Bigger Than the Universe, Smaller Than an Atom
by Jai Maha Dev
This is a description of our real nature. ATMAN (Soul-Self) is both more powerful (‘bigger’) and subtler (‘smaller’) than PRAKRITI (Matter).
For a moment, ponder over your presence in the body. . . . . You can see your limbs, your stomach, and other body parts. These are parts of your body and NOT parts of your soul, because your soul-self is both indivisible (part-less) and invisible. You are invisible to the eyes but you can discern your subtle existence through the instrument of the ‘mind’ (but only with the help of the light of Wisdom).
The mind is a fourfold internal ‘organ,’ more subtle than the body-part called the brain. The ‘mind’ (Antahkaranachatushtaya) is comprised of the memory system and the stuff associated with it such as impressions (samskaras) and the subtle mind-matter in which the impressions are recorded. This part of the mind is called the CHIT, or mind stuff. Next, there is the recording/cataloging/monitoring mechanism called MANAS, the mind-proper (what is typically referred to as the mind). Then comes the intellect known as the BUDDHI. The intellect is the organ of intelligence and includes the power of discernment (Viveka). Subtler than the intellect is the ego (AHAMKARA), which is the ‘self-identity,’ or that aspect of the ‘mind’ by which Consciousness (soul) is identified with mind and matter.
With this mind, we ‘see’ ourselves. In other words, with the mind we perceive that we exist and we realize that we are distinct from the instrument of perception (the ‘mind’).
In the context of Pure Consciousness (ATMAN), the perceiver, the instrument of perception, and the object of perception are referred to by some (particularly, neo-vedantists) as objects of Awareness (Consciousness, Soul, ATMAN). However, this is not exactly correct, because ATMAN (as distinct from Jivatman) is pure, unalloyed, subjective Consciousness unmixed with any objective reality. Hence, there exist no objects of awareness distinct from Awareness itself as ATMAN. For example, during the Mahapralaya, or complete Dissolution of Matter (which can also be called the state of Non-existence, or Nothingness), there is only That Supreme One which is One Without a Second. In This, the innumerable souls (ATMANs) and Matter (Prakriti) do not ‘exist’ (which is to say, they are unmanifested). At the time of Creation, the souls and matter appear to emerge from the Supreme Absolute Self (GOD), into which they (the souls and matter) were previously submerged.
ATMAN in the state of Mahapralaya is akin to our selves during deep dreamless sleep (Shushupti). In Shushupti, we are completely oblivious to our existence or the existence of the world. Upon waking, we become ‘conscious’ but we are unconscious of what occurred during the deep, dreamless sleep. Now, turn this around and apply it to ATMAN in the state of Mahapralaya: the ATMAN is absolutely aware (Pure Awareness) during the Mahapralaya (period of Non-existence), but is not aware of some ‘thing’ or any ‘thing’ because nothing exists. Some might construe this as the ‘awakened state’ of the Self, but this is not correct. ATMAN can neither be spoken of as ‘awakened’ or ‘asleep’, even as the self in Shushupti (deep, dreamless sleep) is neither awake nor asleep.
At the time of Creation, when the innumerable eternal souls and eternal matter (Prakriti) ‘emerge’ from the Supreme Self (GOD), the souls ‘enter into’ Creation as Purush* is ‘joined’ with Prakriti, and is manifested as the living Self (Jivatman), embodied in Mind and Matter. As the ‘living Self’ (Jivatman), the soul is either ‘asleep’ in Ignorance, or ‘awakened’ in the state of Enlightenment (of which many phases may be construed, depending on the depth of one’s Wisdom).
Jivatman (the living Self) is the ‘perceiver,’ the mind seated in the body (causal, subtle, and gross bodies) is the instrument of perception, and the Self (both one’s higher nature as Atman, and the Supreme Self or Paramatman) is the ultimate object of perception (i.e., its realization is the highest goal, or ultimate purpose of existence). Before the ultimate object of Life (Creation, or the drama of Existence) is realized, the living self seeks and acquires many other experiences.
Eventually, the living self seeks to realize the Truth (the nature of Reality). In search of Truth, the soul realizes it cannot know the Truth without knowing itself. Thus, the inward journey begins. As one goes deeper and deeper, the living soul realizes it is not the body and not the mind. While living in the mortal body and ever-changing mind, the self ‘senses’ (perceives through the purified mind) its own immortality and seeks to fully realize its Deathlessness. Prior to the full realization of Deathlessness, the living self perceives its own essence as completely pervading Prakriti (Nature), and more subtle than the subtlest elements of nature (finer even than the purified mind).
Ultimately, the living self makes a gift of itself and offers itself (as Purush) into the Supreme Self (as Mahapurush) and attains Moksha (complete and total freedom from the unreality of duality, and all the pain associated with Ignorance).
*Atman manifesting its inherent life-force, PRANA.