Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood
Some say this Atman Is slain, and others Call It the slayer: They know nothing. How can it slay Or who shall slay it?
Know this Atman Unborn, undying, Never ceasing, Never beginning, Deathless, birthless, Unchanging for ever. How can It die The death of the body?
Knowing it birthless Knowing it deathless, Knowing it endless, For ever unchanging, Dream not you do The deed of the killer, Dream not the power Is yours to command it.
Worn-out garments Are shed by the body: Worn-out bodies Are shed by the dweller Wihin the body. New bodies are donned By the dweller, like garments.
Not wounded by weapons, Not burned by fire, Not dried by the wind, Not wetted by water: Such is the Atman.
Not dried, not wetted, Not burned, not wounded, Innermost element, Everywhere, always, Being of beings, Changeless, eternal For ever and ever.
— From Book 2, The Yoga of Knowledge
* Atman (Sanskrit): The true soul or imperishable self as distinct from the phenomenal ego known as the jiva. The central theme of Vedanta, as expounded by the great 8th century sage Adi Shankara, was an examination of the relation between the atman, the individual human self, and Brahman, the cosmic Mind or Logos.
Shankara held that reality is ultimately one and that the apparent plurality of individual selves and different entitities was illusory. Just as the space within one jug or pitcher is no different from the space in another jug or pitcher, so the atman orindividual soul in a particular human being is essentially the same as the atman or individual soul in another human being.
Similarly, Shankara argued, how could the space in a jug be different from the space outside the jug, i.e., from Space itself? How could the sea water in a bucket be any different from the water in the sea? From all this it followed, according to Shankara, that there was essentially no difference between Brahman and Atman. As sea water in the bucket is to the Sea itself, as space in a jug is to Space itself, so the atman or individual soul is to Brahman, the Cosmic Mind.
The individual Self, Shankara maintained, was identical with Brahman; and the aim of human life is to obtain release (moksha) from the crippling delusion that one possesses a differentiated self distinct from Brahman. In short, all is One; I am You; and We are Brahman. The waterdrop, when it returns to the ocean, becomes one with the Ocean again. The object of human existence is union with the divine.
This system of thought, which sees everything as One, is known as Advaita or non-dualism (also, monism). Other Vedantic sages, particularly Ramanuja and Madhva, were to add refinements and significant modifications to these basic teachings of Shankara. (LD)
Like this? Share it now.
This is the website of Lasha Darkmoon, an anglo-American academic with higher degrees in Classics who lives and works in England. You can read more about Darkmoon here.