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Asmita In Hinduism – Feeling of Self As An Individual Being

Asmi in Sanskrit means “I am.” Asmita also called ahamkara is the quality, feeling or experience giving rise to the expression “I am.” This ego-feeling or consciousness of one’s existence accompanies  and underlies all conscious human experiences. It often assumes the form of egotism when self-importance predominates.

In Yoga, asmita has two meanings, one pertaining to an individual, the other in relation to the cosmos. In the former context it indicates an affliction to the mind.

Patanjali has defined Asmita in Yogasutra II.6  as the mistaken feeling of identity between two wholly different entities, namely the drkshakti or drishta (seer or self) and the darshana shakti or buddhi (seen or internal organ).

Afflictions are innate tendencies found in living beings. They are anadi (without known beginning). They cause all behavior and result in pain. Due to asmita the real, separate, independent nature of the soul is overlooked and it is identified with the body, mind and intellect, which are in reality jada (insentient). The afflictions can be removed by first attenuating them by kriya yoga practice and then by concentration of dhyana (mind). Thereby kaivalya (liberation) can be achieved.

As a cosmic feature, asmita is the third basic tattva (principle) forming the material world, called prakriti or alinga (primordial nature), and is the first principle. From it evolves mahattatva or buddhi (called lingamatra), which next evolves into ahamkara. It gives rise to eleven sense organs and five tanmatras (subtle elements), from which five gross elements arise. They form the objects of experience (Yogasutra: II.19)