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Ahaṁkāra (Sanskrit: अहंकार), 'I-making', is a Sanskrit term in Saṃkhyā philosophy that refers to the identification of Self or Being with 'nature' or any impermanent 'thing'.[1]

Ahaṁkāra is one of the four parts of the antahkarana (inner organ) described in Vedanta, while the other three parts are Buddhi, Citta and Manas.[2] In the Uttara Mimamsa or vedanta branch of Hindu philosophy, even though it is not discussed in great detail in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that Ahaṁkāra must be removed - in other words, it should be subordinated to the lord. The reason for this is that the Self is not (cannot be) perceived when one is in a state of Ahaṁkāra.[3]

In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says "Air, water, earth, fire, sky, mind, intelligence and ahankaar (ego) together constitute the nature created by me."[4]

Philosophical implications[edit]

To have an understanding of this term is to have a powerful tool for understanding the nature and behaviour of ourselves and of others. Vedic philosophy teaches that when one's mind is in a state of Ahaṁkāra, one is in a state of subjective illusion, where the mind has bound the concept of one's self with an external thing. That thing can be a tangible, material object, or it can be a concept (such as the concept of the fight for peace). The ego is involved in constructing the illusion.

Examples of ahaṃkāra in action:

  • Consider how an otherwise sensible young man might feel that his new sports car was a reflection of his true self and this would encourage him to race his car recklessly against another person's car.
  • Similarly, consider how someone who believed in the fight for peace, and who ordinarily might behave in a non-violent manner, might come to blows with someone who threatened or challenged his notions of peace.

In both cases, the mind has created a state of illusion, but it seems very real to the person in that state, and subjectivity and reality are obscured. This deeply illusory state is what can often cause people to do the strangest, oddest things, sometimes evil, and often quite out of character. All humans can - and usually do at some time in their lives - suffer from this.

Ahaṁkāra and spiritual development[edit]

  • Ahaṁkāra is the instrument of Ahaṃ (the Spirit), the principle of individuation, acting as an independent conscious entity within the impure reality - yet, it does not have consciousness of its own.
  • Ahaṁkāra is (actually soul/ego-soul) the instrument of the spirit (made by thought-material='dark energy' & emotion-material='dark material') for individual development of the ego-soul, like DEHA (material-body/mold) is the instrument for individual development of the ego-soul/mind.
  • It is a receptacle of Cit śakti, its consciousness being a small spark from Cit, the universal consciousness.
  • It manifests itself by assuming authorship of all the actions of buddhi, manas, the senses and organs of action.
  • It is believed to exist in the sphere of duality, in a state of identification with the physical body, its needs and desires.
  • It is related to Vak tattva, one of The 36 tattvas in Vedic and Hindu religious philosophy.
  • In Ahaṁkāra, a state of rajas guṇa (agitation) predominates. This is because it identifies only with a small part of the creation (the body) and rejects everything else as "not me"; it becomes subject to a series of afflictions such as: pride, egoism, competitiveness, hate and jealousy.

Though Ahaṁkāra is generally a state of illusion, once in that state, Vak tattva (one of the 36 tattvas) can appear. When it does, then, for the first time the individual’s will, determination, a sense of morality and ethics come into play - which is the first step on the path to spiritual development or even enlightenment. Without one is sufficiently harmonious and has a powerful Ahaṁkāra (personality), it is thought to be impossible to exert the level of effort necessary to accede to a higher spiritual level.

The position of Ahaṁkāra and buddhi are sometimes presented in a reversed order because, as the principle of "I-ness", the Ahaṁkāra is allowed control over the manas (sensorial mind) and buddhi (superior intellect, intuition). Yet, buddhi is a superior tattva, and Ahaṁkāra is thus only able to be in a superior position to buddhi from a functional point of view. From an absolute point of view, Ahaṁkāra is created by buddhi and thus subordinate to it.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Ahaṁkāra", Britannica Academic Edition
  2. ^ "What is Antahkarana? - Definition from Yogapedia". Yogapedia.com. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  3. ^ Mukundananda, Swami. "Chapter 18 – Bhagavad Gita, The Song of God – Swami Mukundananda". www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org. Retrieved 2021-11-05.
  4. ^ "Bhagavad Gita As It Is Original by Prabhupada". asitis.com. Retrieved 2021-11-05.

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