'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 drawn several quite abstract analogies to represent the Self within us, the next shloka brings things a little more into perspective of the personal.
rJjuspRvdaTman< jIv< }aTva _ay< vhet!,
Naah< jIv> praTmeit }atZceiÚ_aRyae _avet!.27.
Rajjusarpa-vadaatmaanam jiivam jnaatvaa bhayam vahet,
Naaham jiivaH paraatmeti jnaatashchen-nirbhayo bhavet ||27||
Just as the person who regards a rope as a snake is overcome by fear, so also one considering oneself as the ego (jiiva) is overcome by fear. The egocentric individuality in us becomes fearless by realising that it is not a jiiva, but the Supreme Self.
This is a classic example of Vedanta, which is often quoted. A person walks along and, due to not being focused in the moment, is caught off balance when, on coming across a piece of rope coiled at the side of the path, gets a fright by thinking perhaps it is a snake. For many in the West, it can seem not quite right, because snakes are not commonplace in many countries; nevertheless it is not a difficult analogy, because the human mind plays such tricks on itself. There can be similar examples found. Many folk are not keen on spiders, for example. If a leaf falls onto their arm when they are otherwise occupied, for the briefest moment there is a shudder, a catching of the breath and a tendency to want to brush the thing away in disgust or fear as the poor innocent leaf is mistaken for a spider. The survival instinct is always towards self-protection and it can set up scenarios of such falsity.
In either scenario, when the walker discovers that the 'snake' is nothing more than a rope, or the 'spider' no more than a leaf, there is a wry smile and a self-reprimand for being so silly.
The superimposition upon the rope of its being a snake (or the leaf as being a spider) only takes place when the existence of the rope (or leaf) is not perceived - non-apprehension. Instead, a firm belief that there is a snake lying there is held, which is an erroneous perception, no matter how real it seems - misapprehension. In the briefest amount of time, the established fear of the snake (or spider) is so strong in the individual, that the bite can almost be felt and is certainly feared. Sometimes, the misapprehension continues beyond mere seconds, so high is the fear that the eye does not see clear and the mind goes into panic about all possible outcomes of entanglement with the fearful critter. The substratum for the snake is the rope, but in that moment it is not seen or believed.
Likewise, we are told here, the non-apprehension of the Self and the misapprehension of the body, mind and intellect, means that we take the latter for the real thing over that which is actually the substratum and therefore the Truth. Thus our ego-self continues to suffer its fears.
We are not the limited individuals we take ourselves to be. There is a limitless region of experiences, beyond what is known at present, but it is shut out from us because of our self-centred existence. When the realisation of the True Nature of Self comes into our ken - even if only theoretical at first - then we start to lose our fears and begin to waken to a rediscovery of bliss. We come to laugh at our previous ignorance and silliness for making the mistake.