There are two words in Sanskrit “Ahamkara” (Ego) and “Asmitha” (“I”ness). We often confuse these two words as in the English translation we tend to interchange them to convey our thought. As I understand “Ahamkara” is one among the four Anthahkarna (Inner Conscience) along with Manas (Mind), Buddhi (Intellect) and Chitta (Memory).
Ahamkara refers to a sense of self that is somewhat self-existent and though it is shaped up by the information received from the external resource it does not depend on it to obtain a place in my conscience.
Asmitha is one of the four afflictions of mind along with Avidhya (Ignorance), Raga (Attraction), Dwesha (Aversion) and Abhinivesha (clinging to live). It is just a sense of “I”ness without Ego coming into play. It is just the identification of the perceiver with the reflection of the perception. From this identification there is a feel of “I” see, “I” hear etc. This “I”ness is felt as soon as one is awake in the morning. So Asmitha rely on its association to outward appearance for its place in my conscience.
In simple words, Ahamkara is sense of self that is related to internal experiences while Asmitha is more self worth when it is related to external experience, hence we compare ourselves and feel that we are better or worse than others.
Once there was a sculptor who got his training done under Devashilpi Vishwakarma, the divine architect. His sculptures look very much real. He was so perfect that it was impossible for anyone to differentiate between the statue and a real human. Vishwakarma was very pleased with his Shishya for the dedication and the efforts of learning the art to perfection. He wished to reward him appropriately he said, “I am overwhelmed by the interest you have on learning the art, I wish to grant you a boon for your sincerity in learning.”
The sculptor said, “Oh! Deva, let me know in advance the date and time of my death.”
Vishwakarma was surprised by the request but yet granted it.
Years passed on and finally the time came for the sculptor to face death. A few month before the appropriate time of death the sculptor designed nine statues which looked exactly like him. No one could make out the difference between him and the nine statues he had made. On the day of his death he placed all the nine statues in a row and stood as the tenth so that he could dodge God of Death.
When God of Death arrived, he was amazed to see ten sculptors. He was in a dilemma as to who was real. He immediately rushed to the Creator and informed him of the situation. The Creator smiled and whispered something in his ears. God of Death grinned and left. Then the God of Death stood in front of those statues and said “Oh! Marvelous, so well and perfectly designed even the Creator cannot make something like this. No one has ever created like this before nor can be done in future. But I feel there is a slight defect in one of the statues.”
Hearing the word “defect” the sculptor jumped out and asked “Where is the mistake?” God of Death immediately threw the Pasha (Noose) on the sculptor and said “This is the mistake. If you had remained silent and stood as one among the statues maybe you could have won over death. But those thoughts like, “I” am perfect; “I” cannot make mistake, which has engulfed you has exposed you to me. Now everything is over, Dear”.
The sculptor had to follow the God of Death without arguing further......!