Knowledge & Experience

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The 'I-thought', aham-vṛtti, which is the buddhi, becomes conscious because it reflects the consciousness of the self and so too, the 'this-thought', idam-vṛtti, in the mind. Then again, because the mind is in association with the sense organs, they also become conscious.

When the senses become conscious, the body becomes conscious, because one sense organ, the sense of touch, is all over the body. Through the sense of touch, the whole body becomes aglow with consciousness like an iron ball becomes aglow with the brilliance and heat of fire. Ātmā does not need to be known to you as conscious and existent by any other means of knowledge. It is already evident. The only problem is that because consciousness, which is the nature of ātmā, pervades the entire body, people think the body is ātmā. Because consciousness is present in this body, if you touch the body, actually, it is ātmā you are touching. Though the body is inert, jada, in both the hand that touches and the hand you are touching, there is consciousness, because ātmā is there; you are there.

There is no difference between the reflection, ābhāsa, of consciousness and consciousness, caitanya, though the reflection is consciousness while consciousness is not the reflection. Therefore, in the physical body, the reflection, ābhāsa, there is caitanya. That is the ātmā. This is why Śaṅkara says that people in general, who have not inquired into the śāstra and therefore do not have any discrimination, think that the physical body alone is the ātmā. Without any vicara, inquiry, the body is taken to be the ātmā, and that is natural, because the body, deha, is conscious. It is very natural to conclude that this conscious body is me and everything else is other than myself. How can you say ātmā is unknown?

In fact, the body is not really taken to be ātmā. It is only because of the consciousness there that I look at the body and say, ‘This is me.’ What I identify myself as is nothing but the conscious being. Therefore, that consciousness, which is the ātmā, is known already. The problem with taking the ātmā to be the body alone is that it is going to be subject to ageing, illness and death, as the body is. This conclusion is due to lack of discrimination, aviveka. Since ātmā is already known, but wrongly, we have to negate all that it is not, in the form of ‘neti neti.’ Then, whatever remains as the innermost self, pratyagātmā, is said to be Brahman—ayamātmā brahma. That is the teaching, upadeṣa, wherein the cognition, the vṛtti, that ātmā is Brahman removes ignorance and goes away. Once the vṛtti has removed ignorance of the ātmā, you do not need a special vṛtti to know ātmā, for ātmā is always present in any vṛtti.

Only the caitanya, the consciousness, that is reflected in the vṛtti, is called jñāna. It is important to understand here that the vṛtti itself is not jñāna. Even when we talk of ‘pot knowledge,’ knowledge belongs to consciousness alone, because the knowledge aspect is consciousness. The qualifying is done by a name and form, nāma and rūpa. Therefore, every vṛtti has the presence of consciousness. In the knower consciousness, knowledge consciousness, known consciousness—in all three—one consciousness alone is present. Therefore, there is no way of missing ātmā at any time.

‘Bhagavad Gita Home Study Course’ Ch.18 v.50 Swami Dayananda
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