The Self and Free Will in the Caitanya Sampradāya – Part 5

Because the nature of ātmā is jñāna, it is self-luminous. The ātmā’s intrinsic “I” is called ahamartha and is not the same as the conditional “I” called ahaṅkāra, which is projected through the mind to form a knot between ātmā and a material body. Ahaṅkāra is tangible as the delusion that a material body is the true self.

Ātmā’s Self-luminous Nature

Because the nature of ātmā is jñāna, it is self-luminous.  The ātmā’s intrinsic “I” is called ahamartha and is not the same as the conditional “I” called ahaṅkāra, which is projected through the mind to form a knot between ātmā and a material body. Ahaṅkāra is tangible as the delusion that a material body is the true self.

The self-luminous ātmā can also be indirectly known by another individual ātmā. It is “I” when revealing itself to itself. It is “you” or “he, she, or it” when revealed by another ātmā. The fact that ātmā is a subject, but can also be an object to other subjects does not make it a dull material object. It remains a self-luminous subject, even when also an object illuminated by another ātmā.

The Vaiśeṣika school objects:  “If ātmā is eternally self-luminous, it should always be self-aware, but in deep sleep we become oblivious of everything, including ourselves.” Our reply is that even in deep sleep ātmā retains a sense of “I.” When awake or dreaming, ātmā reveals an “I” as the witness of external objects beginning with one’s own physical body and mind. In deep sleep, the “I” connected to the body and external objects ceases to function, but the “I” remains a self-aware entity. This is described by Lord Kapila:

“The ātmā remains awake and egoless when by sleep its sense objects, senses, mind and intelligence are merged in prakṛti. Although indestructible itself, with the loss of ego, it falsely thinks itself to be lost and becomes distressed like a person who has lost his wealth. However, with proper deliberation, it comes to know about the existence of ātmā, who is the shelter of the material ego and body, and the object of grace [of the Lord].” (SB 3.27.14-16).

As stated here, the self is indestructible but falsely considers itself to be lost or destroyed. The phrase, “Thinks itself to be lost,” implies that one exists as a conscious being aware of having lost his normal sense of self.

Ahamartha in Deep Sleep

A further objection is raised: “In deep sleep there is no experience. Chāndogya Upaniṣad (8.11.1) states, ‘In deep sleep one does not know oneself as ‘this is me.’” Therefore, ātmā does not retain self-awareness and thus must not be individually conscious by nature and there is no “I” consciousness inherent in it.”

It is true that self-awareness in deep sleep is quite different than it is when awake or dreaming, but it is not true that self-awareness ceases altogether in deep sleep. In deep sleep there is no experience of physical objects or mental constructs. The ātmā remains as an unbroken sense of “I” distinct from any material identification such as male or female, young or old, Indian or American. The sense of “I” cannot be projected towards anything extrinsic and is not aware of any objects outside its own existence — it only retains awareness of its own existence, ahamartha. It is only the subject without any object of experience. Thus its experience is inexpressible.

This is inferred from the experience on awakening when one recollects, “I slept happily. I was not aware of anything. I did not know even myself.” Such a recollection is not possible if there were no self-awareness at all in deep sleep. The statement, “I slept happily” implies that there is the witness, “I,” of happiness.

Furthermore, this self-awareness cannot be the product of a body or mind, because both body and mind are inactive in deep sleep. Therefore ātmā must intrinsically possess the quality of self-awareness.

The statement, “I did not know even myself” indicates ignorance of the self’s material identity in relation to a physical body. It does not deny the existence of “I” altogether. In this statement, “I” refers to ātmā’s inherent sense of self, and “myself” refers to the material identity, the empirical self. Therefore we conclude that there is continuous presence of “I” even in the state of deep sleep.

Active awareness of “I” occurs only when it is related with ahaṅkāra, the material ego, and thus tied to a mental and physical apparatus. In deep sleep this relation is broken and thus one does not have active awareness of the presence of “I”. But this does not mean that “I” ceases to exist. It remains in an unrevealed state and becomes revealed retroactively when again related through ahaṅkāra to a mental and physical apparatus. The mental apparatus, “mind” (buddhi), is the tool through which awareness (even self-awareness) acts. Even the bliss of samādhi and knowledge of ātmā are experienced through the mind. But awareness and self awareness exist beyond these, in the state of mokṣa — liberation. This proves that consciousness (jñātṛtva) is the eternal nature of the ātmā. Therefore statements in scripture, like. Praśna Upaniṣad (4.9), explicitly describe ātmā as “the knower” (boddha). Vedānta Sutra (3.3.19) also affirms that ātmā is the knower (“jño’ ta eva”).

