The mind itself is a creation of Avidya (ignorance). It is a Karya (effect) of Avidya. It is filled with delusion. That is the reason why it deceives and tempts you. It makes you go astray. If you can destroy the cause of the mind, Ajnana, by getting Jnana (knowledge of the Supreme Self), mind is nowhere. It dwindles into an airy nothing. Manonasa (annihilation of mind) takes place when Jnana dawns.
Avidya works through Upadhis (attributes, limiting adjuncts). All the special apparatus required by Avidya constitute the Upadhis of the soul. Mind is an Upadhi; Buddhi is an Upadhi and Ahankara also is an Upadhi.
The sea of Avidya (ignorance) is in the mind of man. The explanation of the empirical concept must be sought in the nature of our cognitive faculty. Sri Sankara explains Avidya in this way. It is Naisargika; it is innate in our mental faculty. It is Mithyajnananimitta, based on wrong knowledge; and, knowledge is a function of the mind. It is Nityapratyayarupa; it consists in the form of a wrong conception. "All Jivas-human entities-which are really non-existent, are (with all concomitant appearance of birth, death, etc.) mere results of the objectivising tendency of the mind and nothing else."
The whole experience of duality, made up of perceiver and perceived, is pure imagination. There is no Avidya apart from the mind. On destruction of the mind, all is destroyed. The activity of the mind is the cause of all appearance. On account of Avidya or Bhranti (illusion) in the mind, you see the objects, trees, etc., outside and feel as if they are separate from you and real.
So long as there is mind, there are all these distinctions of big and small, high and low, superior and inferior, good and bad, etc. The highest Truth is that in which there is no relativity. If you can transcend the mind by constant and profound meditation on Atman, you will be able to attain the Nirdvandva state (a state beyond the pairs of opposites) wherein lies the supreme peace and highest knowledge.
There is no Avidya outside the mind. The mind itself is Avidya. Imaginations and Sankalpas are products of Avidya. Ignorance is imbedded in the mind. The mind needs thorough cleansing with Japa, Pranayama, Satsanga, Vichara and Nididhyasana, just as a rusty copper plate needs cleansing with earth, ash, tamarind, powder, etc.
Ahankara-how It Develops
Atman in conjunction with the Buddhi is Ahankara. The basis of Ahankara is Buddhi. As the Buddhi (Bheda Buddhi) is the cause for this differentiation (this little "I"), Buddhi is the cause or seed for Ahankara. Ahamta and Mamata ('I'-ness and 'mine'-ness) are Jivasrishti. It is Jivasrishti that binds a man to the world. Isvarasrishti (God's creation) helps man in his God-realisation.
The seed of mind is Ahankara. Ahankara is development through the thoughts of the mind. As the first thought is the 'I' thought and as this 'I' thought is at the base of all other thoughts, Ahankara is the seed for the mind. This idea of 'I' will bring in its train, the idea of time, space and other potencies. With these environments, the name Jiva accrues to it. Contemporaneously with it, there arise Buddhi, memory, Manas which is the seed of the tree of Sankalpa.
When you are a boy, the Ahankara is not very potent. It is like a shadow in a glass. It gets developed and firm-rooted during your adolescence after you marry and entangle yourself in the achievement of various worldly desires. You are fearless in your boyhood. The moment this little 'I' becomes stronger in your, side by side, various sorts of fears, various sorts of desires, a host of delusions take firm hold of you. The world appears to you more real, too.
The Curse Of Egoism
Ahankara is, after all, nothing. But, tremendous is its influence! Maya means Ahankara. Mind is another name for Ahankara. World means Ahankara. The sprout of Ahankara ramifies here and there with its long branches of 'mine' and 'thine'. It is inveterate. Ahankara wants to live in flesh (Abhinivesa or clinging to life), to eat flesh and to embrace flesh. This is pure Ajnana (ignorance) only. Look at Maya's deception and wholesale swindling! Beware! Awake! Get Jnana.
Just as the cloud screens the sun, so also this cloud of Ahankara screens the 'Jnana Surya', the Infinite Sun of Knowledge, Brahman. You cannot realise God, if you have the least tinge of egoism, if you have the slightest attachment to name and form, if you have the least tinge of Vasana or if you have the least trace of worldly desire in the mind.
How To Eradicate Ahankara
The deep roots of Ahankara should be burnt by the fire of knowledge (Jnanagni). Then you will quite easily get the wealth of Moksha. All tribulations, sorrows, miseries and afflictions will terminate now. Control of the Indriyas and Pranayama help to develop the Buddhi (Vikasa of Buddhi).
You cannot, all at once, eradicate Ahankara altogether. You can easily give up wife, children, money, anger. But it is extremely difficult to give up Ahankara. Try to minimise it little by little. Remove one anna of Ahankara within three months. Within four years, you will be able to root it out completely. You will have to remove it either by self-sacrifice through Karma Yoga-or self-surrender through Bhakti-or self-denial through Vedantic Atma-Vichara.
Through the Sankalpas of Manas, Ahankara is generated. If the modification of the mind which leans to sensual pleasures is destroyed, the Atman, divested of its Ahankara, becomes the unnameable Brahmic Reality.
Ahankara is like a thread. It connects or links all the Indriyas on itself. When the thread is broken, all the pearls fall down. Even so, when the thread of Ahankara is broken by 'Aham Brahma Asmi' Bhavana or Sakshi Bhava or self-surrender method by taking the Nimitta Bhava (instrument-in-the-hands-of-the-Lord attitude), all the Indriyas will be broken down or destroyed. The connection with Indriyas will be severed.
Even if you identify yourself with a subtle body inside, it will help you in your Self-realisation. It is only the identification with the fleshy physical body that brings all sorts of troubles through gross Ahankara and 'mineness'. The physical 'I' is a very great menace.
Whenever Ahankara asserts itself, raise a question within thyself, "What is the source of this little 'I'?" Again and again, moot this question and enquire. When you remove layer after layer, the onion dwindles to nothing. When you analyse the little 'I', it becomes a non-entity; it will gradually vanish. It will dwindle into an airy nothing. Body is not 'I'. 'I' remains even after the leg is amputated. Give up Jivasrishti.
Within the time taken to pluck a flower, within the twinkling of an eye, this Ahankara can be easily eradicated by right Sadhana or Brahma-Bhava.
When you assert 'Aham Brahma Asmi' (I am Brahman), it is Sattvic Ahankara. It is Moksha Ahankara. It will not bind you in any way. It will help you realise Brahman. The fire in a picture will not burn anything. A light in the presence of midday sun will not shine and shed its light. Even so, the Ahankara of a Sattvic person cannot do any harm to any person.