Question 85: How to discard the Universe and know the Atma

son of BrahmaThe young Rama, seated before the sage, asks how to get rid of the illusion of the Universe. The answer, while long, is the foundation of self-knowledge and self-awareness: realise that all this the atma; it is two sides of the same coin, the reality and the illusion. It is a privilege to sit at the feet of a Loka guru such as Vasishtha; the story of Sage Vyasa illustrates same.

atma bodh: knowledge of the Atma; cognition of the Self.
chitta: chitta San. noun. the mind (the seat of understanding and awareness, of intellect and will); memory, thought, reflection; the soul, heart. It is the individual consciousness, composed of intelligence and intellect (buddhi), ego (ahamkara) and mind (manas). In Vedanta, chitta is one aspect of Universal Consciousness (chit). The world hangs on the thread of consciousness – without consciousness, there is no world.

jagat bhava: the conviction of the existence of the Universe
mantra: a sacred formula used in japa; a collection of holy words with meaningful sounds supercharged with spiritual power
vichar reflection, contemplation,
vichar Hin. vichara San. m. deliberation, thought, reflection, pondering; discrimination, examination, self-enquiry: ‘Who am I?’


Question 85: Sir, kindly do guide me how to be free from the idea of the universe (jagat bhava) and attain knowledge of Atma (atma bodh).

Answer: Ramji, the illusion of the seer and the sight is without any basis. When either of the two vanishes, the other also vanishes. When both of them disappear, what remains then is Pure Consciousness. Now listen how to realise the non—existence of the universe. The delusion or the false conviction of the universe has been strengthened over a long period of time covering a chain of births, and this strong conviction or the illusion can be removed only by the mantra of vichar (contemplation). This ignorance-like illusion is removed gradually by discrimination (vivek) and contemplation. That which is created is subject to bondage and liberation. Like the water in a mirage, the universe that is experienced owing to the ideation or illusion of the mind has never been created. The senses become quiet when the mind, which is their basis, becomes still. What remains thereafter cannot be known through the senses, and this potency is without a name or a form and it is not perceivable; it is neither sentient nor insentient, and it is free from knowledge and ignorance. Words fail to describe it; it is just referred to as Pure Consciousness or Atma. Although without a beginning or an end, it itself appears as the universe, and nothing else has been created. When the consciousness or mind becomes modified or ideational, the universe is experienced; and when it becomes still and non-ideational or unmodified, and is established in itself, the universe becomes non-existent. Or when the chitta-potency becomes extrovert, the entire universe and its objects are perceived, and when the chitta-potency becomes introvert or is established in itself, no object of the universe is perceived and Atma only exists as it is. Just as air is experienced only when it is in motion and not otherwise and yet in either state it remains as air, even so the universe is experienced owing to the ideation or modification in consciousness and the universe becomes non-existent when the chitta-satta (consciousness) assumes the unmodified or non-ideational state. O Ramji, Atma is beyond expression and perception. It cannot be experienced by any senses. Though all-pervasive, it is free from karma and is established in itself. Just as the water in a mirage is experienced owing to the sun’s rays, even so the water-like universe is experienced owing to the sun~like Atma. It is thus clear that nothing exists except Atma, and the universe is an aspect of Atma. Just as a variety of ornaments made of gold bear different names, yet each one of them is nothing but gold, even so this universe is nothing but Atma. Atma is pure, stainless and just consciousness. Ramji, when you are established in Atma, your illusion of the universe will disappear. Atma is the base of everything and nothing else sustains Atma. It is self-independent and is established in itself only. Such Atma is unique, immortal, beyond birth and just pure consciousness, free from all ideations.

The Guru and the Light

This day is called Vyasa Poornima, a holy day, which must be celebrated with the prayer and contrition which alone can cleanse the heart, and not by feasting, or fasting, which affect only the body. The fact that Vyasa is associated with this day or that Rama or Krishna is connected with some other day is merely an opportunity to mark the day as outstandingly important, when something holy has to be done. It is full moon today, when the moon shines without any let or hindrance, when moonlight is bright and cool and full. The mind of man is compared to the moon, for it is as wayward as the moon with its swing from brightness to darkness; this day, the mind too has to be bright, effulgent and cool.

Vyasa was born with a great urge for spiritual uplift and he entered into deep study and sadhana, even as a child. He acquired such divine wisdom and glory that he is identified with Narayana Himself. He stands out as the Loka-guru for he codified the Vedic hymns, and prepared the great Vedantic text of Brahmasutra, besides the epic commentaries of the Veda-vedanta teachings for the people whom he loved to educate, commentaries named the Mahabharatha and the Srimadbhagavata. He is called Veda-Vyasa because of his service to the students of the Vedas, which defied understanding, since they were countless and fathomless “Ananto vai Veda.” (The Vedas are endless; eternal.) He also composed the 18 Puranas on the various names and forms of the same Godhead, Puranas which are textbooks and illustrative descriptions of moral codes, historical episodes, philosophical principles and social ideals.

Vyasa sought to bring home, through the Puranas, the need for mastering the egoistic impulses, as the sloka says,

Ashtaa dasa puraaneshu
Vyasasya vachana dwayam;
Paropakara punyaaya
Paapaaya para peedanam.

“Two statements can summarise all the eighteen puranas composed by Vyasa. “Do good to others; avoid doing harm.” Doing good is the drug; avoiding harm is the regimen that must accompany the treatment. That is the cure for the disease of suffering from joy and grief, honour and dishonour, prosperity and adversity, and the dual throng, that bothers man and deprives him of equanimity.

Vyasa is the Lokaguru: he is Divine Effulgence. Even Vyasa can but show you the road. You have to traverse it alone. He gives you a mantra, which you repeat; though you may not know its meaning, it will act as the purifier of your mind. When a ryot has to get something done for him by the Collector, he goes to a lawyer, who knows how it has to be asked for; he writes it out in English, and gives it to him as a typed sheet which the ryot presents to the Collector. He does not know what is written or its meaning but it does the work because it has come from the brain and the experience of a man who is his Guru for the purpose.


the mystery of the sages of India