From Ego to Ananda

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Ego is the last barrier to moving into the spiritual dimensions. Despite contrary beliefs that yoga or the spiritual traditions take away one’s individuality, we need to understand that the concept of individuality is dealt with in yoga in the form of ahamkara, distorted or perverted self-identity.

Self-identity becomes more predominant as you go through the yogic process, as you are aware of yourself every step of the way. You are trying to build up a new self-image, a new self-identity, so you are working at the level of ego. By becoming the drashta, the observer, the seer, you are working with your self-identity and improving it.

If you begin to carve a statue out of a stone, what self-identity is the stone losing? None; rather it is developing a new identity that will be witnessed and appreciated by many people. The gross, unnecessary material is being removed from the stone and what is left behind is the material necessary to turn the stone into a statue. Similarly, in spiritual life there is no loss of self-identity; rather, the distorted perceptions are corrected, the aggressive ego expressions are redefined, and the new soft you , the new wiser you, the new creative you, becomes the new identity.

As long as you maintain the idea that this identity is continually transforming and changing and there is no fixed status, no fixed form, you can overcome asmita or ahamkara. However, the moment you .x yourself in a new identity, it will again become distorted. For this reason, the spiritual masters have maintained that it is necessary to be ready to accept any change, not because they want anyone to lose their personal identity, but because they wish to take the practitioner beyond the effects of distorted identity.

Do not be fixed in one perception; learn to accept and allow the change to happen. The aim is to overcome the asmita, the ego, and become established in a state of bliss, as it is at that level of bliss, ananda, that the spiritual experiences are transformed into transcendental experiences. The process of yoga is moving from basic governance of the human personality to the experience of ananda: from anushasana to swarupe avasthanam.

31 December 2001, Ganga Darshan, published in On the Wings of the Swan, Volume VI