Friday, October 27, 2006

Self or Atman - the ultimate goal


As we discussed in the last posting, we all are seeking the goal in the wrong place & hence the ultimate goal is inaccessible to many. We will see today as to where is the ultimate goal to be sought.

The ultimate goal is termed in Vedanta as Brahman and often equated (as per Advaita) to Atman or one's own very nature of Consciousness. Thus the place where the ultimate goal of atman is to be sought is inside oneself.

How can we seek ourselves???
We can seek ourselves by turning the mind inward and contemplating on Brahman as being the Atman and pervading everything as the substratum of all illusions. The scriptures give an analogy of realizing one's own nature as the story of ten fools.

There were ten fools who were going to a particular place. They had to cross a river on the way. They crossed the river. Now, they were worried as to whether everyone was alive or any one person was missing after crossing the river. Therefore they all stood and one of the person started counting. He counted and ended with 9. They all started crying that one person was missing and might be dead. Another person counted and came up with the same number of 9. What was happening was that the counting person forgot to count himself & hence the count was always 9 only. Thus they all started weeping over there. A passer-by saw these and came near them. He then told them that he will count & the count was 10. They were all excited. Then he told them that the counting person had missed himself and hence the count was only 9. He asked one among them to count and the count was 9. The passer-by told that "you are the tenth person". Thus they were all happy that the 10th person was alive.

Here the tenth person never really died but the counting person forgot about himself. Similarly we have forgotten our own very nature of Lord or Self. When the passer-by of Guru comes to us and points out that "you are that Brahman alone" (Tat tvam asi), then we realize our mistake. Hearing the Guru's words, we try to analyze the same and thereby realize our very nature of Brahman. As the tenth person was never dead or missing, the Self is never dead or missing. We are always the Self only but seem to have forgotten our own nature. When we hear the truth in the scriptures from the Guru, we contemplate on the same thereby realizing our nature of Self or Brahman.

As the tenth person forgot himself, similarly we all have forgotten our own very nature Self. This forgetfulness is attributed to ignorance. Ignorance can never be explained as the Self or Subject can never be forgotten but still seems to be forgotten. Ignorance can thus only be removed or negated through knowledge of the Self through study of scriptures.

Sankara quotes from Purana to explain the word of AATMA or Self thus in his Katha Upanishad bhashya:

Yat cha aapnothi yadaadatte yat cha atti vishayaan iha
Yat cha asya santhatho bhaavah tasmaad atmethi keerthyathe

That towards which everyone is attracted, that which experiences/enjoys the sensual pleasures, that through which the world achieves its "reality" status, that is known as the Atman or Self.

We will see in the next posting as to how this Atman or Self is the same as Para Brahman of the Upanishads.