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Aham-Vritti In Hinduism - I thought

In Sanskrit Aham means I and Vritti means Thought. Aham–vritti: ‘I thought’, the thought that ‘I am an individual limited to my body-mind’, the sense of ego or simply the ‘I’.

Our life experiences rotate through the relentless cycle of three states – waking, dream and deep sleep. We feel that we are an individual, ‘I’, limited to our body-mind complex, in waking and dream states.

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi calls this sense of ego as ‘I thought’. This ‘I thought’ is absent in deep sleep. Sri Ramana Maharshi defines mind as thoughts. Of all thoughts, the ‘I thought’ is the root thought. Hence mind is nothing but this ‘I’. The world appears in waking and dream along with the mind and disappears in deep sleep when the mind disappears. Thus we can conclude the world is a projection of the mind.

Diverse thoughts appear and disappear sequentially in our mind. All these thoughts are known by ‘I’. There can be no thought without this ‘I thought’ since they are known by ‘I’. But ‘I thought’ can be there in the absence of other thoughts and knows that there are no thoughts. This is the basic and vital difference between ‘I thought’ and other thoughts. Sri Ramana Maharshi therefore compares this ‘I thought’ to the thread passing through all pearls in a chain.

A ball of iron in its intrinsic nature is not radiant. When heated in fire, the iron ball becomes hot and glows giving a false notion of radiant iron ball. It takes on the nature of fire within the narrow limits of the iron ball’s size. Similarly ‘I’ is a spurious entity, Sri Ramana Maharshi  says, having the nature of awareness ‘I’ ‘I’, but limited to the size of the body. ‘I’ is therefore the limited reflection of unlimited ‘I’ ‘I’, our Self-nature, the reality.

‘I thought’ has the vital clue for breaking the inexorable cycle of waking, dream and sleep. So long our attention is on objects, the subject ‘I’ expands and hides as it were, its source ‘I’ ‘I’. When we turn our attention to ‘I’, the subject, it wanes and subsides into ‘I’ ‘I’.

Sri Ramana Maharshi says that like a dog which tracks his master by tracing his scent, ignoring everything else, we should trace ‘I’ ‘I’, our real nature, by turning our attention away from the objects and focus it on the subject ‘I’. “So then, the search for the source of the ahamvrittiis not merely the search for the basis of one of the forms of the ego but for the very Source itself from which arises the ‘I-am’-ness. In other words, the quest for and the realisation of the source of the ego in the form of aham-vritti necessarily implies the transcendence of the ego in every one of its possible forms.”

Aham-vritti creates the world and associated problems; but it has the solution by leading us to our Self-nature, immortality, freedom and bliss. The solution is in the very problem of who we think we are. “This is the sum and substance of all that an aspirant needs to know. What is imperatively required of him is an earnest and one pointed enquiry into the source of aham-vritti”, says Sri Ramana Maharshi. 

Source - The Mountain Path (magazine of Ramana Maharshi Ashram Tiruvannamalai) July 2004 - page 23 -24