Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Athma - One's Real Self

Tattva Bodha - 5
The sthula sareera of an individual is matter only as the Pancha Bhuthas, of whose gross matter it is made of, are matter only.  The sukshma sareera is also matter only as it is made of subtle matter of these material Pancha Bhuthas.  The karana sareera is also matter only as it is nothing but the seed of these two bodies.  So all the three bodies of an individual are matter only, and do not contain a sentient substance. But the human body is sentient, conscious of itself and the environs and is capable of intelligently reacting to the environs and not inert like a table or chair which are matter only and not sentient.  From this we infer that there must be an independent inner sentient entity, Consciousness principle, lending sentience to sukshma, stula sareeras. That invisible inner entity, the Consciousness principle, is called AthmaTattva Bhodha introduces Athma with these words:
स्थूलसूक्ष्मकारणशरीराद्व्यतिरिक्तः पञ्चकोशातीतः सन् अवस्थात्रयशाक्षी सच्चिदानन्दस्वरूपः सन् यस्तिष्ठति स आत्मा।(sthula sukshma karana sareerad vyathiriktaha panchakosatheethaha san avasthathraya sakshi sachidananda svarupaha san yas thishtathi sa Athma)
That which is other than the Sthula, Sukshma, Karana sareeras, beyond the five Kosas, the witness of the three Avasthas and of the nature of Sat, Chit and Anandha (Existence, Knowledge, Bliss) is Athma.

We had seen earlier that sentient Athma is different from three sareeras. Since five kosas are only the three sareeras seen from another angle Athma is beyond the five kosas as well. Avasthas relate to the sareeras, and Athma which is different from sareeras, exists only as a witness to the avasthas. These descriptions tell what Athma is not.  What is not Athma is referred to as anathma. So Sareera Thriam, Kosa Panchakam and Avastha Thriam all come under anathma. After describing Athma negatively by telling what it is not through the listing of the anathmas, the text proceeds to describe positively Athma as Sat, Chit, Anandha. They are not three separate attributes but the nature of this Consciousness principle, Athma, described in three different ways. 

Swami Paramatmananda lists the properties of Consciousness as follows:
1)    Consciousness is not a part, product or property of the body. It is not a part like hair, nails etc.; it is not a property like birth, growth etc., and it is not a product like enzymes, cells etc.
2)    Consciousness is an invisible, independent entity that pervades the body and makes it alive.  Kena Upanishad describes in Mantra 2 thus:
श्रोत्रस्यश्रोत्रं मनसो मनो यद् वाचोहवाचं प्राणस्यप्राणः। (strosya strotram manaso mano yad vachohavacham sa u pranasya pranaha)
चक्षुषश्चक्षुः (chakshushas chakshuhu)
Ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of speech, prana of prana and eye of eye.  
That  means Consciousness is the power behind all the faculties of the body that makes them carry out their respective functions.
3)    This Consciousness is not limited by the boundaries of the body. It is boundless or infinite.  When associated with the upadhi of body it is called Athma; when associated with the whole Universe it is called Brahman.   This concept of Athma as Brahman is something unique to Advaita Vedanta and from this flows property 4.
4)    Consciousness will continue to survive the body medium even after the body perishes.
5)    The surviving Consciousness is not recognisable by us because the medium through which it was recognised is absent.  Through its reflection in the anthakaranam, Chithabasa, Consciousness lends sentiency to the human body. At the time of death, as sukshma sareera with Chithabasa leaves the body, the medium that reflected Consciousness is not available and so the surviving Consciousness is not recognisable.

This can be illustrated with the analogy of electricity.   Electricity passing through filament of the bulb makes it glow, which in turns makes the bulb shine with light and illumine the environs. Electricity is one and it makes aglow bulbs of all sizes and shapes and powers. So we can say:
1)    Electricity is not part, product, property of the bulb.
2)    It is an invisible entity that pervades the filament and make the bulb shine.
3)    It is not limited to the boundaries of the bulb.  It is infinite.
4)  It will continue to survive the bulb medium even after the bulb is fused out.
5)    The surviving electricity is not recognisable as the medium for recognition is not there.

The text defines Sat, Chit and Ananda as the inherent nature of Athma.  “Sat” stands for Existence i.e. pure existence.  This existence principle is not bound by time and is valid for all the three periods of time, past, present and future. So it is eternal.  Athma being eternal and unchanged in the three periods of time is indicated by ‘Sat’.  “Chit” stands for Knowledge, not knowledge about anything but Absolute Knowledge that illuminates for one  the objects of experience in the outer and inner world.  The Consciousness principle illuminates all it comes across without any preference and irrespective of their nature and quality.  The Consciousness being boundless or infinite is complete, पू्र्णः purnahaPurnatvam is total bliss as nothing is lacking and no shortness or deficiency is felt.  This is theகுறையொன்றுமில்லைstate that Sri Andal attributes to Lord Govinda in Thiruppavai verse 28.

This Athma is our real self.  It makes the Anthakaranam  sentient through its manifestation in the Anthakaranam as its reflection, called Chithabasa. The sentient Anthakaranam in turn makes the whole body sentient. One mistakes the ego as the real self, not knowing about the invisible inner self that has lent sentiency to the ego itself  due to which the ego identifies with actions, pleasures sorrows, emotions etc. and claims doership and enjoyership.  We can say that Athma is the ego’s Ego on the analogy of Kenopanishad Mantra we saw earlier.  The ego is only the imposter “I” and the Real “I”, is Athma, that cannot be known directly as it is invisible and is not available for perception by the senses or for conceptualisation by intellect.  The goal of Self enquiry is to discover the Real “I”, Athma, rejecting  all anathmas and claim identification with it as one’s Self, disowning the imposter, ego, and through it  disclaim the body-mind  complex as “me” 

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