Search After the Self Part 2
how can that be the immortal Self, which is not conscious of itself or of anything else? No knowledge or consciousness remains in this state, Everything is destroyed then.
Did the master mean by Self the destruction of all thoughts, feelings, sensation, consciousness and knowledge? In deep sleep state we have neither feelings, nor dreams, nor sensations, nor consciousness of the body or of the external world.
He could not understand how that state of annihilation could be the true Self, so he came back and asked the question: “Bhagavad, dost thou mean that true Self is the state of absolute annihilation of consciousness, knowledge, sensation and feelings?”
The master answered:
“No, that is not true Self.”
Here we should notice how the great spiritual master gradually directs the mind of the disciple from the gross physical body through the abstract to the Absolute.
True Self is the Absolute beyond all comprehension.
If we start from this state of dreamless sleep, rising above all feelings,
thoughts and sensations, and if we can go still further we shall find our true Self.
Now the master was extremely gratified to see his return and said: “Your understanding is profound; I will explain to you what true Self is. Live with me for another five years and no more.”
At the end of the last five years the master imparted the highest knowledge to his faithful pupil:
"This gross physical body cannot be the Self, it is subject to death, in fact, it is constantly attacked by death." The life of the body is nothing but a series of deaths or changes. Every particle of the body is continually changing, and if that change stops for a second the body will live no more. "By death this body is perpetually attacked; death is always working in the body." The word "body" here includes all the sense-organs. The organs of the senses are also subject to similar changes, consequently they are dying at every moment. "The body is the abode or instrument of the Self, which is immortal and without body." Through this instrument the Self or Atman comes in contact with the gross material world. If the true Self does not manufacture the body it cannot come in direct touch with the objects of the senses.
The body, therefore, exists for the enjoyment of the Self; it is the medium with which the Self being identified, it thinks “I am the body” and experiences heat and cold, pleasure and pain. But the ruler of this body is the Self, while the body is its abode.
The real agent that perceives through the senses is the true Self within us. Sensations are produced by the contact of material objects with the sense-organs.
The gross objects, having forms, cannot directly come in close contact with the Self unless it manifests itself through the physical form of the body. But formless is the true nature of the Self, who is the knower of this body, the enjoyer of sensations, the doer of all actions.
“The Self,” said the master, “has no particular form.” It dwells within the body without having any special shape. We should bear in mind that our true Self is formless, although our body is with form; then we should understand that the changes of the body do not affect the Self. Since the Self is formless, how can it be the same as the shadow of the body ?
The lord of the demons, having his intellect covered with Tamas, the darkness of ignorance, and having an impure mind and an imperfect understanding, could not grasp the true meaning of the Self.
The master waited for him to ask further questions, but as he went away satisfied in his heart that he had learned everything regarding the Self, Prajapati was not anxious to force upon him his knowledge of the Absolute Self or Atman, which he was utterly incapable of receiving. Virochana, therefore, did not acquire the knowledge of the true Self, which is formless and immortal. All the organs of the senses, all sensations, in fact everything connected with the body, is
transitory; if we can realize this we can know that the immortal Self cannot be one with the body. This formless Self dwells in the body for a time, and after leaving it remains formless.
“So long as the Self (At-man) lives in the body and is identified with it, it is not free from pleasure and pain, but he who knows the Self as separate from the physical abode, is untouched by pleasure and pain.”
It may be asked. How can the formless Atman manifest itself through the body which has a form? Wind has no form, steam has no particular form, electricity is formless, but still they appear through forms.
When the wind blows, although it is formless, it comes in direct contact with objects with form, and shows its form and power by moving them; so, also, steam is without form, but think how it manifests its gigantic force through engines and locomotives. The atmosphere is filled with electricity, which is imperceptible to our eyes and senses, yet it takes various forms, such as lightning and thunder.
We do not feel the presence of atmospheric electricity; it required a Marconi to make us realize the value and importance of this invisible current in the atmosphere. The forces of nature are always invisible and formless.
No one has ever seen or touched a force per se. Its existence can only be inferred by seeing its manifestation through forms.
As all the imperceptible forces can be perceived by the senses under certain conditions,
so the Atman or true Self, although imperceptible by nature, manifests its power and intelligence through the form of the physical body.
How can we know the power of thinking except by its manifestation as thoughts?
In the same manner the existence of the powers of seeing and feeling is inferred from their expressions.
If the sight remains unmanifested in a man we call him blind; and he is known as an idiot whose mental and intellectual powers have become latent; but when the expression of these ‘ powers begins we see their outward effects.
