7) Self Knowledge (Atmajnan) – Discrimination & Dispassion

Talk 7 by Prabhuji


Let us contemplate on ‘Discrimination and Dispassion’ meaning ‘Viveka and vairagya’.

The bondage for us is due to the ignorance of the Self, thinking that ‘I am the body, mind and intellect, the Self gets trapped in the body and in Karma phala and he takes on repeated births. The way for the Self to get liberated is to clearly understand that ‘I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am not the intellect, and I am pure Consciousness.  The process of bringing this clarity is called discrimination. The intellect has the ability to discriminate called Viveka and dispassion is the result of the discrimination.

What to discriminate?

We have to discriminate ‘Atma’ from ‘anatma’, ‘Self’ from ‘non-Self’, this is called ‘Atma-anatma viveka’.

What is the difference between ‘Self’ and ‘non-Self’?

‘Self’, is the Pure Consciousness, Chaitanya. ‘Non-Self’, is the Matter, Object, Jada.

Body appears to be conscious, alive, if you pinch it will pain. But this Consciousness for the body is not the original Consciousness, it is a derived Consciousness or reflected Consciousness. Mind also appears to be conscious and intellect also appears to be conscious. But, none of these are original Consciousness, there are all reflected Consciousness. Where as the one who is observing this, witnessing this, is the original Consciousness. So you have to know the difference between the Self and the body and the mind and the intellect. This is called ‘Atma-anatma viveka’. Discrimination between ‘Self’ and ‘non-Self’.

How do you know body is not conscious?

I feel body is conscious. If somebody is not well and he becomes unconscious, doctor says that he is unconscious. And when he gains conscious, it is said he gained Consciousness, so all Consciousness is referred to the body. But body itself is unconscious, how do you know that? So there is a principle, ‘What you observe is separate from the observer’. For example, I am able to see the light, so I am not the light. The ‘Seer’ is always different from the ‘Seen’. The ‘Seer’ has to be different from the ‘Seen’. ‘Seer’ is not the same as the ‘Seen’. That logic is very clear to us, ‘I can see the wall, so I am different from the wall’. So ‘whatever I see I am different from that’. ‘Seer’ is the Consciousness and ‘Seen’ is the ‘objects’.

But somewhere the logic gets confused when we apply to our body, mind and intellect. So we start confusing the body, mind and intellect as ‘Seer’ instead of ‘Seen’.

It is like this, I am wearing glasses and I read something, when I am reading I almost forget that I am wearing the glasses, glasses become a part of me. Similarly the Sakshi or the witness observes the world through the body-mind complex and due to the forgetfulnesss, the Self forgets that body-mind complex is the object used by Sakshi and it becomes a part of Sakshi, Let us go back to the logic, as I am wearing the glass and reading. At one point I stop reading and take out the glass and see it and realize, ‘oh I am wearing the glass’. Similarly can we look at our body mind and intellect objectively from a distance? Then body-mind-intellect becomes separate.

I can remove the glasses and see, but I cannot remove the body and see, there can be no physical separation. But the principle is, ‘if you are able to observe any object objectively, then the object is separate from you’. So you have to arrive at a stage where the object is completely separate from you and only the subject remains. This is called ‘Total Objectivity’. And total objectivity is called Enlightenment or Spiritual Realization.

Now mind, body and intellect, all are objects, how do you know that? Let us take the body, can you see the body? Are you able to see the body? If you are able to see the body, then the body is separate from you. Same logic, body is the object of seeing and the ‘Seer’ is different from the ‘Seen’.

Are you able to see the mind? ‘I am angry, I am sad, etc’ Are you not able to see the sadness and anger? Are you able to see the feeling, you know that there is a feeling, you know that there is happiness, you know that there is pleasantness, you know that there is unpleasantness. So is mind object or subject? It is object, because you are able to see it.

Are you able to see the intellect? ‘Thinker, there are so many thoughts, lakhs of thoughts, if I had so much money, I would be rich. Are you able to see the thoughts? Are you able to see the worries related to it?

Are you able to see the ‘I am’ feeling? There is a constant feeling called ‘I am’, are you able to see that? So is intellect subject or object? When you are able to see something, is it subject or object? It is object, then why are you confusing yourself with the objects?

