Knowledge of the Self part 2
The whole of life is a mystery. We endeavor to find some explanation by studying nature, but nature puts us into more confusion. Science does not help us; she takes us up to a certain point and there she leaves us without showing anything beyond, without telling us what to do and where to go. Such is the condition of our relative knowledge.
When properly analyzed, it appears to be a partial expression of the absolute knowledge, which is the real nature of the true Self. Relative knowledge, however, will not help us in solving the riddles of the universe.
If we wish to know the ultimate Truth of the world we must go beyond nature and seek the explanation in the realm of the Absolute. Nature is called in Sanskrit Maya; she deludes us, yet we are living in nature, and our body, senses and mind are parts of nature.
The more we study nature, the more we are deluded; we do not come to any final solution. Scientists have arrived at certain conclusions, which are like conclusions in which nothing is concluded. Science tells us that the ultimate goal of everything is unknown and unknowable. Here Vedanta comes and advises its students to study not merely nature, but our Self or Atman; then all confusion will be removed and the Absolute Truth will be reached.
Nature makes us see that the Self moves when the body is in motion, but in reality the Self is immovable. Nature makes us feel that Self is very far from us, but it is the nearest thing that we have, nearer than this body and mind which we consider to be the nearest; our true Self, however, is in reality the nearest of all.
” It dwells in everything as its soul or inner nature, yet it is outside of everything.”
How can that be? If it dwells inside how can it dwell outside? Space exists inside as well as outside. Take the space within this room, which is confined by its walls. This space appears as inside the room; but what are the walls, are they separate from space? No; they exist in and
through space, they are nothing but space. The space of the- walls limits the space that is inside the room; but does it limit in reality? No. It is outside also. Can we limit the infinite space? By no means. Similarly, if we try to limit our Self by our mind we fail, because mind is not large and strong enough to keep the Self out; sense-powers cannot limit it; physical forms can never divide it; because each one of these exists as related to the Self. The Self or Atman, when properly realized, appears as unlimited and infinite.
We say that we are finite beings, but in reality we are not finite. There is only one Infinite Existence which expresses itself through finite forms. As finite forms, existing in space, cannot live outside of it, so all these various individuals live in and through that infinite space of Reality which is called the Absolute Self.
“He who realizes all beings in the Self, and the Self in all animate and inanimate objects of the universe, never hates anything or any being.”
* Hatred proceeds from imperfect relative knowledge, which makes us perceive objects as separate from one another. But when we see our true Self in others, how can we hate another without hating our own Self? It would be impossible for Self to hate Self. As it is impossible to hate our true Self, so it would be impossible to hate the Self of any being. This is one of the results of Self-knowledge, where Self-knowledge is there can remain no feeling of hatred. When hatred is gone, jealousy and all other selfish feelings, which we call wicked, disappear. What remains? The ordinary love, which stands in opposition to hatred, vanishes; but Divine love begins to reign in the heart of the Seer. True love means the expression of oneness. As love for body makes us feel one with the body, so love for the true Self makes us feel one with the true Self; and if we see that Self In others, we cannot help *
Isha Upanishad, verse 6.
loving them as we love our Self. Now we understand the meaning of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” It is not an extraordinary teaching. Vedanta has always taught this truth. People of the western world say that Christ was the only one who ever taught in this way, but they do not know that this is the very foundation of the ethics of Vedanta. Love means the expression of oneness in thought, word and deed.
“Where all beings have become one with the Self, what delusion, what sorrow can there be to him who has once realized this unity?”
* Self-knowledge leads to realization of oneness with all beings. When all beings appear as parts of one universal Self, there is neither delusion, nor fear, nor sorrow, because there can exist no other thing outside of Self or Atman for which one can grieve or from which one can suffer. Sorrow and fear arise so long as there is the sense of duality or multiplicity. * Isha Upanishad, verse 7
If all objects of fear and sorrow become one with the all-pervading Divine Self, then fear and sorrow must vanish. But so long as we think of other beings which exist outside of our Self, we cannot avoid grief and suffering which arise on their account. In absolute oneness, however, there cannot remain fear, sorrow, suffering, separation or self-delusion. This is another result of Self-knowledge.
