Cognition of Self Awareness – known as asmita

School of Yoga explains cognition of the bond:

  • Our first cognition of self-awareness is existence (I am alive). Since this cognition is so vital to our sense of existence, we constantly reinforce it by building bonds with others.
  • Within the bond, we begin transacting, this is action or karma. This transaction results in a stimulus-response or give-take cycle

School of Yoga explains impact of conditioning (dharma) on sense of the Self (asmita):

  • Why do any two entities struggle to relate to each other? The answer is… conditioning or dharma.
  • Our conditioning forces us to think in a particular manner.
  • So, when we are presented with stimulus, that point of view will either be in congruence or out of congruence with our own point of vew.
  • When stimulus is in congruence, we like the entity and try to bring it closer (raaga) and if it is contrary, we dislike the entity and try to push it away (dwesha), resulting in action (karma).
  • Simultaneously, as the duality of like-dislike gets activated, our sense of self-worth (asmita) begins to experience expansion when the experience is like (raaga) and contraction when the experience is dislike (dwesha).
  • This experience of like-dislike triggers the attributes (guNa) to respond.
  • Experience of like triggers passion (rajas) and experience of dislike triggers (tamas) because it would require us to alter our conditioning (dharma).
  • This resistance to change is universal, all of us resist ideas which do not conform to our conditioning.
  • Our resistance to change is proportionate to our perception of threat/ risk associated with the change.
  • Finally, our conditioning, resistance to change and fear of consequences is based on our sense of existence at any time, in any situation (asmita).

Patanjali Yoga Sutra (Chapter 2, verse 6) defines asmita as: perceiving the Self for the truth is asmita (feeling of being).

School of Yoga – Let us review our cognition in a transaction:

Why does this happen to us? Why is our asmita or sense of self-worth so fragile?

Some reflection will reveal that we depend on the feedback of others to know ourselves.

  • So, when others complement us, we feel good.
  • Conversely, when we get criticised, the opinion we have of ourselves gets shaken and we struggle to retain a positive image of ourselves.
  • The complement or criticism may not be a true reflection of us, but for us, it becomes our reality.
  • The factor on which people compare and judge us is their own dharma (natural-state or conditioning) but the tool that we use to evaluate the feedback is our own natural-state or dharma. Obviously, the two are not going to match.

Thus, the cognition of Self or Identity is the foundation of all transactions. Also, it is the quality of this awareness (pragnya) which decides the sensitivity with which we react to our transactions with our environment.

So its obvious that our sense of worth (asmita) is dependent for its existence on its interaction with the environment. Consequently, if no one were to react to us, we would get no feedback. This would result in us feeling isolated, with an experience of deep sense of loss of identity (asmita).

School of Yoga – situational awareness or pragnya operates at two levels –

  • Awareness of the situation, also known as vijnana. This is the awareness of the Self looking out.
  • Awareness of the impact of the stimulus on the Self (jnana). This is awareness of impact of the stimulus on itself.

Anecdotes, experiences and situations to help understand cognition…

(Wikipedia extract) Battle of Pävankhind was a rear guard battle and last stand that took place on July 13, 1660 at a mountain pass in Maharashtra, India between the Maratha Sardar Baji Prabhu Deshpande and Siddi Masud of Adilshah Sultanate.

The situation: The Maratha army, with King Sivaji Maharaj, was trapped in Fort Panhala by Adilshahi general Siddi Jauhar.

The plan: Escape and to go to Fort Vishalgad. While a diversion was executed, Sivaji Maharaj took selected 600 soldiers with him and quietly escaped the siege.

Siddi Jauhar immediately despatched his son-in-law Siddi Masudin in pursuit with 3000 cavalry.

First, they soon got the diversion palanquin of “Sivaji Maharaj”. However, they found that he was not Sivaji but a barber named “Siva Kashid”! Needless to say, he was immediately executed.


Battlefield of Pavan Khind

Next, the chase continued and as Sivaji Maharaj neared Ghodkhind, Siddi Masud  caught up with the fleeing Marathas.

Ghodkhind is a narrow pass and only a few soldiers can pass through it simultaneously. The Marathas decided to stop the opposing army here.

The battle:

The Marathas divided themselves into two troops of 300 each. Sivaji Maharaj took one troop and proceeded towards Vishalgad. The other troop, led by Baji Prabhu Deshpande stood their ground in Ghodkhind to defend the pass until Sivaji Maharaj reach Vishalgad.

Sivaji Maharaj was unaware that Vishalgad itself was being besieged. But, he attacked the siege and broke it. Entering Vishalgad, Sivaji Maharaj quickly fired 3 cannons as a signal to Baji Prabhu Deshpande, who was defending the Ghodkhind that he had reached Vishalgad.

However, by this time, Baji Prabhu and his 300 soldiers had been fighting against 3000 soldiers for over 6 hours. They were all badly wounded and extremely tired. Also, Baji Prabhu was shot and taken to the rear but refused help until he heard the sound of cannons when he breathed his last knowing his king was safe.

School of Yoga – reflecting on cognition

  • What makes people perform such sacrifices?
  • Shiv Kashid was a barber. What might he have experienced when he took the identity of Sivaji Maharaj?
  • What can one reflect on the identities of Siva Kashid, Baji Prabhu and the 300 Maratha warriors knowing that they were facing certain death?

Points to ponder on cognition:

Internal Tags: Conditioning or Dharma, Self Awareness or Asmita,  

External Tags: Self-awareness (read about the developmental scales in Self awareness)

  • Where does fear come from? What is the root of fear and anxiety? Why are we afraid of change?
  • How would we feel if no one acknowledged us? Also, what would happen to us if all our efforts to connect with others provoked no reaction?
  • What are the ways to experience the feeling of existence? How do you know you are alive?
  • How many types of debt can you recognise?
  • What is death? What happens to our identity when we die?
  • When relations breakdown, do the debts go away?
  • What is perception of reality?
Editor at School Of Yoga
School Of Yoga is a single point resource for all aspects of Classical Yoga practise. We try to achieve this by placing Yoga's traditional methodology in front of the reader and eliciting his or her experience. We value everyone's Yoga experience and would like you to share and enrich other practitioners so that everyone benefits.
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