'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.
Looking now at the aspect of Aatman which "I"dentifies…
AaTmn> siCcd<zZc buÏev&RiTtirit Öym!,
s<yaeJy caivveken janamIit àvtRte.25.
aatmanaH sacchidamshashcha buddher-vRttiriti dvayam,
Samyojya chaavivekena jaanaamiiti pravartate ||25||
By the indiscriminate blending of the two - the Existence (and) Consciousness aspects of the Self and the thought wave of the intellect - there arises the notion of "I Know".
We have been learning that the Self, Aatman, is self-effulgent, a light requiring no external power. Equally, we are to understand that the mind is a product of matter and is therefore intrinsically inert. Without the illumination of Consciousness, mind remains inert and powerless. The awareness within us is something greater than the sum of the material parts, regardless of their subtlety. (That said, it seems somewhat contradictory to think of matter and non-matter 'uniting'. At best we can presume that the matter is an imposition upon the non-matter; अध्यारोप /adhyaaropa - superimposition, is one of the great premises of Advaita and will be discussed more and more and deeper and deeper as the student progresses.)
The experience of "I Know" can only take place where a thought comes into the 'spotlight' of Aatman Consciousness. Each thought, one after the other in speedy succession, gets its moment in the spotlight and the concept of identity, a thinking entity, arises. The antaH karana is ever on the stage ready for exposure to the spotlight. When the external makes its presence felt through the various sense organs, the mind produces responses (according to learned experience). Remember, just as mind can be defined as a constant flow of thoughts, life can be defined as a constant flow of experiences. The storage medium for these experiences is the brain. To 'know' what is happening now, and comparing them to the stored experiences in order to respond accordingly, is the description of the purpose of intellectual life.
The Aatman is Absolute Knowledge, the very core of Knowledge itself, beyond which nothing else need be known. Being Knowledge means that the Self has nothing, as such, to know. Why then do we, at our level, say that 'we know'?
As described, the theory is that knowledge of things and experiences can only be gained as a result of the light shed from the Higher Consciousness which bounces against each thought. An established illustration of this is that of the bucket of water sitting in a dark room. At a certain point, the sun shines through the window and hits the surface of the water, which reflects a wider light into the room and may even make a clear spread of light upon the opposite wall. If we play with the water, the surface breaks up and the light becomes dimmer or disappears altogether. The more agitated the water surface, the less reflective it becomes.
When the Self, ever-present and ever-shining, hits our antaH karana it reflects as an awareness. Due to the presence of thoughts within the individual's matter equipments, the "I" which knows gets claimed as our own, in the form of ahankaara - the ego. The more disturbed the mind (reflecting surface) the less we are able to see the Self which is our true nature and more ego-centric we are. Likewise, with agitated minds vexed with the worries of life, even the most intelligent of men find it difficult to think in a clear and focused manner… the inner light is dimmed.
In this ego-centric state, we attribute anger, knowledge and all such characteristics to the Aatman, because we are ignorant of the pollution which has occurred at the material level. In reality, the Aatman is nothing but the very Existence-Consciousness-Bliss which underpins all these things but is untouched by them and in no way becomes altered by them. The conditions we put together and call as 'life' exist as an imposition upon the Self.