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The three gunas


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Steve Hydonus
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« on: Aug 12, 2014 09:03 pm »

Visiting yoga forums over time, I have begun to notice what I consider to be a misconception about the term "ego". In some ways this is an unfortunate term because it is used in different schools of thought as well as in common parlance, and in each instance it has a slightly different usage.

In popular usage it has to do with arrogance or pride or big headedness. Or just anyone who is generally unpleasant. "He's so egotistical." I think this is how yoga people use the term a lot as well.

In psychology the term changes a little bit. In Freudian terms there is the id, the ego, and the superego. People who are heavily involved in a religion are, in Freudian terms "super egotists". The super ego is the part of the psyche that is associated wih conscience, moralism, and general concern for group opinions and authority figures.

From my studies in eastern thought, this is not what is mean by ego at all. Ego is nothing more than the individual sense of "I". As in, I am aware of myself. So I am the greatest man ever is no different from I am the greatest sinner. The latter might look more humble and inspire praise from others, but I fact they are both ego statements. So yoga people often comment on each others egos, as if one could have more ego or less ego. This is, however, only their misuse of the term. They are using the term in the common sense, and not the way it is used in eastern thought.

So, from my understanding, there are not degrees of ego. Either you have an "I" or you don't. To support my statements I will paraphrase from ramana maharshi.

 "There are not two minds. The mind is of one type. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good, when the mind is under the influence of inauspicious impressions it is called bad."

Ramana then teaches that the Self is beyond all qualities.

In eastern thought the term avidya is used to describe a state of ignorance. Sat (pronounced s.ah.t) refers to truth. Furthermore people are categorized into three categories. Those are satvic, rajasic and tamasic. These categories give an idea of how much ego/ignorance and how close to enlightenment/satvic one is in his/her spiritual development. We no doubt vacillate between these categories. Yet it is quite obvious we would not say that someone who is making a living by stealing is in the state of consciousness as say a monk that you might see who inspires you.

I understand what you are referring to since I worked on a Masters program in psychology. In an eastern terminology ego refers to our identification with this bodily vehicle and all its concerns. If someone says we have a big ego or inflated pride this is similar to an eastern view but not the same because ego in an eastern sense has a much broader meaning than just inflated pride.

In psychological terms ego development is of primary importance and superego is a state to assimilate in the overall personality structure. Obviously this does not correlate with an Eastern view. It would be difficult to draw parallels between an eastern guna approach with a western psychological approach. A western psychological approach is more about adapting to an environment and integrating oneself into a social structure. A eastern approach is more about spiritualizing consciousness by taking one from a tamasic approach to life to a satvic approach.
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« Reply #1 on: Jun 20, 2017 07:44 am »

Most of us on this site are not tamasic but are rather more a combination of Rajasic and Satvic,,, having already taken the course of finding enlightenment. It is probably good to recognize that that rajasic people are still very activating in nature and have not found sufficient realization to be at peace but are still dealing with many restless activities and desires. Given this fact it is a good practice to have activating spiritual exercises like Hatha Yoga, Energization, Iam and tai chi etc. This helps the energies go upward instead of bringing them downward into tamasic actions.
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