Actually when I say ‘seeing’ it is not literally seeing the feeling and thoughts. Seeing can also mean feeling, experiencing and observing. All these actually separate you from the ‘seen’. All experiences are in the domain of objectivity.

If you are a subject then you are in trouble because if you say ‘I am sad’, then you are finished because you cannot do anything else. But ‘I am’ gets replaced soon with ‘I am’ happy. The problem is that you are associating your happiness and sadness with outer objects. The whole spirituality is to find out ‘what is Subject and what is object’ and understanding that ‘anything happens to the object and nothing happens to the subject’. If the body is removed, the object is gone. That is why after death the body is burnt immediately, nobody keeps the body. To understand the ‘subject-object’ relationship clearly is called ‘viveka’.

The moment viveka is there, vairagya, dispassion comes naturally, why?

I can use the body, but body is not me. I have only attachment towards what is mine and what is me.  But real ‘me’ is separate from all this. Obviously I can use them, if they are there also its ok, if they are not there also its ok, it does not matter to me and this is called Viragya. Vairagya has nothing to do with leaving family, vairagya is nothing to with marriage, vairagya is nothing to do with growing beard or looking weird. Vairagya is a state of mind. Real vairagya is understanding  ‘things as they are’. Understanding body is not me; mind is not me; intellect is not me; because I am able to observe that.

In meditation you get dragged into many thoughts, because the reason is simple, you start associating with the thoughts, identifying with the thoughts. Thoughts are objects, thoughts are not subjects. So again using the discrimination to come out of the object and be the subject is the way to freedom.

Let us understand one more characteristic of the subject. Eyes can see everything, but eyes cannot see itself. Tongue can taste everything but itself, the Sakshi can witness everything but itself, the Atma can see everything but itself. You have to come to a stage ‘where everything remains object and you are the subject’ that is the state of meditation.

Somebody says, “I had a beautiful meditation, I had this Atma standing in front of me”, that is not meditation. “Such a glorious light Atma came in front of me”, then it is not your Atma some ghost may be. So please understand what is Atma and Anatma.

Then one more criteria you have to apply, ‘nitya-anitya viveka’.

What is permanent and impermanent? What is changing and what is unchanging?


Now you are sitting here and listening to me, are you sure? It is possible hypothetically that you are sleeping in your home on your bed and dreaming that you are listening to me. Because in any dream whatever happens appears to be so real.  So it is possible that you are sleeping in your house and dreaming that you are listening to me. You are listening to me is true or you are dreaming that you are listening to me is true?

How do you find out the truth?

In dream also you have eyes and until you wake up everything seems as real as now, and when you are dreaming you don’t know that there is something called waking up.  So there is always something called ‘objectivity and subjectivity’. You can always question any objective phenomena, whether it is real or unreal. But one thing you cannot question, ‘I am there are not?’ Whether in dream or waking state you cannot question ‘I am’, because ‘I am’ is taken for granted. That is why only ‘I am’ is real, everything else is Maya, dream, just an appearance. So what is eternal? ‘I am’, is the truth ‘Sathyam’ which doesn’t change and whatever changes it is a dream like situation. So are you in a dream are you in a reality? Is this dream or reality? Whatever you experience through your senses and mind is a dream, this is a waking dream. The only reality is ‘I am’, the Self, Sakshi, witness, and everything is temporary – changing, like a dream like situation. That dream is called Maya!

You will never be able to find the difference between waking dream and a sleeping dream. You will never be able to find out which is real. You will never be able to separate what is a  dream and what is reality at any point of time in your life. This is a philosopher’s puzzle.

How do I know that I am not dreaming?

Again the Zen master story comes.

One day, a Zen Master woke up in the morning and started crying, and his disciples came and asked him, ‘why you are crying sir? Zen master replied, ‘I had a dream and in the dream I became a butterfly’. The disciple said, ‘So what Master, it was just a dream. Now you are the Zen Master and we all are your disciples. Zen master said, ‘I don’t know whether I was then a Zen Master dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a Zen Master, that is why I am crying.” You will never be able to separate dream and reality only the real thing is ‘I am’, the witness, Sakshi. This is viveka and vairagya.

Transcription by Atmajyothi Satyavathi

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