Atman: The Ultimate Power Within  

By U. Mahesh Prabhu

Vedic teachings emphasize understanding and realizing the Atman also called Purusha.  While “Soul” could also be a translation of this word, as it is “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal”, a much better word to understand Atman is “Consciousness”. Understanding this consciousness and, harnessing it with wisdom for the welfare of all is the main objective of Vedic practices.

Management is understood in the modern context as the “process of dealing with or controlling things or people.” In the Vedic perspective, management is first about understanding oneself and, then, bettering oneself before endeavoring to create a better world. As the Vedic saying goes “By understanding the gold we can make many things of it; like chain, ring and bracelets. Similarly, by understanding the Atman, you can understand and help everyone.”

There are three important declarations in Vedic wisdom, namely: Pragyanam Brahma (Knowledge is Brahman), Tat Tvam Asi (You are that) and Aham Bhrahmasmi (I am Brahman). The entire wisdom of the Vedic scriptures can be comprehended through these three declarations. Brahman here refers to the supreme reality behind and beyond the entire universe and all individual creatures within it

Pragyanam Brahma (Knowledge is Brahman): Gyana Yoga (path of Knowledge) is one of the most significant paths prescribed to achieve liberation in Vedic thought. Without this higher knowledge, there can be no liberation from pains and problems; there’s only suffering. Only through understanding ourselves can we understand the world; knowledge, therefore, is the key.

Tat Tvam Asi (You are that): One of the most common occurrences in various conflicts around the world today is the blame game. Nobody wants to accept their own faults and, on the contrary, they put the blame on their opponents. But, then, when the blame is elsewhere we accept ourselves as the oppressed rather than culprits. We detach ourselves from utilizing any opportunities we may have to set things right; because we assume that there’s nothing to be fixed from our end. Given this, the situation worsens and liberation from our pains seldom happens.

Therefore, only by accepting the responsibility for our own situation can we stand a chance to fundamentally change it. This acceptance comes through wisdom. Once this wisdom is achieved, we can realize our innate and full potential. We grow knowledgeable and become wise enough to accept that for everything that occurs we are responsible. And then we are motivated to work to bring about the practical, real and positive change.

Aham Brahmasmi (I am the Brahman): Brahmaa is depicted in Hindu mythology as a four faced, white bearded old man who sits on a lotus emanating from the navel of Lord Vishnu. However, Brahma has multifaceted meaning in Sanskrit. Brahma also means the Supreme Consciousness out of which everything arises, the very source of creation. On realizing our full potential through Pragyanam Brahma and accepting our role as a bringer of change – Tat tvam Asi – we soon realize that for all the creation or destruction around us we ourselves are responsible. We realize that it’s not elsewhere where we need to look for enlightenment; it is the light within us that can enlighten our world as well as the world around us.

Atman has both individual and universal aspects. Jivaatman (individual consciousness) is a part of Paramatman (universal consciousness) and, therefore, Atman is also called as Kshetrajna (Universal consciousness situated in an individual body).

Atman can also be understood as Energy – that which cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be converted (in case of Atman, reborn) from one form to another. This implies that Atman resides in the body; but is not the body. Pain, pleasure, desire, greed, anger, lust and aspirations are limited to the body – these are born in the bodies and thereby die with it. But Atman is clearly beyond the body.

A great many life-style diseases that are affecting humanity, including Hypertension, Diabetes and Debility are essentially due to stress. When the mind is stressed, the body is stressed and eventually such diseases occur. However, stress exists only with a false sense of attachment to the body. This sense of attachment comes from the assumption that we are the body. But are we?

Just for a second try to remember yourself when you were ten years younger. Look at your own older photograph. How did you look? Compare that photo with yourself in the mirror. Do you look the same? I bet not. Science tells us that the body we had when we were a child, teenager, middle aged, or old aged are different. You are not the same body. Yet, you are connected with it. You think this is how I looked when I was of that age; but then most of the cells that were in your body have changed and what you have now is a body that is very different. So, what’s the consciousness in you which enables you to connect with these two set of bodies and feel that you are the same person? In Vedic scripture that is Atman.

Once you realize that you are Atman or pure consciousness you understand that you not just outlive the various cells in your body but also this entire bodily existence. It’s a common wisdom that all that is born must die; but Vedic wisdom introduces to the greater aspect – all that dies must be born again. The entire universe is a process of creation as well as destruction. From creation emanates destruction and from destruction comes new creation.

When you realize this eternal truth – you are no more afraid of negative experiences. You are more prepared for the challenges of life. Difficult events that cause fear seldom bothers you and you are happy within, without any trace of stress, strain or pain. With this happiness, you embark on a path that instills not just prosperity but also perpetual bliss. You create a better world, first for yourself and then for everyone around you. You find your inner consciousness within all people and in the entire universe.

Wisdom of Atman (Atma Bodha) teaches us that every individual is potentially divine. And every Atman has within it the power to influence the world in its own way. The consequences are positive when the wisdom of Atman is known; negative when ignorance prevails. This the reason why Vidya (knowledge) is also understood as the realization of the Atman in the Vedas.

All the greatest contribution of Vedic wisdom, including Ayurveda and Yoga, are built on the foundation of Atma Gyaan (knowledge of the self). A person who has known his own self will verily know the world and make it a better place for everyone. Therefore, the Vedic seers proclaim, “Know yourself to know the world; Change yourself and realize your true nature – before you embark on a grand venture to change the world.”

4 responses on "Atman: The Ultimate Power Within  "

  1. Nice article, very useful. However, not sure of the link between Tatvam Asia and change, although rationally argued.

    • Profile photo of U Mahesh Prabhu

      Thank you Dr Singh. Tat Tvam Asi rougly translates to You are That. In the sense – You are Paramatman or Brahma or Creator. If you’re a creator you are definitely responsible for the creation; at least for things around you. I’ve let go the literal meaning in an effort to let the wisdom prevail. Hope that helps?

  2. Have found this to be a very Important Tool of our Times

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