While discussing Karma Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains how one is to deal with the sense of I and Mine that arises most naturally in us. ‘I have done this’ and ‘I am the enjoyer’, are common feelings that shape our attitude. But Krishna cautions that such attitude is dangerous as it ties us down to the cycle of birth.
It requires great effort to renounce the feeling of I and Mine in all our dealings. But the sense of I and Mine in the context of Bhakti towards God and towards other devotees is termed satvika ahamkara and is to be nurtured as a positive trait, said Sri K.B. Devarajan in a discourse. It is said that once Embar, a foremost disciple of Ramanuja, was honoured. Eulogies were heaped on him and he accepted them in a matter-of-fact manner. This astonished other disciples who began to suspect Embar’s humility. They could not resist expressing their feelings in this regard to Ramanuja. Ramanuja knew Embar’s calibre and wanted to establish this to the others who had misjudged Embar. He questioned Embar and got the reply that all these praises were accepted on Ramanuja’s behalf only. These were addressed to the disciple of Ramanuja. This is called satvika ahamkara.
The predominant feeling is that one’s awareness of truth (jnana) is itself the result of the acharya’s kindness and God’s grace in toto. Only the ignorant think highly of themselves, their possessions and achievements. The truly realised souls are well aware of the emptiness of fame at the individual level.
Nammazhwar warns people of the danger of ahamkara. It can cling on to us and has to be diligently scraped with effort as one would do to clean dirt and stains. Even the words are dangerous. How much more dangerous would be their significance.
The Gopis become susceptible to pride when Krishna comes to each one of them. After enjoying Brahmananda, they are suddenly left in the lurch when Krishna disappears.
They then realise their foolishness and seek Krishna with all humility. Pride is the biggest obstacle in our spiritual effort. Even a trace of it becomes our undoing. It nullifies all other traits in us.