2) Self Knowledge (Atmajnana)-Who Am I

Talk 2  by Prabhuji


Let us contemplate on the theme, ‘Who am ‘I’?’

The ‘I’ what we speak of takes many identities that are related to body, mind, intellect, relationships, professions and many identities. But deep inside we have feeling, in spite of all these changing identities, ‘I am changeless’. Deep inside heart of our heart we know, ‘I am not changing’.

With reference to the body we say, ‘I am old, I am young, I look smart’ etc. But your body itself has undergone changes from childhood to present condition. In spite of that, deep inside, you have a feeling that ‘I’ has not changed. Still you are referring the body as ‘I’, in spite of body undergoing changes. In fact the body undergoes change every single minute of the day. Thousands and thousands of cells die every minute and new cells are born. It is said that within a couple of months there is rejuvenation of functions of the heart, lungs, eyes, brain and within few years you have a completely new and fresh body. Whatever you considered as body is no longer there, it has undergone changes, and it is undergoing changes every minute and over a period of time. But still you think that you are a body and you are referring to yourself as a body. How is it possible?

Body is the way for other people to recognize you. They recognize you through body. But that’s for other people. Have you recognized yourself. Your recognition of yourself is Self-Realization.

Somehow there is a mistaken identity with reference to body. You think you are the body because of some mistake. Now this leads to a lot of confusion and lot of stress in our life. If the body is old, I feel depressed. Because I feel I have become old. If the body is in pain, I start thinking I am in pain. All the conditions of the body I start putting on myself.

Earlier I was in a rented house, the house was locked and the key was given to the owner. First time I went to the owner and asked for the key, ‘Grand ma, please give me the key’, she was an old lady. She became furious, she started shouting at me. ‘How can you call me Grand ma? Everybody in this street calls me aunty, do I look so old to you?’ Addressing her as Grand ma hurted her, because she identifies herself with her body. Body is changing, but somehow deep inside we feel that ‘I’ is not changing, so there is an unchanging ‘I’ and a changing body.

Are you this unchanging ‘I’ or changing body, which of this is true?

Deep inside, you know that, you are the unchanging ‘I’, but somehow you are confused with the changing body. Just because others recognize you through your body, you mix your deep inner feeling of ‘I am unchanging’ with ‘something changing’. Are you true to yourself? If you are true to yourself you will recognize that ‘I am different from the body’ because ‘I am unchanging’.

Deep inside, you feel that you are unchanging, but you are living in an illusion that you are that changing body  just because everybody refers you through the body.  You are something inside the body but not the body. It is just like a chocolate. There is a nice wrapper around the chocolate, people call that at chocolate. Is chocolate that wrapper or the chocolate is inside the wrapper?  Are you the body or are you something inside the body which is not changing. Deep inside you know that, ‘I am something unchanging’. That means you are not the body but you are something inside the body which is unchanging.

Similarly you say, ‘I am happy, I am unhappy’ with reference to the mind. Mind is changing constantly. Morning, you have one state of mind and afternoon another state of mind. If India team wins, one mind, if it loses another mind. Depending on the situation mind changes.  But still you use, ‘I am happy I am unhappy’, as if you are the mind. How can you be the mind? Again deep inside you know that, ‘I is unchanging’, mind is changing, still you associate with the changing with the unchanging, how is it possible?

Similarly when you say, ‘I am worrying’, worrying is with respect to the intellect.  Intellect itself changes, the thought process changes, but you are unchanging. How are you then associating the changing with the unchanging?  What is this confusion? This association of changing with the unchanging is called ego. The ‘ego’ is the one which associates the unchanging you with the changing body-mind–intellect. This is called ‘Ahamkara’.

So the ‘ego’ has two parts, the unchanging part and the changing part. The changing part is your body-mind-intellect, your relationships. The unchanging part is your ‘Self’. So both are getting mixed up in the ego. So you have to separate it out, the changing and the unchanging. The unchanging part of you is called the real ‘I’, the ‘Self’, the ‘Jivatma’, and the changing part is body-mind-intellect your relationships etc.

