Aparokshanubhuti (2)
By Adi Shankaracharya (788-820 CE)

The Self-Effulgent Nature Of The Atman  

22. The luminosity of Atman consists in the manifestation of all objects. Its luminosity is not like that of fire or any such thing, for (in spite of the presence of such lights) darkness prevails at night (at some place or other).

= Its luminosity is not, etc.—The light of Atman is unlike any other light. Ordinary lights are opposed to darkness and are limited in their capacity to illumine things. It is a common experience that where there is darkness there is no light; and darkness always prevails at some place or other, thus limiting the power of illumination of such lights. Even the light of the sun is unable to dispel darkness at some places. But the light of Atman is ever present at all places. It illumines everything and is opposed to nothing, not even to darkness; for it is in and through the light of Atman, which is present in everybody as consciousness, that one comprehends darkness as well as light and all other things.

23. How strange is it that a person ignorantly rests contented with the idea that he is the body, while he knows it as something belonging to him (and therefore apart from him) even as a, person who sees a pot (knows it as apart from him)!


The Nature Of Knowledge  

24. I am verily Brahman, being equanimous, quiescent and by nature absolute Existence, Knowledge and Bliss. I am not the body which is non-existence itself. This is called true Knowledge by the wise.

= I am verily Brahman—‘I’, the Self or Atman, is Brahman, as there is not even a single characteristic differentiating the two. In other words, there are no two entities as Atman and Brahman; it is the same entity Atman that is sometimes called Brahman. When a person makes an enquiry into the real nature of this external world he is led to one ultimate reality which he calls Brahman. But an enquiry into the nature of the enquirer himself reveals the fact that there is nothing but the Atman, the Self, wherefrom the so-called external world has emanated. Thus he realizes that what he so long called Brahman, the substratum of the universe, is but his own Self; it is he himself. So it is said: ‘All this is verily Brahman, this Atman is Brahman ’ (Mand. Up. 2).

25. I am without any change, without any form, free from all blemish and decay. I am not, etc.

26. I am not subject to any disease, I am beyond all comprehension, free from all alternatives and all-pervading. I am not, etc.

= I am beyond all comprehension—I am not comprehended by any thought, for in the supreme Atman no thought, the thought of the subject and the object, the knower and the known, not even the thought of the Self and the not-Self, is possible, as all thought implies duality whereas the Atman is non-dual.

27. I am without any attribute or activity, I am eternal, ever free and imperishable. I am not, etc.

28. I am free from all impurity, I am immovable, unlimited, holy, undecaying and immortal. I am not, etc.

29. O you ignorant one! Why do you assert the blissful, ever-existent Atman, which resides in your own body and is (evidently) different from it, which is known as Purusha and is established (by the Sruti a.s identical with Brahman), to be absolutely non-existent?’


Discrimination Between The Atman And The Body

30. O you ignorant one! Try to know, with the help of Sruti and reasoning, your own Self, Purusha, which is different from the body, (not a void but) the very form of existence, and very difficult for persons like you to realize.

31. The Supreme (Purusha) known as “I” (ego) is but one, whereas the gross bodies are many. So how can this body be Purusha ?

32. 'I' (ego) is well established as the subject of perception whereas the body is the object. This is learnt from the fact that when we speak of the body we say, ‘This is mine.’ So how can this body be Purusha?

33. It is a fact of direct experience that the T (Atman) is without any change, whereas the body is always undergoing changes. So how can this body be Purusha?

= The ‘I’ (Atman) is without any change—In happiness or misery, in childhood, youth or old age, Atman, in spite of many changes in the body, remains the same ; else how do we recognize a person to be the same man again and again even though his body and mind have undergone a thorough change?

34. Wise men have ascertained the (real) nature of Purusha from that Sruti text, "(There is nothing) higher than He (Purusha)," etc. So how can this body be Purusha?

35. Again the Sruti has declared in the Purusha Sukta that “All this is verily the Purusha." So how can this body be Purusha?

= “The Purusha is verily all this (manifested world). He is all that was in the past and that will be in the future. He is the Lord of the Abode of Bliss and has taken this transient form of the manifested universe, so that the Jivas may undergo the effects of their actions ” (Rig-Veda X.90.ii).

36. So also it is said in the Brihadaranyaka that "The Purusha is completely unattached." How can this body wherein inhere innumerable impurities be the Purusha?

37. There again it is clearly stated that “the Purusha is self-illumined.'' So how can the body which is inert (insentient) and illumined by an external agent be the Purusha?

38. Moreover, the Karma-kanda also declares that the Atman is different from the body and permanent, as it endures even after the fall of the body and reaps the fruits of actions (done in this life).

39. Even the subtle body consists of many parts and is unstable. It is also an object of perception, is changeable, limited and nonexistent by nature. So how can this be the Purusha?

40. The immutable Atman, the substratum of the ego, is thus different from these two bodies, and is the Purusha, the Iswara (the Lord of all), the Self of all; It is present in every form and yet transcends them all.

41. Thus the enunciation of the difference between the Atman and the body has (indirectly) asserted, indeed, after the manner of the Tarka- sastra, the reality of the phenomenal world. But what ends of human life are served thereby?

42. Thus the view that the body is the Atman has been denounced by the enunciation of the difference between the Atman and the body. Now is clearly stated the unreality of the difference between the two.

= The unreality of the difference, etc.—That, the body has no existence independent of the Atman just as the waves do not exist independently of water. In fact, the Atman alone exists, and it is through ignorance that one sees it as appearing in the forms of the body and the like.

43. No division in Consciousness is admissible at any time as it is always one and the same. Even the individuality of the Jiva must be known as false, like the delusion of a snake in a rope.

= It is always one and the same—The contents of consciousness may vary, but consciousness as such remains always uniform, just as the light of the sun remains the same while illuminating various objects.


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* Translated & Commentary by Swami Vimuktananda