Jewels of Wisdom Discourse, Discovering the Atma

Jewels of Wisdom Discourse
Discovering the Atma

Embodiments of Love!
No penance can be equal to peace. Real penance consists not in leading the life of an ascetic in a forest but in worshiping God in thought, word and deed. Where is the need for any penance to acquire peace if that peace is already present in the heart? Peace can be got when one's vision is turned inward.

There is no happiness greater than contentment. How many miserable people are there in the world who have all the comforts they need! The ancient king Dhritarashtra had all regal comforts and had a hundred sons but could find no peace. Creature comforts cannot be equated with peace. Contentment, it is said, confers the greatest happiness. It follows that true happiness resides in the heart and everyone should seek it there.

Excessive desires are the source of all ills. There is momentary satisfaction from the fulfillment of some desires. But when desires are not realized, man becomes sick in many ways. There is no more dreadful disease in the world than insatiable desire.

There is no Dharma (right conduct) equal to compassion for the simple reason that a compassionate heart is the abode of the Divine. Where there is compassion there is no need for other acts of charity.

The Indian sages from ancient times have given the highest place of honor and esteem to one word - Atma. This is also known as "Eruka" (Awareness or Consciousness). This awareness finds expression in the term "Aham" ("I"). When this "Aham" identifies itself with a bodily form, it becomes "Ahamkara" (the ego). This ego is not the natural state of "Aham". It is by relating itself to a particular form that "Aham" becomes "Ahamkara". But in its essence, it is pure and unsullied consciousness.

It is the mind that comes in the way of the proper understanding of "Aham". Just as the clouds that arise out of the vapors produced by the sun may hide the sun for a time, the mind veils the "Aham" by its thoughts and desires, though the mind arises from the Atma.

The role of the mind in relation to the Atmic principle has to be properly understood. It operates as an obstacle to the awareness of Atma.

The term "I" originated in the Atma. The "I" is the form of "Aham". Terms like "Aham", God, Awareness and Atma are all synonymous. When the "I" (Aham) is rightly understood one becomes a Knower of the Self (Atma-Jnani).

There is a fundamental principle to which the "I" is related. The "I" has no basis in the body. It has to recognize its link with its primary source.

Every object in the world has its origin in a primary source. This cannot be created by anyone. There is a primordial source which is responsible for all creation. Very few care to enquire into the nature of the source.

From the worldly point of view, we have a doer (Kartha), the duty (Karma), and the deed (Kriya). But from the spiritual point of view all three are one and the same - the doer, the duty and the deed. This Atmic Principle is one and one only.

It is said that Sath-Chith-Ananda (Being-Awareness-Bliss) are the attributes of the Atma (Self). But these three are not distinct entities. They are not three different states. Chith (Awareness) and Ananda (Bliss) are present in Sath (Being) like sugar which is dissolved in water becomes one with it as syrup.

There is an illustration which explains why it is difficult to recognize the Atmic Principle. Consider a cup containing fruit juice. The cup is not aware of the nature of the juice. A man uses a straw to suck the juice. The straw does not know anything about the juice. The Buddhi (intellect) recognizes the taste of the juice. It does not enjoy it. The juice is sent down to the stomach, where it gets converted to three parts - the gross, which is excreted, the subtle which becomes blood and helps sustain life and the subtler goes to the Prajna-Shakti (Constant Integrated Awareness), which is synonymous with the Self. In this analogy, the cup is the body, the straw represents the senses. Prajnana (the Integrated Awareness) is the Atma.

Prajnana, Awareness, the "I", Atma, Ananda, Brahmam are all synonymous terms. Worldly persons may see differences in these words, but in spiritual parlance they mean the same thing.

The "I" (Aham) is of two kinds. One which is associated with attachment to the body; and the other that dissociates it from the body. Both are "I". But the "I" that is identified with the body becomes the ego (Ahamkara). The ego carries a form wherever it goes. But the formless "I" not identified with a body, is the Atma. The formless Atma has no attributes. But when it is associated with a form it has all attributes. Today people experience only the "I" (Aham) that is identified with the body. They cannot conceive of an "I" (Aham) that is not identified with the body. They cannot conceive of an "I" without a body. But, by treating the body as the basis, if the vision is turned inward, the Atma can be experienced in due course. This is called "Direct Perception of the Self". This means tracking the "I" to its source. A man walking with his back to the sun will be treading on his own shadow. Only when he reverses direction will he be able to leave his shadow behind. The same process applies to the realization of the Self. The journey must be directed towards the Self within and away from the external world.

