Ahankara – Foundational principle of our material existence

By editor - 17.1 2022

Following are the excerpts from S.B 4.7.33 lecture given by HH Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami at Zurich during Sept. 2001.

This is a very instructive chapter of Srimad Bhagavatam – the study of the activities of King Daksha.

The whole event that took place during the sacrifice is extremely instructive here for all of us. The primary lesson here is the principle called ahankara – the false conception about the nature of reality, called as false ego. Ahankara is very prominent especially in this manifested world. Without ahankara the creation cannot take place. It is the foundational principle of this material nature. Under the influence of false ego a person naturally develops some kind of pride. In other words, a person is interested in blaming others and not much interested to look into himself or herself. These are the symptoms of the person being influenced by ahankara or false ego. One can see this in the activities of King Daksha.

King Daksha being head of the prajapatis was respected by everyone. The sacrifice was performed by King Daksha to bring peace and happiness in this world. The purpose of the sacrifice was to please Lord Vishnu, so that there would be peace and harmony in the world and everyone would be happy. That was done by this sacrifice. Therefore Daksa’s intention was good. He was the head of the prajapatis, so that was his duty; to be well-wisher of everyone for the well-being of everyone. But in the process of doing that he was somehow influenced by some kind of ahankara. When he came to the sacrificial arena, everybody was giving him respect, but Lord Siva remained a little bit indifferent when Daksa came in. Lord Siva is also the son-in-law of Daksa. Daksa felt that his son-in-law should give him respect although Lord Siva is a very highly advanced Vaishnava and demigod. Daksa felt insulted – why he is behaving like this? Therefore he used very insulting words to Lord Siva. Therefore that was the beginning of devastation.

In other words, the influence of false ego in this world is so powerful that it is extremely difficult to overcome. In fact the hindrance in the path of devotional life is nothing but false ego. Therefore as long as false ego remains, it is difficult to make progress on the path of devotional life – in the path of bhakti yoga. It is always easy from this conception for everybody to blame others and think himself or herself to be right and the other person to be wrong. This tendency becomes very prominent. We have to realise that the progress in devotional life will become very slow as long as this type of feeling or mentality or behavior is there in the mind of each one of us. In other words, the most important principle in the process of bhakti yoga is primarily to remove the influence of ahankara or false ego. This is done by the process of sadhana bhakti. Sadhana bhakti means devotional life with rules and regulations i.e. following the principles – the disciplined way of learning devotional principles. The whole process in sadhana bhakti is to remove this false ego. Until and unless this covering of false ego is removed, it will take lot of time to progress in devotional life.

The cleansing process is explained by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his Siksastaka – ceto-darpana-marjanam means removing false ego. It means we have to cleanse our contaminated hearts. Our hearts have become contaminated by the association of many undesired activities and undesired thoughts. It takes time to cleanse all these impurities collected in the heart of an individual…………………..We have to chant all the time so that we can always be reminded about this process. When you find troubles in devotional life, it is only because the impurities are still there. We have to make constant efforts to cleanse these impurities. When the impurities are completely cleansed, then naturally the taste i.e. the symptoms of real nature of life – about the spiritual identity of the spiritual entity or the jivatma will be manifested. That state of manifestation or state of consciousness is called brahma-bhuta.

In other words one is beginning to realize that one is temporarily encaged in this body but one is an eternal spiritual entity or spiritual being called atma- part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. This realization should not be simply an intellectual understanding; in our words, in our actions, in our behavior, in our dealings, in our seeing things around us, we have to also be fully convinced. The theoretical knowledge is one thing but the practical knowledge, I think is the most important. Theoretically we say everyday – aham brahmasmi, that I am not this body, I am the eternal spiritual spark, the atma – but it is not so easy to practice it in our day-to-day practical life. Therefore Krishna consciousness is a very practical application of the teachings of the scriptures in our daily life. In other words, in scientific language it is called application of spiritual science in our daily life.


