'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.
We are now studying Aatmabodha. As always, with each week, you are encouraged to review the previous teachings and spend some time in contemplation of the meanings as the affect your life. Please do consider purchasing the text. Remember, also, to recite the mangala charana before each study and review the lessons before each new one.
The text under study is a discussion of aatmaa (soul) and Aatman (Divine Soul) and how the two are one, yet appear dual. Many examples and analogies are being used to try and convey the exquisitely Supreme quality of Aatman. The next shloka makes this very point quite directly;
Tadv&iÄsai][< iv*adaTman< rajvTsda.18.
tadvRttisaakshinam vidyaadaatmaanam raajavatsadaa ||18||
One should understand that the Aatman is always like the king, distinct from the body, senses, mind and intellect, which constitute the matter; and It is the witness of their functions.
Here an important term is brought into full use; sai][/saakshinam. The saakshi is the observer self and saakshinam is the verbal form. Saakshi is the inner place where we can withdraw from our senses in vairagya, the better to serve viveka and gain a better understanding of the 'way of things'.
The pure and All-pervading Intelligence called as Brahman (Aatman) is that very observer. It is able to sit apart from all the encumbrances of matter (prakRti) and, although not specifically called out in this shloka, it is also separate from the jiivaatman - the ego self, which is part of the antaH karana (mind, intellect, ego, 'chitta').
Another term used here is ivl][m!/vilakshanam; lakshana has several variations of expression, but essentially it points to relationship/connection; by use of the prefix 'vi-' it is being made clear that there is no actual bond between Aatman and jiivaatman other than the observational quality. By being present within us as the observer, it is the very life-essence, for, without that enlivening factor, this whole discussion would be nullified! It could be said that in Its observation, It is also the Illuminator. The example of the king held more weight in earlier times, one supposes, but think of anyone in power. They will sit back and watch as the world dances around them; this is the inference here.
This also points to the 'aloofness' of "God". Subjectively analysed, Self is witness to the play of life, all the good and bad of it, the knowledge of right and wrong, sorrows and joys… all the aspects of our subjective living are watched by It. All our experiences and knowledge (that which we can verify) as well as Knowledge (Mystery, that which we do not know or can verify) - bhaava and abhaava - are all illumined by that one Awareness; it does not identify with events on any level and is never a sharer in experience. It is purely observer, unpartisan, disinterested - yet, like the king/director, holds all the power.
Here is the crux of all faith structures. A knowing that there is a certain power behind all creation but never truly being able to describe It and certainly being unable to set up proper dialogue with It. A few determined and blessed souls have persevered and even fewer have broken through the barriers between the physical self and the True Self; and whilst there are variances in reportage of such experiences, the common thread is that there is something beyond us which we will forever attempt to describe and hold to ourselves.
For the vast majority, however, we can only determine the nature of Aatman based upon our worldly experiences - this can lead to confusions and misconceptions… as will be taken up in the next shloka.