Friday, September 29, 2006

Aatma, Paramatma, Paraatma and Sphurana

2. Defnition of Aatma, Paramatma and Paraatma and Sphurana

Atma – this is taken from the root “Aplru Vyaaptau” meaning “all-pervasive” – this is what Anandagiri gives in his Katha Upanishad tika to Sankara’s Bhashya on the same.

Sankara defines Atma in Katha Upanishad by quoting a sloka from Linga Purana as:

Yat cha aapnothi yadaaadathe
Yat cha atthi vishayaan iha
Yat cha asya santhatho bhaavah
Tasmaat atmethi keertyathe

That which pervades everything, that which attracts everything unto itself, that which enjoys all pleasures, that by which the world gets its sentience or existence, that is called as Atman or Self.

Thus Atma refers to the Self – that Self which seems to be limited but is never limited, that which is beyond all perceptions, that which is beyond all logic etc. Atma also means that which is very near and hence this means the entire region of experience that a person has. Atma is thus referred to as the Self which seems to be in bondage but not really in bondage.

So this limited intellect perceives aatma to be bonded with jeeva?

Yes – It is the antah karana arising out of avidya which causes the Self to consider itself as jeeva. Rather than the word “bonded with jeeva”, it is better to use “considering as jeeva” because in this case adhyaasa or superimposition happens – the jeeva is superimposed on the Self even as snake is superimposed on the rope. Thus the Self is considered as the limited jeeva who is the kartha and bhoktha – and is also in bondage and seeking realization or liberation.

Now, the doubt may come that what is difference between Atma and Brahman????? Brahman is never bondage at all – there never is also a chance of Brahman being bonded (Vidyaranya will make this very clear in the explanation of TAT TVAM ASI Mahavakya which will be taken in due course by Mallika). But Kutastha or Atma is that which may seem to be in bondage. Yes, both are almost same only but the terms differ depending on the perspective in which the seeker is – for a jnaani, both are same. For an ajnaani, Atma seems to be in bondage but Brahman is that which can never seem to be in bondage also.

Sphurana translated into english means “pulsation”. This pulsation doesn’t mean any kind of movement or change as in the external world objects because the Self is changeless as it is eternal. Pulsation means the feeling of existence that is experienced by the seeker each and every moment. Each moment, even without our knowledge we know and experience that “I-exist”. Nobody ever feels his own non-existence. This is what is called as sphurana of AHAM or ATMAN. This is in the form of continuous experience that “I-exist, I-exist”.

How is this pulsation experienced? If it is experienced, then will that not make the Self non-existence as that which is objectified has no real existence????

Pulsation is experienced intuitively as “I-exist” or the innate feeling that I am existing whatever be the condition or surroundings. Even when a person is about to die, he experiences that “I-exist” and never leaves this thought or feeling. This pulsation is experienced as one’s own very nature and not as an external object perception ----- it is existence of that which is the Subject of all objects.

The simplest way to explain pulsation or sphurana is by comparing the experience of a human being with a rock. The human being is sentient and hence has always the pulsation in the heart that “I-exist” (this is not a thought in the mind but one’s own very nature and self-present without any thoughts – even when thoughts are not there during samadhi or other states, still “I-exist” or pulsation of my existence is still there). A rock doesn’t have any pulsation because it doesn’t experience its own existence. This is clearly known when a person hits another human being – the being who has received the hit returns the hit (maybe J gives a double shot as per the offer – “if you buy one, you will get one more free”JJJ). But when a person hits a rock, it doesn’t do anything back (of course the hand will be pained if the rock is huge but that is because of the gross form and not a conscious response). This is what is the difference between that which has sphurana and that which doesn’t have.

WE as human beings have this pulsation each and every moment – there is not even a single moment when we don’t feel this pulsation as self-existing. We would not have consciously thought about it because it is not an object to thought but it is the Subject which cannot be objectified. Since this “I-exist” pulsation is required for perceing other entities and actions too, therefore this is the starting of all subjective and objective experiences – thus there is no time when this pulsation is not there (as time is insentient and requires this pulsation for its existence).

The next term is Paramaatma – the Upanishads and Vedas use this term to indicate Ishwara. Parama atma means that which is Supreme and has no relativity in the world at all – this means Paramaatman has no comparisons in the world even though he might not be Brahman as such. Paramaatman has two qualities which are Sarvajnatva and Sarvavyaapitva (all-knowing and all-pervasiveness). This ishwara also is an illusion as clearly stated by none other than Ramana Maharshi as

Isha Jeevayoh vesha dhee bidhaah
Sat svabhaavatho vasthu kevalam

Ishwara and Jeeva differ in the adjuncts only – the essence of both is Sat alone & therefore the entity is Absolute alone (one alone, no duality).
Kavyakantha Ganapathi Muni in his commentary on Ramana’s Upadesa Saram sloka quoted above tells that the qualities of “sarvajna” and “savavyaapya” of Ishwara & “alpajna” and “alpavyaapya” of Jeeva are adjunctions only which are not real but only an illusion.

Thus Paramaatman is only an illusion (Yes, I very well know that many saints and jeevan mukthas will disagree over here – as for eg: the Vivarana school which considers Ishwara as Brahman or Bimba Chaitanya which is reflected in intellect and becomes jeeva --- one example of the same would be Swami Tejomayananda, the current head of Chinmaya Mission). I have nothing against any saint and respect each one and their opinion as well – but as far as the limited intellect is considered, it feels it this way only & doesn’t believe in any other way as such.

Para means higher – when Para is used, there is ofcourse Apara instantly present. Apara means lower. Para atma means the higher Self or Kutastha with respect to the lower Self which is “jeeva” – the reflection. When Para atma is used with TAT (to explain Brahma in the mahavakya Aham brahma asmi which Mallika will be explaining next), Para atma means Brahman with respect to apara atma which is ishwara. Para is only a relative term.

Paratma is relative – so is Paramatman – but Atman alone is absolute. Atman is also universal because in many places of Gita, Atma word is used for body, mind etc. (as per almost all of the different vedantic schools acharya’s interpretations) – thus, this word ATMA or Self refers to everything in the world which exists as everything that exists needs Consciousness to exist & thus is not different from Consciousness.

Ramana tells in his talks that the jnaani doesn’t consider the self alone as Atma but he considers even the body and the world as Self only.

Hope the difference of the three terms is clear. Maybe, we should try to discuss the various terms used in Vedanta to get a clear picture and understanding of Vedantic concepts.

We have previously seen the meaning of the different terms in Vedanta of Kutastha, Nirguna Brahman, Jeeva and Ishwara.


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