Ahamkara Yoga

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Everyone who wishes to practise the yoga of synthesis should have a clear knowledge of a new yoga: ahamkara yoga. Ahamkara yoga is ‘the other side’ of the yoga of synthesis; one has to be extremely vigilant in order to avoid it. At any moment an aspirant might become a follower of ahamkara yoga.

The first type of ahamkara yogi is the Swatantrananda (the independent one). Out of sheer necessity and not because the disciple deserves it, the guru gives him a geru cloth and initiates him into brahmacharya. It may be for the purpose of enabling the disciple to get bhiksha (alms) from the kshetra (a place that provides free food to mendicants), or in order to keep his previous family away from him. For obvious reasons, the guru does not initiate him into the holy order of sannyasa. The disciple goes away, shaves his head, throws away the sacred thread and tries to shine as a paramahamsa. He soon meets with his downfall. This is one type of ahamkara yoga.

A young man comes to the ashram. He has good spiritual samskaras, and has good bhava for service. In order to encourage him I give him sannyasa. He composes some songs and poems. I wish to develop this faculty in him and so appreciate his poems. He succumbs to pride and imagines that through meditation and without botheration of service he will be able to develop his talents more easily and quickly. He wants to go to Uttarkashi for deep meditation. He wants to lead a parivrajaka life. What is parivrajaka life? How can one experience the mysterious ways in which the Lord helps and protects the devotee? Only by surrendering oneself completely into the hands of the Lord. But this boy does not have such a faith. He is not prepared to surrender himself completely. He keeps fifty rupees in the handbag which he carries with him and expects God to reveal His grace. “And if you do not help, God, I have money with me,” he says. This is another kind of ahamkara yoga.

One sadhaka (aspirant) wants to practise kundalini yoga. This is very difficult and needs expert guidance. The sadhaka foolishly goes on practising pranayama. He thinks that by merely holding his breath, he will be able to awaken the kundalini. What will happen when the kundalini is really awakened, he does not know. What the sadhana is, he does not know. He does not also want to do any service, he does not believe in nishkamya karma yoga, he only feeds his ego by resorting to the cave-life. An aspirant needs to have some conveniences and comforts which cave-life does not provide. He neglects his health, neglects the real sadhana. His body falls prey to disease and decay; his mind is overpowered by egoism. He perishes. This is yet another kind of ahamkara yoga.

Here is another sadhaka who thinks that he is proof against all pitfalls. He is a jnana yogi. He believes the entire world to be a false show. Brahman alone is the truth. He delivers lectures on the Prasthanatraya. He longs to be appreciated by people of this false world. He is unable to control a small, evil habit: smoking, but proclaims loudly, “The world of names and forms is false.” This is another kind of ahamkara yoga.

To teach the Prasthanatraya by heart is very easy. To deliver thrilling lectures is very easy. To deliver thrilling lectures for days on end on one sloka of the Bhagavad Gita, one sutra or one mantra of the Upanishads is easy enough. To stop the breath, the pulse beat or the pulsating of the heart and to exhibit various other siddhis is also easy. To shave one’s head is very easy, and to put on the orange robe and roam about as a paramahamsa, parivrajaka acharya is very simple. But to put down ahamkara or egoism is very difficult. To be humble and simple, to serve everyone with atmabhava or Narayana bhava is very, very difficult. Such selfless service alone can enable you to conquer your egoism. The service will have to be done over a protracted period of time. Go on serving and praying. Curb your egoism. Shave your inner being of ahamkara. Then you will really shine as a paramahamsa. Then the kundalini will awaken automatically and illumine you. Then the wisdom of the Prasthanatraya will dawn in you without any effort.

That is real sadhana. That sadhana which does not aim at curbing the ego, but only goes to feed it, is the very opposite of sadhana. It is no sadhana at all. One should embrace sannyasa, take to parivrajaka life, practise pranayama and other limbs of yoga, and one should study the Prasthanatraya and meditate also, but all these should invariably be accompanied by an internal sadhana of egolessness. With this, all other forms of sadhana become fruitful. Without this, they cause greater and greater bondage to samsara.