Question 163: How does the Atma contain impurities and suffering?

Those who are born experience karma, sufferings of one kind or another, and wonder, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Why is there suffering and evil in the world? This is a question that many – in all religious disciplines – raise. The mystery of suffering and evil, impurity in a world created by the Source of All That Is, and how is it that there is suffering? The youthful Rama – yet to undergo 14 years of wandering in the forest – asks, “How is it that the world is filled with sorrows”?


brahman, brahma San. N. the impersonal Absolute – a supreme, unmeasurable and transcendent essence that exists simultaneously with all of creation; the ultimate Reality, the Source, Consciousness not aware of itself, all-pervasive and self-existent. (V. 663) Brahman envelopes and permeates everything: ‘Brahman is all there is’ (sarvam brahman-mayam). Creation is but a reflection in brahman.

brahm-satta the potency of Brahman

jñan Hin. m. jñana San. n. (from jña – to know) true intuited understanding; spiritual wisdom; higher knowledge. ‘What use is information which does not bring about transformation?’ (SSS) ‘Jñana is that which is beyond mind and speech. What the guru says through his mouth is not jñana but ajñana. Just as one thorn removes another, the guru’s verbal teaching (ajñana) removes the veil of the disciple and the result is jñana – pure knowledge.’ ‘Jñana is not something to be attained; it is eternal and self-existent. Remove [ignorance] and what remains is jñana.’ (SSB) (pronounced gyan in Hindi)

swarup Hin. m. swarupam (swa+rupa) San. n. an image; a form assumed by a deity; one’s intrinsic nature, the expression of one’s own essential form, nature or character, including the values one represents or demonstrates. (real, actual, essential, original spiritual form, of the nature of, by nature)

karta: the doer of action
bhokta: a consumer of goods or a recipient of pleasures and suffering


Question 163: Sir, Brahman is free from sufferings. How is it that the universe is full with sorrows ? To me, your explanation appears to be imaginary like a void. Kindly explain more clearly.

[Note : Hearing this, Sri Vasishtha felt that the intelligence of Sri Ramchandra was partly purified and not fully illumined, because he was aware of the states of the material objects and had not fully understood the Truth. Hence Sri Vasishtha thought that Sri Ramchandra should be taught that much only which he would assimilate and derive bliss (ananda) from. Realising that Sri Ramchandra was not yet free from the sense of material gratifications, Vasishtha deemed it fit to suspend for the time being the explanation of Absolute Brahman to him. He who hears about Absolute Brahman but does not pursue knowledge because of his involvement in material gratifications, continues to remain ignorant about the Absolute. As Ramchandra still had the sense of material gratifications, it was obvious that he had not yet realised the Absolute Brahman. Sri Vasishtha was fully aware that, to begin with, a disciple must not be exposed to the knowledge of the Absolute, but he should first be helped to achieve purification by controlling mind and senses and then exposed to the knowledge of the Absolute. This is the way a disciple is awakened. Teaching Brahman to one with partially developed intelligence is like pushing him into hell. Only he who is free from desire for gratification, should be led to the Absolute. Thinking so, Sri Vasishtha gave the following reply to Sri Ramchandra.]

Answer : Ramji, I shall explain to you later whether or not Brahman suffers from the impurity of ideation, or you will yourself understand it in due course. The power (Brahm-satta) of Brahman is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Everything is created in it. Just as a magician creates many illusions with his powers and produces the effect of the real in the unreal and vice versa, so does Atma create a universe with the powers of its maya. With its powers it makes mines out of hills, stones out of trees, earth out of sky, and sky out of earth and so on. The strange or illusory manifestation of a universe is the product of the attribute of cognition in the Pure Consciousness; it is because of its modification (or ideation) that the manifestation of the universe is experienced. The experiential manifestation of names and forms is nothing but the primeval ideation itself.

When everything is just an ideation, and the ideation, too, is unreal, what then is there to grieve, rejoice or wonder about! The multiplicity experienced is an illusion; in reality all are one.

I have such a firm faith. I am always in an even state, and am without the feelings of joy, sorrow and surprise and have no attachments. Though I experience the world of time, space and matter, and also its dissolution, yet I see them in their true nature. They are not created by Atma by any effort, but are naturally manifested due to the natural modification. Just as waves and ripples in water are not produced by any effort, but are the glamour of the attributes or nature of water, due to which these arise and then merge into water, so are the manifestation and dissolution of the universe natural to Atma. Just as there is no distinction between the ocean and its waves, these all being water, so is there no distinction between Atma and a universe, all being aspects of Atma.

If you think deeply on any one of these analogies, you will be relieved of the feelings of cause and effect that are firmly fixed in you and will realise that there are no tendencies of either a doer (karta) or a consumer (bhokta) in Atma — Atma is established as a witness of its own, and the universe is its glamour. Just as illumination is in the nature of a lamp, and fragrance of a flower, so is the universe in the nature of Atma and there is no other cause or effect.

Ramji, the universe is both real (sat) and unreal (asat), because somewhere it is experienced as manifest, somewhere it is experienced as latent and somewhere it is experienced as a strange multiplicity. Atma remains even in itself, both in the cases of manifestation and dissolution of the universe. Due to ignorance, the universe is experienced replete with miseries, but when you see it with the light of jnana (knowledge), your illusion of miseries will vanish.



Just as illumination is in the nature of a lamp, and fragrance of a flower, so is the universe in the nature of Atma and there is no other cause or effect.
16. “Four types of people seek a connection with Me : One, the world-weary – people who worship God for the alleviation of physical or mental agony, or to be released from fears and adversity; two, the seekers of happiness through worldly things – people who pray to God to obtain wealth, family, power, prestige, and so forth; three, the seekers of spiritual advancement – people whose motive for connecting with Divinity is to gain knowledge and experience to aid their self-realization; four, the wise – people who truly know the Atma (Self), who know that God alone exists, and whose only impulse is for the Divine and nothing else.

17. “Of these, the last is the highest because they know My Truth and are devoted to Me. As I am supremely dear to them, they are very dear to Me. The first three are attached to the worldly objects or mental states they desire.

18. “But certainly all four types are noble, because any reason for turning Godward will in due time lead to spiritual transformation and is therefore ultimately good. The wise ones of the last category, however, are My very Self. They know Me as the essence within themselves and are always with Me. Their devotion stands foremost. As fuel thrown into the fire becomes fire, the wise, absorbed in Me, actually become one with the Godhead, their own Divinity, their one and only goal.

19. “After many a long life of meditation on Me, these wise ones come to Me. They see that all this world is indeed their innermost Self, and realize that God alone puts on the appearance of all phenomena. Such great souls are rare indeed.

20. “Others hoping to fulfil worldly desires, drift to lesser gods and offer rituals and rites. It is quite easy for them to get to those limited deities but the rewards are correspondingly small. Healing disease, winning litigation, acquiring a position, and other trifling psychic powers are alluring to worldly-caught people. True devotees of the Supreme Godhead give no thought to worldly things. The question of other gods does not even arise in them. – Bhagavad Gita 7:16-20


Sunrise over Atlantis
Just as there is no distinction between the ocean and its waves, these all being water, so is there no distinction between Atma and a universe, all being aspects of Atma.



Hamsa Gayatri
Om Hamsaaya Vidmahe
Paramahamsaya Dheemahi
Tanno Hamsa Prachodayat

“May we realise Hamsa that is our own Self as the Swan. Let us meditate on that Paramahamsa, the Supreme Self. May Hamsa illumine us.”