II.6 दृग्दर्शनशक्त्योरेकात्मतेवास्मिता

dṛg-darśana-śaktyor ekātmatevāsmitā
dṛk-darśana-śaktyoḥ eka-ātmatā iva asmitā

“I-am-ness [as an affliction] is confusing the one who sees with the instrument of seeing, and considering them to be the one self.”

If, as Bernard Bouanchaud says, all the afflictions are natural impulses, good in themselves, and if we assume asmitā (“I-am-ness”) to be good in itself, then when is it bad? When does it turn hurtful or harmful? We cannot live without ego (Latin for “I am”), and yet we are warned to not be “too full” of ego. Is the feeling “I am” something that one can simply have too much of?

The villain Rāvaṇa, from the epic Rāmāyana, might suggest so. Rāvaṇa is a demon with ten heads and ten pairs of arms. He is afflicted, as it were, by his own greatness, by his great appetites and his great powers. He is ravenous, insatiable, despite all the pleasures of his kingdom. He kidnaps Sītā, Rāma’s wife, which leads to his downfall. Rāma invades Rāvaṇa’s country, does battle with him, and kills him.

Rāvaṇa’s ego is indeed dangerous and destructive. I am tempted to describe it as an afflicted ego. Rāvaṇa suffers from an illness. Consider the remarkable description of his death:

Rama watched him fall headlong from his chariot face down onto the earth, and that was the end of the great campaign. Now one noticed Ravana’s face aglow with a new quality. Rama’s arrows had burnt off the layers of dross, the anger, conceit, cruelty, lust, and egotism which had encrusted his real self, and now his personality came through in its pristine form—of one who was devout and capable of tremendous attainments. His constant meditation on Rama, although as an adversary, now seemed to bear fruit, as his face shone with serenity and peace.  — Ramayana (as told by R.K. Narayan)

I have a fond feeling for Rāvaṇa, partly because his name reminds me of our English “ravenous.” And I have long contemplated those tendencies in me that are ravenous: when I just am not satisfied. There have been times in my life when I could not hear praise. It simply would not sink in. I was hungry for it. I fought for it. But it would skitter off, untasted, unknown.

In sūtra II.6, Patañjali says that we confuse our pure awareness–one might say, our Being-ness–with the means of our awareness. B.K.S. Iyengar uses the metaphor of a light bulb–the means of the light is the filament, but the light itself is the Being. Rohit Mehta, in his commentary on this sūtra, says the means of awareness–the instrument–is the mind, and it is the mind we tend to identify with: we think we are our thoughts (see sūtra I.4). If the mind and the thoughts are just the filament of the bulb, not the light itself, who are we?

When, through yoga practice, we can let go of success/failure, shame/blame, honor/dishonor, all constructs of the mind, we can become more pliable, more open to discovering what our natural self, our original self, might be.

It is not until his death that Rāvaṇa is able to shed the layers of assumed identity that have disturbed his original purpose. And perhaps there is a kind of warning in this–letting go of old patterns, of false beliefs, can be like little deaths. Yet it is by dying that we are born into this essential discovery: I AM.




“The Sanskrit words used in the above sūtra are dṛg-śakti and darśana-śakti. These are perceiver and the instrument of perception respectively. To regard these as identical is obviously to be caught in false identification. The instrument of perception is the mind, for it is not the eyes that perceive; but the mind…. If we examine ourselves, we will realize that what we call as ourselves is indeed the mind. We are the mind, for we know nothing beyond the construct of the mind…. Truly speaking, asmitā is nothing else but man’s identification with his mind.” –Rohit Mehta, Yoga, the Art of Integration, commentary on II.6

“Ego has been compared to the filament in a light bulb, which because it glows with light, proclaims itself to be the light’s source, electricity. In reality the light that shines from I-consciousness devolves from another and deeper source, one unknowable in daily life, but which mankind has always felt intuitively to exist.” —B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 120

Asmitā, our unique and stainless individuality, can, through the saddening and obscure years of life, harden into an exclusive shell of selfishness, of me, of pride. This pride lies in difference, not in equality.” –B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 194

• How well do you listen to others? What stops you from listening well?
• Do you suffer from superiority complex or inferiority complex? Shame?
• How does practice affect your sense of who you are? Do you ever feel that practice has given you an experience beyond “the construct of the mind”?
• What is healthy pride? What is a healthy sense of self?


noun in compound

sight, eye, the one who sees (from dṛś, “to see”)


neuter noun in compound
seeing (from dṛś, “to see”)

feminine noun, 6th case, dual, “of”

power (from śak, “to be able)


feminine noun, 1st case singular

single identity (eka, “one,” + ātma, “self,” + tā, which makes an abstract noun; “one-self-ness”)



like, as though, seemingly


feminine noun, 1st case singular

sense of self, pride (from asmi, “I am,” +  –tā, which makes an abstract noun; “I-am-ness”)


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