The next and sixth major stream of emotion is ahamkara, the sense of I-am-ness. This is the faculty of the mind which you have constantly been adoring, revering, and worshipping—the ego. This little “I,” which you use every day to refer to yourself and not to others, becomes the center of your life. The word that you use again and again in your daily life, “I,” becomes the center of your awareness. You say, “I am doing this; I am not doing that; I do not want to do this.” All this is the work of ahamkara. You have created a fortress; you have created a barrier with your own ego, and then you do not know how to come out of it in order to know the highest reality. You use all your differences, your defense mechanisms, to protect yourself and your ahamkara.
The sixth major stream of emotion is ahamkara, the sense of I-am-ness.
You need to understand what ahamkara does for you: The sense of I-am-ness prompts you to live on the earth and to have a particular individuality. Because of ahamkara, you are an individual. But ahamkara also separates you from the whole. When a wife and husband, two lovers, touch a peak that is beyond ahamkara, that is real joy, but ahamkara itself will never give you joy; instead, it will contract your personality. It enables you to be an individual, but it will never give you joy.
You only attain joy when you completely forget ahamkara, when you are no longer limited by ahamkara. But how is it possible for you to live without a sense of I-am-ness? That’s not possible, so it is better to “polish” your ahamkara. Just as you polish your shoes and use them every day until eventually they are worn out, so should you polish your ahamkara—your ego.
All your prayers, all your loves, all your concerns, all your friendships—anything that you consider important in your life—you do because of ahamkara. You think that you love your husband and he thinks that he loves you, but really you each love your own ahamkara. That’s why you love others. There is a beautiful saying in Sanskrit, which is translated, “Why do you love your wife, your children, and others? For yourself. For if you yourself did not exist, how could you love anybody?” If you love others for the sake of their atman (pure consciousness), that is very good, but usually, you only love them for the sake of your ahamkara.
You only attain joy when you completely forget ahamkara.
In most of what you do, you do not do the action for the sake of the action alone. You do not genuinely love someone, or pray to God, or do any good thing—that is the expression of your ahamkara. A rich man’s ahamkara is to give donations and to feel proud of his generosity. The rich man doesn’t really want to give even a penny; he is greedy, but he wants even more to satisfy his ahamkara. You all want to satisfy your ahamkara. Ahamkara is the great fortress that you have created for yourself; it locks you in and others out. But you can polish your ego and use up the ahamkara.
Thus, there are six main streams of emotion: desire (kama), anger (krodha), pride (muda), attachment (moha), greed (lobha), and the sense of I-am-ness (ahamkara). Two are primary: kama and ahamkara. Kama is the prime desire, and ahamkara is the sense of “I” that makes you think, “I am this. This is mine. This is not mine. This is mine and that is yours.” As we will discuss, everyone can learn to understand what these streams of emotions are, from where they arise, and how to work with them in order to be happier and more creative.
Source: The Art of Joyful Living (Swami Rama)