ātmagrāha (P. attagaha; T. bdag 'dzin བདག་འཛིན་; C. wozhi 我執) is translated as "self-grasping," "self-cherishing," "ego-clinging," "ego-fixation," etc. Literally, grasping (grāha) to atman, where atman is a permanently-existing self.
Types of self-grasping
Self of person vs. self of phenomena
Two types of self-grasping are identified in the Mayahana philosophical schools:
Artificial vs. innate
The Mayahana also categorizes self-grasping as:
Within the practice of chöd
In the context of the practice of chöd, ego-clinging is identified as one of four types of "demons."
Tsultrim Allione states:
- “Through clinging to our ego, the mind becomes afflicted by all kinds of emotional ups and downs, thoughts are seized upon, and karma is created via the actions that result. The real root problem is clinging to notions of self versus other, not realizing how much of what we consider to be external reality we ourselves project. A simple way to put it is this: where there is egocentricity, there are demons and gods; where there is no egocentricity, there are no demons or gods. We can see the demon of the ego in our reactivity, in being irritated by criticism and inflated by praise, in wanting to accumulate material things, and in being upset when we lose wealth, possessions, or status.
- We see this perhaps most vividly in two-year-olds as they grab a toy and scream “Mine!” at the top of their lungs, bashing each other ruthlessly over the head. Although we learn to modulate our fixation on ourselves and on what we want or don’t want, the same “me, me, me” still occurs in us, sometimes well masked, sometimes not. The spiritual path is the journey toward letting go of the fixation on “me” and “mine,” opening to vast compassion, and offering it to all beings. In so doing, we move beyond the ego’s fixation on itself.
Machig Labdron states:
- Given that ego-fixation is the root of all problems and is the cause of wandering in cyclic existence, it is therefore the demon that withholds the attainment of freedom... The mind that holds on to a self where there is no self has become afflicted. Then discursive thought holds on to any good or bad mental arising and fixates on it as true existence. That is called inflation.
- [In this practice] the object (that which is inflated; snyems bya) and the subject (that which inflates; snyems byed), or ‘I’ and ‘mine,’ all external and internal phenomena, are realized by the timeless wisdom of reflexive awareness (rang rig) as nonexistent, with no true reality. Then the root of fixation to true existence will be withdrawn from the object. Once inflation over thoughts of good and bad no longer arises, there is freedom from the extremes of all conceptual embellishment that causes mental creations and mental aspirations.
- "I Me Mine," by the Beatles.
- I Me Mine (Naked Version / Remastered 2013)
- "I Me Mine," written by George Harison, performed by The Beatles. A song about self-grasping (atmagraha).
- Allione, Tsultrim (2008), Feeding Your Demons, Little, Brown and Company
- Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University
- Harding, Sarah (2013), Machik's Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chod (translation), Shambhala