by Swami Krishnananda
The Paramatman, the Supreme Being, who is non-dual in nature, blissful in essence, enters into every part of the Universe and assumes the form of the Jiva, the individual. It is the animation of the Jiva by the Paramatman that makes it pass for a reality in this world. Though Paramatman is universally present, everywhere, without any distinction whatsoever, His presence is felt in a greater or lower degree due to the difference in the subtleties of the media through which He manifests Himself. When there is this manifestation through rarefied media such as those of superphysical beings like the Lord Vishnu, etc., the One Being goes by the name of a deity or celestial. When He manifests Himself through a grosser medium, He becomes the mortal, as it were. The greater the manifestation of Sattva, the subtler and the more rarefied is the medium; and the greater the preponderance of Rajas and Tamas, the grosser is the medium. We find, therefore, in inanimate matter, the grossest form of this manifestation, while in such divinities such as the Lord Vishnu there is the highest possible manifestation. By passing through a series of births or transmigratory lives, the Jiva awakens to the consciousness of there being such a thing as higher life than the one in which it immediately finds itself, and by continuous endeavour on its part to purify itself by means of unselfish activity, worship, and so on, the pure discriminatory faculty dawns in it, by which it is enabled to draw a clear distinction between the true and the false, and consequently to abandon the false and betake itself to the true. As a result of protracted Sadhana, in this manner, performed in various lives, there comes finally the realisation that the Atman alone is real.
The story of the Jiva may be said to be rooted in its consciousness of duality. This is its bondage, its movement towards the ‘other-than-itself’, and its freedom consists in its resting in the essence behind all empirical consciousness. Bondage which has been caused by non-discrimination can be removed only by correct discrimination. Hence it is the duty of everyone to correctly understand the true relation between the Jiva and the Paramatman. The Jiva is, for all practical purposes, the notion of the ‘I’, the principle of individuality. The Jiva’s instrument of action is manas, the mind, or the Antahkarana, and its activity is in the form of its various transformations, both within and without. Inwardly, there is the notion of the ‘I’, and outwardly there is the apprehension of “this-ness” in regard to an object. This idea in regard to an external object, which is a general activity of the mind, is diversely interpreted by the senses in accordance with the special functions which they perform, such as seeing, hearing etc., but there is a third essentiality illumining both the doer and the deed, the witnessing Consciousness within, the Sakshin, as it is called, which instantaneously illumines the doer or knower, the mind and its modifications (Vrittis) and illumines also the various objects outside. This illumination is made not in succession, but simultaneously. To put it in the style of the eighth chapter, the Sakshin, or the Witness Consciousness illumines the Chidabhasa, the Vrittis of the Antahkarana, and also the objects, at the same time. We have variegated sense-perceptions which are different from one another, but these are brought together in a single Consciousness, which knows all these varieties at once and illumines all these, like a lamp fixed in a stage or a drama theatre. The lamp in the stage illumines, equally, the director, the actors, the musicians, as well as the audience, and it shines even if no one exists there. This is its speciality. The Sakshin within, the witnessing Consciousness, illumines the ego, the mind, and the objects, all alike, and it shines even when all these subside, as in the state of deep sleep. It is on account of the shining of the Sakshin, or the Kutastha, that the mind appears to have a light of its own and performs different functions. Here, in the analogy of the theatre, we may compare the ego to the director of the play, the senses to the musicians, and the objects to the witnessing audience. In this enactment, the mind is the actor which dances to the tune of the senses, the musicians. The Sakshin, or the Witnessing Consciousness is comparable to the lamp which illumines all things in the stage.
The lamp in the stage illumines all things equally, from all sides, and shines also when there are no things to shine upon. In a similar manner, the Sakshin is a steady existence unmoving and unaffected and illumining everything inside and outside. This idea of an inside and outside arises on account of our judging things from the point of view of the body, and not from the point of view of the Sakshin itself. We say that the objects are outside because they are outside the body, and similarly we say that the ego is within, because it is inside the body. The standard of judgment is the body in all our conceptions, and our statements are involved in this conception of inside and outside. The mind, which is within, moves without through the avenues of the senses, again and again, and this activity of the mind is falsely attributed to the Sakshin, and then it is said, “I see”, “I do”, and so on. Just as a beam of light proceeding from the Sun and passing through an aperture in a house may appear to be moving when a hand is passed or crossed over it rapidly, though there is no such motion in the light, so the Witnessing Consciousness appears to be actually active and undergoing changes etc., while these activities and changes belong to the intellect and the mind alone, due to their juxtaposition with the Witnessing Consciousness and on account of the transparent nature of the intellect and the mind, as there is a preponderance of Sattva here. There is a reflection of the Consciousness in the Antahkarana, and the whole Samsara begins and has its roots in this confusion between the Antahkarana and the Atman, whereby the luminous character of the Atman is superimposed on the Antahkarana, whose character is transformation without self-consciousness, and, conversely, also, takes place a transference of the changes of the Antahkarana to the unchanging Atman. Thus, the Sakshin, which is always at the same place without any movement, appears to move and act when it is falsely associated with the psyche. We cannot even say that the Sakshin is in any place, because it transcends space, time and individuality. We cannot say that it is everywhere, strictly speaking, because of there being no spatial conception in it. The Atman is neither inside, nor outside, nor everywhere. All these are the notions of the Jiva in terms of its spatio-temporal experiences. The Atman is the Witness of even the concepts of space, time and individuality, or objectivity. It is inexplicable by words and unthinkable by the mind, and ununderstandable by the intellect. In one word, it is trans-empirical. There is no way of grasping it by the senses or the mind. It is known only when all attempts of grasping cease. When there is perfect equilibrium of the mind, a stillness born of Sattva, due to the absence of activity born of Rajas, the Atman shines by itself. Self-knowledge is its own proof and does not stand in need of any external proof. If, however, it is found difficult to completely cease from all psychic activity, then the other alternative would be to recognize the presence of the Atman as the unaffected Consciousness accompanying all cognitions and perceptions, as the light illumining all these, and yet apart from all these. This will lead, gradually, to a meditation on the real ‘I’ within. (Verses 1-26)