-Chit-Anand (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss) Brahman, the witness of the entire prapancha (the appearing universe) is my father. Per the rules of scriptures pure is always different than the vishishtha (specific). Based on this rule pure Brahman is my father and this prapancha which is nothing but names & forms made up of panchbhutas – five elements (akasa-sky, vayu-air, agni-fire, jala-water & prithvi-earth) is my family. I the ahamkara and the ones in my family are caught in between the cycles of birth & death resulting in eternal pain & suffering. I stay with my mother. I never stay with my father even though I have desire to live with him. I do try to do so but no matter what I do my father is always apart from me – he is asanga (without any attachments), nirvikar (unchangeable), nirvikalpa (without any doubts). And by the way, I do not have any grandparents (my parents do not have any parents). My birth is a mystery as my father does not touch or even get closer to my mother. My death is another story – every time me and my family rest on my mother’s lap we enjoy blissful deep sleep where we lose ourselves and become one with her. And when we come out of this deep sleep it is like a rebirth for us. This goes on all the time like waves in an ocean.
As I mentioned, my father does not pay any attention to me, my family or my mother. He has nothing to do with our, pleasure, pain, glories and frustrations. His relationship with us is like sky that hardly gets affected by the wind flowing within. My father knows everything about my mother, me and my family and yet we do not know anything about him.My mother does not know what her husband looks like and neither do we. How can we? Our nature is inert! My father lives amongst us and is the one responsible for our well being; yet we do not know him. My mother is very righteous and chaste woman and dedicated wife while my father is a chronic bachelor. That is why I say my birth is a wonder. My personality is shaped after my mother and not my father. Only fools who cannot differentiate between me (along with my family) and my father, who only see me the ahamkara and not my father will become the victims of misery and polar opposites of pain and pleasure. And the ones with viveka (ability to discriminate) will not. You may conclude that my mother maya is the cause of our misery but that is not the case – look how blissful we are when we become one with her in our deep sleep. I (the ahamkara) am the cause of misery and pain! We live by the wealth of our father and we don’t have any of our own resource. It is with his money we have built this beautiful garden like world. Our father is neither happy nor unhappy about it. O sages, let me emphasize that my father is indifferent towards us but does not dislike us. We are totally dependent on him. Actually, we have no existence of our own. Wherever and whenever we wander like wind he is already present there like the vast sky.
O sages, the learned ones who know & realize true swaroop (form) of my father who is the witness of everything that appears, will not go through miserable cycles of birth & death. And as I mentioned the true form of my father is Asti-Bhati-Priyam (Sat-Chit-Anand), avang-manas-agochar (beyond mind), sarvadhishtan (substratum for all), jagadvidhansh-prakashak (illuminator of the entire universe), sada aparoksha (ever directly known), sakshi (witness)”.
In my conclusion, I (vijay:) will start with the definition of ahamkara as I understand it. The I-consciousness or ego is an emergent entity out of a mix up between the Self and the not-Self. The equivalent Sanskrit word is ahamkAra. As mentioned in the story, ahamkara is the cause of misery and pain. But let me add that sages like Vashishtha have used knowledge of ahamkara as a tool to reach the goal of Self Realization. Understanding that I am not ahamkara but the witness of ahamkara is the key.
Yoga Vashishtha (uttara. sarga 7, Sloka 5) Turn your attention inwardly. Inquire into your ‘self’. You find there a thought wave of ‘I’, ‘I’, ‘I’. That is the I-consciousness in you. Its name is ego. You are able to observe it. Therefore, you are the witness for it. Please understand this clearly. You are not that which says ‘I’, ‘I’. “You” are the witness of that ‘I’. Either way, you happen to see a non-existent world. Examine deeply what could be the seed (root cause) for such a world to emerge. You will find that I-consciousness is the seed. The mighty tree of the universe comprising the fourteen worlds (lokas) is the phantasm that germinated out of that seed. Howsoever gargantuan may be the tree, its root cause is I-consciousness. So if the root cause is eliminated, the entire tree will collapse. The fire that can burn the seed of I-consciousness is egolessness alone. Hence, if the thought wave of I-consciousness is negated by the thought wave of egolessness, one attains liberation (JIvanmukti) right in this life.
The final take away for me from this story as described by ahamkara (in human form) who was born out of parents who are ever apart, is that ahamkara is not a real but an unreal entity. Understanding that ahamkara is not a real thing while realizing Asti-Bhati-Priyam or Sat-Chit- Annanda Brahman as the only real thing is the key to liberation.