‘Self-realization’ is a term we frequently hear. What exactly is it? We also need to be clear about the term ‘Self’. But there is also another term: ‘self’.Are they different? Yes, in our context, they ‘are’ different. Let’s see how. We start with a few questions.
Who are we? Are we just blobs of matter separated and distinct? Or do we think of each one of us as a part of a big cluster of human beings? Why only the human race? How are we connected to the other beings in the world around us? These are some of the many thoughts that some of us would have had at some time or the other.
To know what is the concept of ‘life on earth, let’s start at the very beginning…
We begin by accepting that the Universe and everything in it are just energy vibrations. But there is a very intelligent energy which is the source. It is unique and every entity in the world is a spark of that energy which is called ‘Paramatma’ in Sanskrit. The prefix ‘Param’ implies highest/Ultimate.
That spark is called Atma/Atman. The Atma is a spark of Cosmic energy which is formless and attributeless. For the purpose of creation, a cosmic will is used and ‘individualisation’ is the result. This is the case of ‘the one becoming many ‘. The individualised Atma is given the name Jivatma. Then Jivatma ‘manifests’ into the matter to become a ‘Jiva’ (Jiva means ‘a living entity’). The images shown in this post illustrate these aspects.
What is the ‘Self’?
The Atma is formless and attributeless — it is pure, divine energy. The energy which enlivens human existence is the Atma. It is frequently referred to as the ‘Self ’. Also, note that manifesting into the matter is a sort of going down or descending. Later, we will also note that ‘matter’ is energy after all.
Why does Jivatma ‘manifest’ into the matter? That is the whole point of life in the physical domain. The term ‘Lila’(play ) of the cosmos /divine is attributed to it. Thus each one of us is a Jiva. We also use the word ‘person’ for each of us. Thus each Jiva/person is a ‘manifested’ Jivatma.
The Jivatma is pure attributeless, formless energy. To live in the physical domain, it needs certain ‘instruments’-which are ‘body, mind and intellect. In short, the Jivatma endowed with body, mind and intellect is the Jiva(person). The Jiva is the person living in the physical world.
By convention, the word ‘self ’ (with ‘s’ in lowercase) means the Jiva/person.
The point is that the ‘one and only one universal energy takes on individualised forms to partake in the mechanics of physical life. This simply means that it manifests in multiple entities. In doing so, the formless acquires form.
To use a popular analogy, let’s suppose the water in all the oceans together to be ‘Universal energy. Each portion, every drop of it has the qualities of the ocean. For our discussions, Paramatma is analogous to the water in all the oceans. Any portion of the water is the Atma. Now pour some of the water into a cup. The water in the cup is the individualised ocean. This water is analogous to the Jivatma and the cup is the matter into which the cosmic energy has poured itself into. The cup and water together are Jiva. See how the Jivatma is now confined to the cup. Only when the cup is broken and the water goes back to the ocean does the Jivatma obtain liberation from the limitations it had experienced as the Jiva.
What is the realization that we talk about?
The question is:
Am ‘I’ the ‘Self’ or the ‘self’?
It is the realization that one is the Self and not the self. This is
an experiential realization and not an intellectual exercise.