Some people may think that Vedanta teaches us to be selfish, but this is far from true. The self becomes dead; the lower self vanishes, and with its disappearance all selfishness is destroyed. The word “Self” must not be taken for lower self or selfishness. It stands for Atman, the higher Self, which is our Divine nature.
There is no other expression in English by which we can convey the real meaning of Atman. We shall avoid confusion, therefore, if we use the Sanskrit word “Atman” to express our true Self. Then no one will mistake it for selfishness. “The Atman has pervaded all, effulgent, incorporeal, scatheless, untouched by brain or nerve centers, pure, sinless, a poet (Kavi), wise, omnipresent, self-existent, he has disposed all things aright for eternity.”
* That Atman (Self), who is the center of the universe, is all-pervading. Wherever our mind goes, the Atman goes there. It is the source of the light of intelligence; it is pure, spotless, sinless. Here you will notice that Vedanta teaches that we are not born in sin and iniquity, but that our Atman or true Self is sinless. By this it does not encourage us to do sinful acts, but it tells us that the moment one acquires Self-knowledge, from that moment one ceases to do anything wicked. The Atman is in the body, but it has no body. It is formless, that is, beyond gross and subtle forms. There arc forms which we cannot see except through the most powerful microscope, even such minutest forms do not affect the Self. It is absolutely beyond all forms; but at the same time it can appear in any form, and all forms exist in it. * Isha Upanishad, verse 8
Atman is beyond all nervous activity, or the function of the brain. The materialists maintain that when brain and nerve centers vibrate, self-consciousness is produced.
But Vedanta contradicts their statement by saying, “Beyond the reach of nerve centers and untouched by brain powers.” It is not affected by the changes of the body; there may be variations in the color or form of the physical body, or the body may be diseased or have some part mutilated, but that disease or mutilation will not produce any change in the true Self or Atman.
Therefore, Self-knowledge makes one free from nervousness and other physical ailments.
The word “Kavi” means poet, and also means the seer of things. Self is described as the greatest poet of the universe; this is one of the most beautiful expressions and attributes that can be given to Divinity—
He is the poet, His poetry is the universe. He is also described as the greatest artist.
His art we see in the sunrise and sunset. The sun, moon and stars are nothing but the paintings on infinite space by the hand of the Almighty artist.
True self or Atman is above good and evil, beyond virtue and vice. Some people ask: How can it be above good and evil?
Others say: It is only good. Good and evil, however, are two relative terms; evil exists in relation to good, and we cannot separate the one from the other. If we wish to take good, we shall have to take evil also. So with virtue and vice; one cannot exist without being elated to the other.
The Absolute Self is above all relativity; therefore, it is above good and evil, beyond virtue and vice. “There is no other seer than this Atman, no other knower.” Who can be the knower of the universe? There is one eternal Knower who knows the existence of all objects, and the knower in us is only a part of that eternal
Knower or God. The vast majority of mankind do not know this great truth; the preachers do not teach it, because they themselves do not understand it. If God is the Knower of all, then the Knower in us is a part of God. Vedanta tells us to realize the individual knower first; then will the Knower of the universe be known.
The Atman or true Self is never the object of knowledge, but it is always the subject. The cosmic or universal Knower is the same as that which people worship as God.
Thus by the light of Vedanta we can see God close to our souls; but in the Scriptures of special religions He is made remote. He is driven far out of our reach. Vedanta brings Him nearer than anything we possess. Although this Atman is all-pervading, yet it is beyond everything; it dwells in all things, still it is not the same as anything. It is never affected by phenomenal conditions. It transcends the changes of nature, yet it permeates nature. It is its own cause; in it cause and effect are identical. The Atman has no cause, yet it is the cause of all; and at the same time it is beyond the law of cause and effect.
