Book: The Discerning Clear Gaze of Yoga
Chapter: The Sense of I-am-ness Asmitā
In the second chapter, The Sense of I-am-ness Asmitā, I explore one of the two principal entities to which the discerning and clear gaze (viveka-khyāti) is directed, referring to the Yogasūtra and to the seminal text on Sāṁkhya philosophy, the Sāṁkhyakārikā, written by Iśvarakṛṣṇa (450–350 CE). This exploration looks into the “formation” of the sense of I-am-ness (the phenomenal self), how it evolves within the tangled and confusing relationships of the world of phenomena (prakṛti) and the true Self (puruṣa), becoming a solid cause of distress within the psychological framework of yoga. Such a description differs from classical New Age or psychological conceptions, such as Freud’s understanding of the ego, which tend to equate their understanding of the ego with the yogic sense of I-am-ness. Drawing on Trungpa and Levinas, I then explore the meaning and possible implications of giving up or surrendering the sense of I-am-ness. Finally, I present a concise discussion of the ways in which, ironically, Western modern culture influences, shapes and affects the modern yogi’s sense of I-am-ness or ego.