So the ’ego’ mixes the changing and the unchanging. Deep inside you know you are unchanging, which means that even with the ego you know ‘I am unchanging’. Nobody has to tell you, it is self-evident for you. But while dealing with the world you are confusing the changing with the unchanging. So we are speaking of ‘I’, different ‘I’s  – ‘I am body, I am mind, and I am intellect’. So ‘I am the body’, becomes ‘I am the doer’; ‘I am the mind’, becomes the feeler or the enjoyer, and ‘I am intellect’, becomes ‘I am the thinker or knower’. So are you the doer or the thinker or the experiencer? These are the changing parts.

But the real is something different, so how do you find the real I? When do you get a sense of I? When you wake up in the morning, the ’I’ sense comes. When you go to sleep the ‘I’ sense changes, you start taking some other body. In the morning you may be a young man, in sleep you may be different. There was a Zen master, he woke up in the morning and started crying, and his disciples came and asked him, ‘Why are you crying sir? Zen master replied, ‘ I had a dream and in the dream I was a butterfly’. The disciple said, ‘So what sir, it was a just a dream, now you are a Zen master, and we all are your disciples’. Zen master said, ‘I don’t know whether I am a butterfly dreaming that I am a Zen master, or a Zen master dreaming that I am a butterfly’. Which one is true?

So you have a different identity in the day and different in the night. In your dream identity you may start flying also and whereas in deep sleep you have no thoughts and you have a peaceful sleep. There is no identity in deep sleep, has the identity disappeared? But morning when you wake up, it all comes up, and it’s like booting up a computer. ‘I shut down my computer, everything is closed, but again you boot up and all your programs will come up’. Similarly your ego is like a program, it operates then shuts down goes to deep sleep, and then reboots again in the morning. This is the ego program.

But if you look closely, the ego has one body during the day, different body in the dream and no body in the deep sleep. So in a single day the ego has gone through different identities.

Are they same identities? Is there a continuity? There is no continuity.

Suddenly from waking to dream state you jump into different identity and from dream to deep sleep you jump into different identity, it is discontinuous. Are you three different discontinues identities? Then there is no relation between these three. There is something common in all these three, and the common thing is called Jivatma, the individual Self. The one which takes the variable identity is called the ‘Ego Self’, Jiva. There is a Jiva and there is a Jivatma.

When you say ‘I am’, are you referring to the changing ‘I’, or the unchanging ‘I’?. The changing ‘I’ is calledEgoand the unchanging ‘I’ is called Atma, the Self. The Self never undergoes any changes. That means no trouble, if it does not under go any changes that means no trouble, isn’t it?

What is the nature of Self or Jivatma?

Self is the witness. When the Jiva goes through the cycle of waking, dream and deep sleep states, the witness is the Self, Jivatma. Whereas the Jiva, the Ego Self takes different identities and goes through changes but still there seems continuity and that Continuity is Jivatma, the Self.

What is the function of Jivatma or Self?

It is a pure witness, the observer. It is the knower in you. There is a knower and there is known. Knower is the Witness, and the known is your body-mind-intellect, your relations and the world. The known is the object, the knower is the subject. So you are that subject, the knower, the witness. And because this knower, which is actually consciousness, Conscious Self, Witness, it empowers your intellect and intellect becomes the knower.