What is needed today in the world is the diverting of the mind from preoccupation with the external world of Nature to the Divinity within. This is the sadhana you have to do. In this way you see the Divine in everything instead of seeing Nature as a physical phenomenon. When you see the external world as a manifestation of God, you will not notice the phenomenal aspect of Nature (Prakriti). View Nature as a manifestation of God.

How is this to be experienced in real life with its joys and sorrows? This can be understood from an example. When you sleep, you have dreams in which you experience joys and sorrows. They seem real as long as you sleep. On awakening, you realise that they were all unreal and mere dreams. In the waking state you have other experiences. What is the relationship between these two categories of experiences? What you experience in the waking state is also a dream, a waking dream. The reality is that in both the states - the sleeping you and the waking you are present as the dreamer.

The difference between a dream in sleep and what happens in the waking state relates mainly to the time factor. In a dream in sleep, a person may go through the entire experiences of his life from childhood to old age in a few minutes. The dream compresses the experiences of many years within so many minutes. Likewise what happens over many years in the waking state may appear as a few moments in spiritual experience.

Our conception of reality is related to the time factor. Time causes great difference between what is directly perceived and what is indirectly experienced. The Atma is the unchanging entity that is able to recognize the changes brought about by time.

The awareness of the unchanging reality underlying the phenomenal world of change is the Atmic Principle called "eruka". It is present in every one as the "Aham" (the "I"). But each one views the world from one's particular circumstance, background and experience. The Atmic Principle is explained or described in different ways. There is no connection between its reality and the way it is experienced. The analogies used for explaining the Atmic Principle have their inherent limitations.

God is declared to be omnipresent. How do you decide this omnipresence? There is a practical means of deciding this. We are aware of the five basic elements - earth, water, fire, air and space (ether or Akasha) with five qualities - smell, fluidity, sight, touch, and sound. The earth has all the five qualities, including primarily "gandha" (or smell). Water has "rasa" or fluidity. It is lighter than earth and is mobile. It has four qualities. Fire has three qualities of which "rupa" or form is most prominent. It is lighter than water. Then you have air, which is lighter than fire and has two qualities: touch (sparsa) and vibrant movement (sound or sabda). Last comes "Akasha" (ether or space) which is the subtlest of the five elements and is all pervading. Transcending space is God who is omnipresent.

When you pursue your inquiry in this manner you find that the different qualities account for feelings and reactions. These qualities have to be brought under control. Simultaneously one has to reduce the burdens of mundane existence and the desires that fill the mind. Man today is weighed down by the overwhelming burdens of desires. Spiritual progress is directly related to the reduction of desires. God's grace goes with human effort.

Earlier two teachers spoke about their experiences and extolled the power of the Divine. But this Divine power does not operate independently of human effort. In fact, every individual has this Divine power. They are invoking Divine power as an auxiliary to their own power, which comes from the Divine. Failing to recognize their inherent divine power, they attribute it to someone other than themselves.

Some devotees tend to blame God if their desires are not fulfilled. When devotees pray with pure hearts, their purity itself helps to bring them relief. But they are thankful to God for saving them. God is not involved in either of these results. They are the fruits of the devotees' own efforts and attitudes. In our college, there is a placard which carries the saying: "Dharma protects its protector. It destroys its destroyer." Likewise, when your faith in the Divine is total, that faith will help you. Develop that confidence in the Self. The Self is not visible even as the foundations of a big mansion are not visible. But without the foundations the edifice cannot stand. Likewise self-confidence is the base for self-satisfaction. The roof of the mansion is self-sacrifice. Then you have self-realisation.

Man must develop strong faith. That will confer all spiritual experiences. The Upanishads declare: Arise from the slumber of ignorance and go forward towards awareness of the Self.

Embodiments of Love! Whatever other beliefs you may cherish or not, have firm faith in God. All things in the world are liable to perish. The Self (Atma) alone is eternal and changeless.

It is unfortunate that the vast majority of mankind lead mundane lives forgetting God. Make God the foundation of your life. Carry on your normal duties. Duty is God. Work is worship. Spiritualize all your actions and treat whatever happens as actions for your good. Learn to experience perennial bliss by seeking union with God. Never forget God. Do not go after the things of the world. Have no fear of death. When your life is rooted in these three maxims, you will realise the Atman.

Discourse by Sathya Sai Baba at Sai Kulwant Hall, October 9, 1997
Nov. 1997 Issue, Sanathana Sarathi (The Eternal Charioteer)

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