On the other hand, we see Lord Siva was not disturbed because he is the greatest vaishnava. But the followers of Lord Siva became very upset when king Daksa used so many insulting words towards their master and that they became very angry and cursed others. Therefore there was a very unpleasant environment. Both sides became angry. The cause of anger is actually false ego. When we become angry we know what happens; when there is the great fire of anger, all good things get spoiled.

Ashutosh is one of Lord Siva’s other names. Ashutosh means one who is very easily satisfied, he may be angry now but next moment he will be free from that anger, in other words he can be very easily satisfied. That is also Lord Siva’s quality. So Lord Siva again upon Lord Brahma’s request cooled down: as usual he is very magnanimous in his dealings and in his behavior. Later King Daksa also came to realize his fault, that why he had used such harsh words to Lord Siva. In this way, there was also realization on the part of King Daksa, that his behavior was not proper and that he should not have done that way. Therefore he realized; and this is another good thing. Therefore one great lesson a vaishnava or a devotee of Lord can learn from this incident is that, when one’s mistake is pointed, one should rather be grateful. Therefore King Daksa began to praise Lord Siva, “My dear Lord, you are very merciful. I am very grateful that I got blessings and also I have learned my lesson.” He didn’t say, “it is a punishment to me that because of your anger all these unfortunate things happened to me.”

A Vaishnava learns from this example, that when somebody commits a mistake and as a result when this person gets the result of that mistake then he appreciates it and does not take it as a punishment. Just like in philosophy, especially in the West, people ask, why do bad things happen to good people? And similarly there is an argument that we find if God is all merciful, then why is there evil? This is very prominent especially among the western scholars in philosophy…….But we say that when one learns bhakti marg – the devotional principles, i.e. the process of bhakti and with knowledge of devotion such questions do not come.. When one becomes familiar with the nine-fold process of bhakti and when one has some knowledge about devotional life, then these questions will not come. Why? Because such an individual will begin to realize that, ‘I get this result because of my own doing or my own karma or my own activity done either knowingly or unknowingly’. As in the Bible there is a saying, “As you sow, so shall you reap”. This is a very scientific principle, even in the Newton’s laws: the third law of motion says that action and reaction are equal and opposite……Therefore unless one is trained in the path of bhakti, it may not be so easy to come to this understanding or to this realization.

Therefore the conclusion is – Lord Siva and King Daksa have realized and have come to proper understanding because of this devotional process.


In this way when the false ego is removed, controlled or cleanses by the spirit of bhakti then everything comes back to normal state. This is the process of Krishna consciousness – to train oneself in all these three levels – the body, mind and spirit. The body has to be trained properly and the mind also has to be trained properly and when body and mind are cleansed, then generally the spirit soul will be clean. Then we progress and grow…….Therefore this chapter of SB – the sacrifice performed by King Daksa and also different chapters connected with Daksa’s sacrifice are very instructive for all of us…………

The nature of the Absolute Truth or the Supreme Personality of Godhead can never be described enough by our limited expressions or words. Even in realization, it is not possible to fully realize the nature of the Absolute Truth. However by the blessings of the Absolute Truth Himself, by the blessings of Lord Krishna Himself, we can have a glimpse of it. ….But if we think that I will be able to comprehend or have a glimpse of this spiritual nature by my own intelligence or by my own sincere labour, than I am mistaken. In other words, unless I agree that “I am extremely limited in my perception, and my capacity to comprehend the unlimited aspects of the Lord is extremely limited; and with my tiny brain substance, it is not possible to completely comprehend this wonderful ocean of truth”, unless I come to that platform it is not possible. If I am simply thinking that by my own intelligence, by my own speculation it is possible to comprehend the Absolute Truth, then I am completely mistaken. But when I begin to realize that I have to accept my own limitations and I would rather surrender to the mercy of the Lord, I can get some understanding about the nature of the Absolute. The Lord will give this person intelligence and understanding and by the mercy of the Lord, he can have some understanding about the nature of the Absolute.

This again is the process of bhakti.


But even if we have the partial understanding, that is more than enough to carry on our service, our duty – the Lord’s service.