The ego which believes itself to the body-mind complex, separate from everything else, poses as a real entity.
What is the meaning of being a real entity? A real entity is that which is always there. If you can prove its absence even in one instance, then you cannot call that thing as real.
First let’s understand what are the constituents of the ego?
That I am a conscious being I cannot dispute. I am a conscious being, conscious of myself as a historical being. This historical being is just the roles assumed by the conscious being during the process of living life, as well as an intricate network of association of ideas, memories constituting the sub-conscious, the unconscious, and conscious memory etc.
If you really analyse it the historical person has no autonomous existence of its own, moreover it is always in a state of flux changing from one personality to another, as conditions changes and the situation demands, or as some event triggers some memories.
Is the historical being intrinsic to the consciousness that I basically am?
To be intrinsic to consciousness that I am, it must always be there, exactly in the same form.
However what I find is that it not always there. Consciousness is always there, illumining not only the changing flux that is the historical being, but also the absence of the historical being, as in sleep, or a moment of joy, or a quiet moment in meditation.
Historical being is there -------- > Consciousness is there
Historical being is absent --------- > Consciousness is there.
I am the consciousness in whose ever unchanging presence, the absence as well as the presence of the historical being is illumined, is revealed.
So in the consciousness that I am, the historical being is an appearance only – the personality is not intrinsic to consciousness.
Consciousness is in reality totally free of the historical person, whereas the historical person is totally dependent on consciousness to enliven and reveal its presence.
This knowledge is very freeing, very stabilizing.
To recognize that one is indeed independent of the historical personality at all times, is truly stabilizing and liberating.
I have a friend, a Vedanta student, who in the core of her psyche, suffered from the extreme sense of helplessness and powerlessness. It controlled her whole life, in an unconscious manner. She was a dependent personality, always unconsciously looking out for support from stronger personality figures.
As she began understanding Vedanta, she began sitting for longer hours of meditation. In one of her meditation sessions, she experienced an incredible sense of helplessness, powerlessness – a black black feeling. She was completely identified with it and sank along with it.
For a day or two she suffered with this nameless sense of helplessness. Finally she called me. I had to work with her at several levels. First I explained to her it was old feelings from her troubled childhood coming up. Instead of rejecting the feelings, could she just stay with the feelings in loving awareness of it – holding them as it were, even as she would a helpless child. Just compassionately stay with the feelings and it would dissipate. She did that and reported that though they did dissipate, she had a very uncomfortable feeling inside.
I then asked her, “Are you helpless in your life right now?”. She had to admit that she was not. In fact her life was going well – she had adequate support from the people in her life on all counts. Now she was able to see, that these helpless feelings were from the unconscious from the past – stored there and being triggered now. Understanding this was a big relief. I pointed out to her that these experiences of helplessness had left her with a strong conclusion centered on ‘I’ – namely ‘I am helpless, I am powerless’.
Now I asked to examine if this conclusion was true in the present time. She had to admit it was not true. Then I gently pointed out that in fact she did not need to hold on to this conclusion in her life anymore. She could let it go. If again she faced difficult situations, she could always ask for help either from Lord or people or both. She agreed.
Now since she was an advanced Vedanta student, I took it further. I reminded her that essentially she is consciousness, the witness, in whose presence this feeling of helplessness is being illumined. She must ascertain for herself, if the feeling of helplessness belonged to the consciousness being that she is.
Her years of Vedanta study helped her. She told me the helplessness feeling is drshya ( seen) and I am the drk (the seer, the subject). The subject being always different from the object, the feeling of helplessness cannot belong to the consciousness that she is. Again she herself pointed out that this feeling of helplessness, was not always there – it came up very occasionally. Again in deep-sleep it was totally absent – whereas the consciousness is there.
So she ascertained for herself very conclusively that the conclusion ‘I am helpless, I am powerless’ was false – totally false. This was very liberating for her. She understood the importance of immediate recognition of consciousness being changelessly ever-present and independent of the body-mind complex.
So in Vedanta, it is important to negate obtaining erroneous conclusions about the self, and recognize the nature consciousness that one is essentially, being totally independent of the body-mind complex. Logic in keeping with what one has studied from the scriptures is very helpful for this.
Firstly intimately understand the nature of the body and mind being mithya. Mithya means it has no autonomous existence – this is easy to understand – you can see that the body-mind complex is only a coming together of various interdependent constituents, which are ever in state of flux. And eventually the entire body-mind complex is dependent on consciousness to enliven it and reveal it. So dependence, change, and being objects of consciousness characterize both body and mind.... so it is mithya not real. Again the presence of body-mind is not always there – the three states of experience show us that. The consciousness of absence of body-mind, in deep-sleep, again helps us to see that any conclusion about oneself which has reference to the body-mind is false.
Thus any conclusions, centered on Consciousness-I, who is the drk, which have the body-mind as a reference point can only be false and they must be negated as false, at an empirical psychological level, as well as at the level of ascertaining the true I. In the process of negation the emotional holding onto those conclusions loosens and wears off eventually.
Om Tat Sat