In order to experience the Self, AtmAnubhava, we should first know where the “I” is. If the ‘I’ is not already with us, we have to make an effort to obtain it.
In general, there are three ways by which we can obtain a thing. Say, we have to obtain a pot. If no pot is available, we have to newly produce (make) one. Or suppose it is available with someone or somewhere. We have to procure it from that place. Or, a pot is available but it is dusty or dirty. We have to wash off the dirt and make it neat and clean. These three ways are known as utpatti (production), Apti or prApti (procurement) and samskriti (refinement) respectively. Now let us apply it to the problem we have.
Do we have to newly produce the Self, or get It from some other place, or cleanse and refine the Self that already exists?
One may produce an idol or a symbol of a deity but none can manufacture the formless Self. Moreover, the knowledge that “I am” is already with us and that knowing itself is the Self. Therefore, we need not newly produce the Self.
Do we have to go to a holy place and get the Self from there? The doctrine tells us that Self exists everywhere. Self is available right with us where we are. There is no place where the Self does not exist. So, there is no need to get the Self from somewhere else.
Do we have to dust off the Self that is with us? It is absolutely meaningless to think that we have to cleanse the Self. The Self is “nitya, suddha, buddha mukta svabhAvah” (of the nature of ever pure, conscious and free). No dirt, no blemish, nothing clings to the Self. Self does not require any refinement or purification.
Hence there is no need to make any effort whatsoever to obtain the Self. It is already with us shining as the spark “I AM.” No “sAdhana” is, therefore, required to obtain the Self! In fact, sAdhana is valid only in duality where the sAdhana is different from what is to be finally attained.
Though we know that we have the ‘feel’ that “I am,” we do not seem to have that ‘experience’ in Fullness, in Perfection. There is a sense of a lack in our experience. We feel, “I know I am, but I do not experience my presence everywhere, as the doctrine says.”
Suppose we are really very hungry. Someone gives us, say, a toffee or a little bit of ‘prasadam’ (sacred food after prayer to the Deity) in a temple. We gulp it immediately. But it does not appease our hunger fully. We do not feel satiated, in spite of the fact that the food is quite edible and tasty. Likewise, though we have the understanding that “I am,” it is incomplete. It does not fully satisfy us. We struggle to fill the gap in our ‘experience.’
Let us take a closer look at the Advaita doctrine again.
The doctrine says that the nature of the Self/AtmA is Beingness (sat) and Knowledge (cit). The Beingness we know we have (felt by us as the ‘am-ness’) is actually omnipresent. It is not only in us but also outside us. It is spread out like space. Space, we know, “IS” everywhere. We normally see the ‘objects’ existing in space, but do not notice that the ‘space’ itself ever exists at a given place whether an object is present there or not. Space is present not only where the objects are present, but also in- between two objects as the distance separating them. Thus, space is nothing but the very “Beingness” or ‘sat.’ No space can be present where ‘is-ness’ does not exist. Hence, Beingness is not something confined to a little spot. Beingness is present everywhere.
Knowing that Beingness is called ‘cit.’ ‘cit’ is the Consciousness.
The ‘feel’ “I am” that each one of us have stands for ‘sat’ and ‘cit.’
‘sat’ is Beingness.
‘cit’ is the Knowingness of the Beingness.
Do we have to make an effort (sAdhana) in order to “grasp” the AtmA which is none other than the ‘sat-cit’? Does it not, on the very face of it, sound absurd to do so? Once again it shows that no effort or sAdhana is needed to capture the “I am” which is already with us.
The language we use from here on is a shade different, as we move from explaining the doctrine to explaining the practice of it. So please note the subtle difference in the way we use the words in pointing out the AtmA that is present everywhere.
We know that Beingness is everywhere like space. Space, Beingness (Existence), ‘sat’ are all the same. They are not three different things.
Notice the space around.
We see space to be present here, there, everywhere. We don’t accept if anyone says that space is present only within the four walls of the room. We say it is also present beyond the walls of the room. We can easily agree that space exists outside the room, because space is omnipresent. It is formless and is not a particular object. A ‘particular’ thing is always exclusive. If it exists at a specific locale, it is absent at a different place. Space in contrast is Universal. Space is present equally everywhere in the sense that space is not more at one place and less at another. Unless a thing is formless, it cannot be all-pervasive like space.
Each of us knows that “I am.” We also see that every object is – the wall is, the table is, the mike is, the speaker is, the chair is and so on. The spark giving rise to the feeling of “is-ness” exists everywhere because we see each object is. Look anywhere and each place ignites that spark, the awareness that space is. Hold on to that spark that says that a thing “Is.”
Recall that our aim is to obtain AtmAnubhava (im-mediated experiencing of AtmA). (“Im-mediated” means direct and not mediated through an instrument or some other means (pramANa)).
The question is: What is the sAdhana to be done to achieve AtmAnubhava?
The theory itself informs us that the Self is formless and there is no place where the Self is not. The intrinsic nature of the Self is nothing but Beingness (Existence) and Knowingness (Consciousness). Whenever and wherever we perceive a thing, there is a “spark” that arises telling us that the thing “is” and that we “know” of that is-ness. Our mind should be attentive to notice and be able to capture that “spark.” That spark is the Self.
For the mind to be able to notice anything, it is necessary that there has to be a modification of the mind (vRitti) in the form of what it has to pay attention to. An image, an idea of the object, forms in the mind. We see an object outside corresponding to that idea. The thought inside is called the nAma and the form outside is called the rUpa. We can say that the internal thought is the mind and the external object is the matter. Thus, nAma and rUpa are the idea and the object or the mind and matter. The world is no more than nAma and rUpa. Shankara refers to the two as pratyaya (idea) and vishaya (object) respectively.
In order to grasp the AtmA, a thought that corresponds to AtmA has to arise. The thought should be of the nature of AtmA. For example, if I have to see the rope, the modification of the mind (vRitti) has to be of the nature of the rope and not of the nature of a serpent. If the modification is of the nature of a serpent, a serpent will be seen and not the rope. The thought in the form of rope is the prama (true knowledge) whereas it is a bhrama (imagination) if it is in the form of a serpent. In other words, the ‘thought’ about Reality should be of the nature of Reality.
The doctrine tells us that the Self is formless (nirAkAra), featureless (nirguNa), all-pervading (sarva vyApaka). Hence, the self is space-like spread out not only inside but also outside. That is Its intrinsic nature (say, state or stithi). A corresponding spark (Knowingness or citi) has to arise in ‘me.’ Arising of any other type of thought will not help us in obtaining AtmAnubhava.
(To Continue …. Part – 3/6)