'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.
Having brought things down to a more immediate level with the rope as snake example, the Guru now returns to slightly more abstract analogies.
dIpae "qaidvTSvaTma jfEStEnaR-v_aaSyte.28.
Diipo ghataadivat-svaatmaa jadaistairna-avabhaasyate ||28||
Just as a lamp illumines a jar or a pot, so also the Aatman illumines the mind, the sense organs and so on. These material objects cannot illumine themselves by themselves, because they are inert.
This shloka as a stand alone seems straightforward enough; we know that a bulb cannot glow without the electricity contact being turned on. It's just glass and metal until that juice runs through it. Easy-peasy?
Well it's a start to understanding. However, the alert and attentive student who has been following the flow of the text - and this is implied in all forms of study, that we know and understand fully what has preceded the portion of text currently under study - it will have become apparent that Sanskrit formations have lakshana (inner meanings) to be cracked open from the language. Hence the English translation fails us somewhat, for there is a tendency in this language to take the words at face value.
The previous shloka gives us a clue of how to gain more from this one. We learned of the illusion of the snake appearing upon the substratum of the rope and that this illusion occurred only within our own limited physical equipment of mind. We are inclined to always accept that the mind and intellect are our highest nature and thus become deeply involved in all that goes on around us. If we pull back to the substratum within us, the aatman, we become the observer… and the observer does not get involved. The electricity in the bulb, or the lamplight in the pot, have no engagement with the activity which can occur because of the light's presence. The light is never actually part of the bulb or pot, which is why when the juice is removed, the material parts we call as bulb or lamp do not continue to glow. They cannot shed light without the presence of the powering juice.
Equally, as wonderful as our mind and intellect are, they are still of the material world (albeit very, very subtle), thus are nothing without the illumining 'juice' of the aatman, the life principle. In the Keno Upanishad we find the shloka,
यन्मनसा न मनुते येनाहुर्मनो मतम् ।
तदेव ब्रह्म त्वं विद्धि नेदं यदिदमुपासते ॥ ६ ॥
yanmanasā na manute yenāhurmano matam |
tadeva brahma tvaṃ viddhi nedaṃ yadidamupāsate || 6 ||
What mind does not comprehend, but what comprehends the mind, know thou That alone as Brahman, and not this that people worship here.
The 'not this' referred to is the physical being, the body, mind and intellect and all the senses which operate within them. The material combinations may vary in multifarious ways, but the One Spirit which is changeless is the one glory which gives the glitter to this whole show!