The Self has existed by itself from the beginning-less past and will continue to exist throughout eternity; no one can see its beginning or its end, because beginning and end refer to time, and our search after them, being within the sphere of mental activity, is also subject to time.
We may search for the beginning and end of the phenomenal universe, but as the Atman (Self) is above all thought and beyond time and space, it can have neither end nor beginning.
“It is all-knowing.” All relative knowledge is only a partial expression of that wisdom which constitutes the nature of the Atman. Now we see that the attributes which people generally give to God, such as. He is omniscient, omnipotent, all-pervading, eternal, infinite, are also given by Vedanta to the Atman or true Self.
True Self is the Soul of our souls. Self-knowledge reveals that the attributes of God are also the attributes of the Atman. “Those who do not realize this true Self, dwell in the darkness of ignorance and go through the misery and sufferings which exist in that darkness.”
They are always fearful and unhappy. They fear death and everything that threatens their earthly existence, and they make their life miserable by attaching themselves to a particular form of manifestation which they are afraid of losing. They love sense-enjoyments and worldly pleasures, they feel disappointed and discontented if they do not find these, and they consider that this earthly life has no other higher aim or ideal.
The life of such persons is nothing but a continuous chain of fear and unhappiness. Those who are rich fear loss of fortune; those who have reputation and high position are afraid of losing them; while every man or woman suffers from the fear of disease and death. Do you suppose that these people will ever enjoy true happiness on this earth? No
They alone are truly happy who have become absolutely free from fear. Perfect happiness comes and all fear is conquered when Self-knowledge is gained. For this reason each one of us ought to make constant efforts to acquire it in this life. The light of Self-knowledge dispels the darkness of ignorance and frees us from fear, sorrow, miser)’, birth and death, as also from bondage, imperfection and delusion, which proceed from ignorance.
This ignorance is likewise the mother of selfishness. It has the power to veil the Divine and absolute Atman and to make us identify our true Self with the material body. Thus when forced by the inscrutable power of ignorance (Avidya) we forget our real Self, think of ourselves as the sons or daughters of mortals, we become finite and subject to such limitations as are understood by the term “selfishness.”
Self-knowledge destroys ignorance and makes one absolutely unselfish. Blessed is he who lives in the sunshine of Self-knowledge, having risen above the clouds of fear and selfishness which gather in the night of ignorance.
What is this world? It is produced by ignorance and bound by fear. Knowledge of the Self destroys all worldliness, brings spiritual strength and makes one fearless, as God is fearless. Does He fear anything? How can He? The moment we realize that God dwells in us, how can we fear? How can we have fear of death when we know that death merely means a change from one body into another, and that our true Self or Atman is unchangeable ? Those who do not possess Self-knowledge are miserable, and will be born again and again on this plane of ignorance until they have learned to realize their true Self.
Self-knowledge is the only source of happiness; it will lead to perfection and freedom. You may seek freedom, but how can you obtain it when you have become a slave of fear and earthly conditions? You are a part of Divinity.
Feel it, realize it, and all these tics will drop away and you will be free. The attainment of this freedom through Self-knowledge will bring to you the realization of your oneness with Divinity. Then you will be able to say:
"That light which I see in the sun is in me; and that which is in me is in the sun. I am the Lord of the body, senses and mind, and I am also the Lord of all phenomenal objects.""I am the light of the universe, through me shine the sun, moon, stars and the lightening. I have realized my true Self. I have realized the true Self of the universe and therefore I am one with the Absolute."
“May my speech be established in my mind; may my mind be fixed in my speech. O Divine Word! Thou hast manifested Thyself in the form of wisdom. Do Thou spread Thy powers through my words. Do not deprive me of the truth. May I always dwell in the truth. My salutations to the fire of wisdom, to the seers of Truth and to the Devas (bright spirits).
“O Divine Word! be propitious to us; stay in our spiritual space and be happy. Like the lord of light (the sun) constantly purify our hearts and reveal to our eyes
that which is auspicious for us. Do not leave us.
“Peace, Peace, Peace to all living creatures.”
Self Knowledge by Swami Abhendanada published 1905