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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Ahamkāra

(Ahamkāra) Sanskrit for self-consciousness, the sense of I, literally “I-making,” suggesting that it is a continuing process, not a static entity. As part of human consciousness, it is the source of egotism, rooted in the illusion of one’s separateness from the universal self.

In Sankhya philosophy, it is one of the 23 evolutes of matter (prakriti), the first of which is mahat (“the great”) or buddhi and the second of which is ahamkara. From the latter are evolved manas(mind), the five sensory functions (jñanendriyas), the five motor functions (karmendriyas), and the essences (tanmatras) of the five elements. From the essences of the elements are evolved the five gross elements (akasa or ether, air, fire, water, and earth in that order). The Bhagavad-Gita also adopts these categories in a general way, preferring the term buddhi to mahat.

As universal self-consciousness, H. P. Blavatsky states that Ahamkara has three aspects, identified in Sankhya philosophy and the Bhagavad-Gita as the three gunas: sattva (harmony or purity), rajas (energy, activity, excitability), and tamas (inertia, stagnation, dullness) (cf. SD I:335). As such ahamkara is said to be capable of qualitative transformation depending on which of the three gunas is active in any specific incarnation. And since it is an evolute of buddhi, it can also promote a modification of the senses when conditions for such are suitable.

R.W.B.

 

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