Identifying and Overcoming the Resistance of the Tamasic and Rajasic Egos

The action of the three Gunas pervades and permeates all action including our response to obstacles, setbacks and concerns that arise during the practice of Yoga. When Tamas is predominant it sends out thoughts and ideas of weakness, failure and limitation. When Rajas is in the ascendent it sends out thoughts and ideas of domination, control and pride. Both of these create ‘affirmations’ that impact the body-life-mind complex and colour the response we have to the obstacles and difficulties we face. Sri Aurobindo identifies the thought patterns that accompany either of these Gunas as well as substitute affirmations that can redirect and ‘tune’ the response to the higher force that needs to find receptivity to act in the being. As the seeker grapples with the shift from the ego-standpoint to the Divine-standpoint, these affirmations help build up the sense of aspiration, receptivity and acceptance that are needed to allow the Divine Force to do its work and transform the being.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “By tamasic ego is meant the ego of weakness, self-depreciation, despondency, unbelief. The rajasic ego is puffed up with pride and self-esteem or stubbornly asserts itself at every step or else wherever it can; the tamasic ego, on the contrary, is always feeling ‘I am weak, I am miserable, I have no capacity, I am not loved or chosen by the Divine, I am so bad and incapable — what can the Divine do for me?’ Or else ‘I am especially chosen out for misfortune and suffering, all are preferred to me, all are progressing, I only am left behind, all abandons me, I have nothing before me but flight, death or disaster,’ etc., etc., or something or all of these things mixed together. Sometimes the rajasic and tamasic Ahankar mix together and subtly support each other. In both cases it is the ‘I’ that is making a row about itself and clouding the true vision. The true spiritual or psychic vision is this: ‘Whatever I may be, my soul is a child of the Divine and must reach the Divine sooner or later. I am imperfect, but seek after the perfection of the Divine in me and that not I but the Divine Grace will bring about; if I keep to that, the Divine Grace itself will do all.’ The ‘I’ has to take its proper place here as a small portion and instrument of the Divine, something that is nothing without the Divine but with the Grace can be everything that the Divine wishes it to be.”

“The right attitude is to see that as a separate being, as an ego, one has no importance whatever and the insistence on one’s own desires, pride, position etc. is an ignorance, but one matters only as a spirit, as a portion of the Divine, not more than others but as all souls matter to the Soul of all.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, The Ego, pp. 286-289


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