Attributive Knowledge Is not Inherent in Ātmā

The above also demonstrates that knowledge which arises through the internal and external senses is not inherent in the ātmā as claimed by Vaiśeṣikas. The sentience of ātmā, by its proximity, infuses sentience into the mental apparatus (citta, also called antaḥkaraṇa), which connects through sense organs to sense objects (see SB 6.16.24). This knowledge is not intrinsic to ātmā, it is vṛtti-jñāna, acquired knowledge, acquired through an external apparatus.

Acquired knowledge undergoes contraction and expansion. Although ātmā is atomically minute, it can expand its consciousness throughout the body due to having the expansive quality of knowership (jñātṛtva). In the liberated or unconditioned state, this quality is unbounded and thus ātmā is sometimes called vibhu or ananta, unlimited. Acquired knowledge is different from the inherent knowership of the ātmā — the former affords knowledge to the self while the latter is the sentient entity itself, revealing itself to the self.

Acquired knowledge is like the luminosity of a flame. Although a substance in its own right, it is more properly considered an attribute of a flame. Similarly, knowledge is a substance in its own right, but is more properly considered an attribute of ātmā. Thus ātmā is truly known as self-illuminating (svasmai svayaṁ-prakāśa or svasmai bhāsa-māna). Knowledge acquired by sense perception is luminous and even self-luminous, but not conscious of itself. It delivers perception to the conscious self. It is not “cetanā” (conscious like the ātmā) because it does not have the power of knowing itself. Yet, it is not “jaḍa” (inert, like a piece of stone) because it has the power to reveal objects. It is “mano-vṛtti,” a mental formation in relation to an object of perception.

In Bhagavad Gītā (13.6) , Śrī Kṛṣṇa does refer to it as cetanā, but counts it as part of the material body. Thus this particular use of the word cetanā should not be confused with the cetanā of the ātmā. In this Gītā verse it refers to the sentience of the ātmā infused into the mind of the material body, producing knowledge which reflects ātmā’s sentient quality:

icchā dveṣaḥ sukhaṁ duḥkhaṁ saṅghātaś cetanā dhṛtiḥ
etat kṣetraṁ samāsena sa-vikāram udāhṛtam

Desire, hatred, happiness, misery, the conglomeration [of the elements, called the body], awareness, and fortitude − these are described in brief as the kṣetra along with its modifications.

 

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Comments ( 4 )
  1. Sunayana d.d.

    How can be the atma compared with the subtle body experience of a near-death experience (NDE), which refers to personal experiences associated with impending death, encompassing multiple possible sensations including detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light, dead relatives, light persons etc.?

    • malati Post author

      Babaji’s reply: All these experiences which you have stated are only part of the subtle body or attributive knowledge. They are not part of atma per se.

  2. scooty ram

    Namaste:

    Thank you for more elaborations on the topic. Though the same is repeated in other articles, it definitely gives more clarity.

    I noted that atma has both intrinsic and attributive knowledge. Intrinsic knowledge gives a sense of I and attributive knowledge reveals itself and other objects to the atma.

    I would like to know if attributive jnana is need to sense ahamartha or if atma can have ahamartha without the attributive knowledge.

    Will there be a state when an atma can have simply ahamartha without additional attributes like “I am king” Or ” I am male” etc.

    Atma’s knowledge as servant of Krishna is part of attributive knowledge or intrinsic knowledge?

    Also you mentioned ” In the liberated or unconditioned state, this quality is unbounded and thus ātmā is sometimes called vibhu or ananta, unlimited. ” Does this mean , per Gaudiyas, a liberated jiva becomes sarvajna like the lord?

    Thank you for the time.
    Regards

    • malati Post author

      Babaji’s reply as follows:

      > I would like to know if attributive jnana is need to sense ahamartha or if atma can have ahamartha without the attributive knowledge.

      Ahamartha without attributive knowledge does not have much meaning. Therefore, it can be expressed only in relation with a material body or a spiritual body, siddha-deha.

      > Will there be a state when an atma can have simply ahamartha without additional attributes like “I am king” Or ” I am male” etc.

      Yes, this is what happens in Brahma-sayujya mukti. That is why it is called anirvacaniya. What can be said about it? And who will say to whom?

      > Atma’s knowledge servant of Krishna is part of attributive knowledge or intrinsic knolwedge?

      With the above answers you can figure it out!!!

      > Also you mentioned ” In the liberated or unconditioned state, this quality is unbounded and thus ātmā is sometimes called vibhu or ananta, unlimited. ” Does this mean , per Gaudiyas, a liberated jiva becomes sarvajna like the lord?

      He has the ability to be sarvajna. But whether one will be or not depends on one’s need. Is it really needed in the service of the Lord?

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