This, again, is of two kinds: astitva-j.āna and svarūpa-j.āna.
(i) Astitva-j.āna, knowledge of one’s existence. If Atman and Brahman were completely hidden by aj.āna, then we would know nothing about our own existence or about other things, and we would be no better than a stone or a clod of earth. But, like the light of the sun coming through dark clouds, the light of the Atman comes through the coverings of aj.āna. It is this filtered light of Atman that gives us the notion ‘I exist’. My own existence, astitva, does not need any proof; it is self-evident, svataḥ-siddha.
This awareness of our own existence comes from the Atman in us.
It should be mentioned here that the ‘I’ or ego in us is the result of the association of the Atman, which is cit or pure Consciousness, and buddhi, which is jaḍa or aj.āna. This association is conceived as a ‘knot’, cit-jaḍa-granthi, or as a red-hot iron ball—fire stands for the Atman, the iron ball for buddhi—or as a transparent crystal appearing as red owing to the presence of a red flower near it.
When we say ‘I exist’, the ‘exist’ aspect comes directly from the Atman.
From: Four Basic Principles of Advaita Vedanta, Sw. Bhajanananda,
Ramakrishna Mission, Source: Prabuddha Bharata — Jan/Feb 2010
- Part 2 will be posted in a few days