No one could have inferred what powers exist in the Atman if the true Self had not manifested through the body the powers of seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, moving, seizing, thinking, feeling, etc.
They proceed from the Atman, the self-intelligent center within us. In the state of ignorance these faculties of the soul appear as produced by the body, which is mistaken for the Self; but when the light of Self-knowledge begins to shine the Atman reveals itself in its true nature as separate from the body and possessing all powers and intelligence.
As an ignoramus cannot distinguish the wind clouds and electricity from etherial space, so a self-deluded soul cannot distinguish the true Self from the material organism.
He who possesses Self-knowledge, realizes that the Atman is the Highest Being (Purusha). He is always happy, enjoying the play of life's sports under all conditions and never thinking of the material body, which is the mere abode of the intelligent Self.
The true Self, as we have already seen, possesses Prajna, intelligence, and Prana, | activity, these two will be found at the foundation of the phenomenal universe. When these are latent or potential there is no evolution.
Vibrations of all kinds, cosmic or molecular, and all kinds of motion are but the expressions of the activity of Prana. Intelligence is manifested by human beings, as also by lower animals, the difference being only in degree and not in kind of manifestation.
Wherever intelligence, life-force or any kind of activity is to be found, there is the expression of the Self. No knowledge is possible without self-consciousness.
First we must know ourselves before we can know anything. We may not know our real Self on account of imperfect understanding, still we possess some kind of self-consciousness. In Vedanta these two, intelligence and Prana are described as the ultimate generalizations of all phenomena of the universe; and they proceed from the Cosmic Self or Brahman,
which is the source of all knowledge and of the activity of mind and senses.
Indra said: “The Self is the greatest Being in the universe.” When properly understood we cannot separate this Atman or true Self from the universal or Cosmic Being, because there exists only one ocean of the absolute Being or substance which is called by various names, such as God, Brahman, Atman, Self,
When that absolute Being expresses itself through our forms it becomes our true Self, the source of mental and physical activity, as well as of intelligence and consciousness.
All desires are certain forms of mental activity; they could neither rise nor exist if the self-conscious entity were not at the foundation of all activities. He who has acquired Self-Knowledge can live in the world performing all kinds of works, enjoying all pleasures, but at the same time without being affected or disturbed by any unpleasant condition of this world.
The knowledge of Self protects the soul from being agitated by phenomenal changes. "As a horse, being yoked to a carriage makes it move, so this conscious Self, being attached to the chariot of the body, makes it perform its functions by the power of Prana and intelligence."
Or we may compare the body to an automobile, the propelling powder of which proceeds from the true Self. If the Self be separated or disconnected from the organs of the senses the eyes will see no sight, the ears will hear no sound, the nose will smell no odor, the tongue will taste nothing, the hands and feet will perform no work. Indra continued:
“The eye itself is only an instrument, the seer is behind the pupil of the eye. The real seer and knower of sight is the true Self. The nose is the instrument, but the knower of smell is the true Self. The tongue is the instrument of speech, but the knower of speech is the conscious Self; the ear is the instrument of hearing, but he who hears is the true Self. He who thinks is the true Self, and the mind is his spiritual eye.
Through this spiritual or divine eye the Self or Atman sees all pleasures and rejoices.” The mind, intellect, heart, are the instruments of the true Self, which is the knower of all mental activities. “The Devas, who are in the highest heaven, worship and meditate upon this Self; therefore, all worlds belong to them and they have obtained the fulfillment of all desires.
He who knows this Self and realizes it obtains all worlds and all desires.” He who possesses Self-knowledge is the master of the world and lord of everything, like the gods of the highest heaven. In him all desires are fulfilled.
He no longer desires anything of the world, nor does he seek happiness from outside. He possesses all powers; in short, he is omnipotent, omniscient and ever blissful. Thus the great master explained the mystery of the true Self; and the earnest, sincere and pure-hearted disciple realized it through his blessing. Indra served Prajapati one hundred and one years, as it is said in the story.
This shows that knowledge of the true Self cannot be easily acquired. Patience, perseverance,and earnest and sincere longing are the steps toward the attainment of Self-knowledge.
Indra became happy, and with gratitude in heart and salutations to his Divine master,he went home and gave the fruit of his hard labor to the Devas. All of them followed his directions, realized the Self and became masters of the worlds. Such is the power and greatness of Self-knowledge.
“May the Divine Self protect the teacher and the student. May he feed our souls with nectar of eternal truth. May he grant us spiritual strength . May our studies bring the realization of the absolute!
“Peace, Peace, Peace be unto us and to all living creatures.”
Self Knowledge by Swami Abhendanada published 1905