Intellect becomes the knower in the light of the Self. Intellect itself is an object. It is like electricity, when the electricity passes the bulb is switched on, and the bulb throws the light. Similarly in the presence of the Jivatma the intellect becomes active and it becomes the knower. Now the knower cannot know its source Jivatma. Like electric bulb, it can throw the light but it cannot know the electricity.   Similarly the intellect can throw the light on the rest of the things but it cannot know its source which is Consciousness or Self. Intellect gets powered by the Consciousness, the Self.  So intellect starts knowing the body, mind and starts feeling that I am the ‘Seen’. What it can see is the body and mind, but it cannot see the source which is Jivatma. So it starts thinking, ‘I am the body’, so this is the source of error, the beginning of the error. And the beginning of the error is called ‘Ego or Ahamkara’. And over a period of time it keeps on growing, and it starts accumulating the impressions and it goes into the memory. But deep inside, you know, ‘I am changeless, I am consciousness’. That is why whenever you speak you say, ‘I am so and so, that so and so changes, body and mind changes,  but the ‘I am’ doesn’t change. That’s because, you know deep inside that you are changeless atma called Jivatma. Ego introduces the confusion, Self-Realization is overcoming this confusion by enquiring into the nature of Ego.

So when you say, ‘I am’ which is that ‘I am’, it is the Jivatma or Self? But the Jiva or the ego or Ahamkara takes the position of the body and says ‘I am the Self’, that is why it is called Jiva. Jiva is the Ego Self and Jivatma is the original Consciousness, Self. The Jiva takes the position of the body and says ‘I am the Self’, that is why it is called Jiva. The Ego takes the position of the Self, and says ‘I am the Atma’. Jiva identifies with the body-mind-intellect, whereas Atma is pure consciousness, silent and at peace. Atma is the divine in you, Atma is the God in you. The Jiva, intellect, Buddhi these get powered by Atma, the light of the Self, by the light of awareness that falls on these objects. Without the Light of the Self they are dead.

So what are you really? Who are you really?

Are you the body, which is changing?

Are you the mind, which is changing?

Are you the intellect, which is changing?


Are you the unchanging eternal ‘Self’, Jivatma?


Jivatma is the amsha (part) of the Paramatma God. So Jivatma is nothing but God. You are one with the God, to realize that is Self-Realization.

The changeless ‘I’ is also perfect in its place, the changing ‘ego’ is also perfect, because its nature is to change, but why is this association so strong?

The association is strong because you have not enquired!

There is a marriage party, there are people from boy’s side and there are people from girl’s side. There is some smart guy and he comes to the marriage party. He talks nicely with everyone, the girl’s side think he is from boy’s side, and the boy’s side think he is from girl’s side and everyone talk very nicely to him. And this man has come to eat some nice food and if possible to rob some jewellery. But nobody is trying to enquire his true identity. Now suddenly one person from girl’s side gets some doubt, ‘is he from boy’s side? If so how is he related to them?’ He can’t ask directly so he ask boy’s parents, ‘How is related to you?’ They say, ‘we thought he is related to you’. So now both boy’s side and girl’s side start looking at him and suddenly he realizes that his true color is coming out, Before anybody asks he just disappears. So what happened here, he was enjoying, the ego is the thief, it is enjoying, but as you become aware it disappears! That is why Ramana Maharishi taught Self Enquiry.

Whenever there are lots of thoughts, just ask who is thinking, who am I? Is the ‘changing ‘I’, that is thinking, or is it the unchanging ‘I’ that is thinking? For whom these thoughts are coming? Ask this question and the moment you ask this question the thief disappears! Because Atma is peaceful and silent, it has no questions. Ego is never peaceful because it is associating with the changing ones, it is restless. Ask the question who am I? Immediately you will go back to the true Self which is peace. So this ego association is thriving because you are not enquiring. The Self Enquiry is the key.

If Buddhi is possessed by ego then how can Buddhi ask the question?

The Buddhi or the intellect is the real master in our body, working directly under the atma, so the Buddhi is clouded by the ego. Ego will take the possession of the intellect or Buddhi. It’s like a virus, it occupies the computer, and it catches the intellect and starts making it dance according to its needs.  How can you do Self Enquiry when the Buddhi or intellect, the real discriminating power is corrupted by the ego? The solution for this is the process of contemplation. You need to contemplate on the basis of spiritual truths.

So what is this contemplation?

It is the process of coming out of the grip of the ego!

Let us elaborate on what is contemplation in further talks.

Transcription by Atmajyothi Satyavathi

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