What is Asmita?
October 12, 2009, Chennai
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S Sridharan was until recently the Managing Trustee, Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai. During his long association with KYM, he had the privilege of learning the nuances of Yoga Sastra directly under Yogi TKV Desikachar. Sridharan is now an expert Yogi and a Yogic teacher.
In this series on Yogasutra, Yogi S Sridharan elucidates every aspect of YOGA.
The trunk part of the tree of Klesas is Asmita. As the trunk is the most important part of the tree which supplies the nutrition to the branches, Asmita is the important component of the Klesas. The meaning of the wordAsmita is “I-am-ness” or “egotism”.
Every one of us has an “identity”. This consists of our name, form, character, position, relationship, etc. etc. We need this to live in this world. But, often, because of the Asmita, we forget the limitations of this “identity” and the purpose. This identity creates a false ego in us. Let us take a position we hold in the office. If the position is Manager, we create an ego and superimpose this position in all our transactions. The position of Manager ends in the office; at home we have a different relationship. It is called “false-ego” because we use the Identity in a context and a purpose where it does not fit.
The Perceiver is the real Self and the Identity though powerful is different and serves a limited purpose. The Identity is at the level of the mind and senses, i.e., the Instruments of Perception. The “I-am-ness” pushes us always. The thoughts like “I am the greatest”, “I am always right”, “I should beat him”, etc are the manifestations of the Asmita.
If I think “I am the greatest” and I am entitled to everything and I don’t get a thing I want, it results in disappointment and anger. This Asmita is the cause of comparison, leading to jealousy. Asmita is the cause of a lot of suffering in us and leads to problems in relationship and if it afflicts people in power, it results even in war.