SPIRITUALITY SCIENCE – THE KNOWER – THE KNOWING-SELF:
WHO AM I ? THE INQUIRY ABOUT SELF:
Man’s role in the vast universe is insignificant. When man looks around, he as the rational observer gets easily overwhelmed by his irrelevance to the great universal order. Man has no choice other than that of knowing himself better. Man has to understand the truth and reliability of his own cognitive powers. Man has to know the truth about Self. Many of my Indian readers are familiar with India’s epic poem, Valmiki Ramayana. While Indians believe that Lord Rama is the Ultimate Reality or the Absolute Truth, in Ramayana’s Book Six, Yuddha Kanda, Sarga or Chapter 117(the final chapter), Prince Rama spoke to Lord Brahma(the Lord God Creator) inquiring, “I think of myself to be a human being by name Rama, the son of Dasaratha; You, as a gracious Divinity, tell me Who am I and Why I am like this ?” To know the truth and reality, man must begin his inquiry with the question, “WHO AM I ?”
Man is a physical being, a being with Matter and Form. What is ‘real’ must be distinguished from what is called ‘appearance’. In Indian tradition, the human body is described as unreal as its Form or appearance is subject to constant change. At the same time, it must be recognized that Matter has no independent existence of its own, and Matter gets recognition when it exists while it is associated with a Form. The inquiry about Self must include both Matter and the Form. The existence of Self is known and is experienced by the part of the body called “The Knowing-Self.”
The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter II, Sankhya Yoga, verse#13 reads:
“dehinosmin yatha dehe kaumaram, yauvanam, jara
tatha dehantara praptir dhiras tatra na muhyati.”
As the embodied Soul continually passes in this body from boyhood to youth and then to old age, a man of courage must not grieve about the passing of Soul after the body dies. This verse needs a very careful interpretation for Matter is neither created nor destroyed. The condition called death applies to the Form or appearance while the Matter has the divine attribute called imperishability. The Soul preserves the Individuality of the Individual who passes through various stages like childhood, youth, and old age with varying physical identities.
The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter XIV, Gunatraya Vibhaga Yoga, Three Modes of Material Nature, verse#3 describes the total material substance as Brahma, is the source of birth, and in that Brahma, Lord Krishna causes pregnancy(or the generation of varied forms) and thereby causing the possibilities for the births of all living beings. If Matter is Brahma, Lord Krishna is the Creator of Form or appearance using His creative potency which in Indian tradition is described as ‘Maya Shakti’. Brahma, Prakriti or Material Nature describe the material substratum pervading physical existence. Inanimate and inert Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether along with Manas(the seat of Mind, Buddhi, Intellect), and Ahankara(EGO) together constitute Lord Krishna’s eightfold material energies or differentiated aspects of Matter.
Both Matter and Form represent the divine attributes of a single, infinite Substance. In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter XIII, Kshetra – Kshetrajna Vibhaga Yoga, verses 1,2, and 3 describe the material body as the Field of Activity called ‘KSHETRA’ and one who knows this body is called the Knower of the Field of Activity or ‘KSHETRAJNA’. Lord Krishna further clarifies that He is also the Knower of the Field of Activity in all living bodies. In Indian tradition to understand the human body and its owner is called Knowledge or ‘JNANA’.
The subject of man’s inquiry about Self is not about investigating the Infinite Substance or Nature called God. Man must explore his own body and understand what he knows and as to how he knows his own identity. For purposes of clarity, I divide man into two categories; 1. SELF which represents man as a Physical, Mental, and Social being. Self represents the thinking person, and the feeling person, or the person having thoughts and feelings, and 2. THE KNOWING-SELF which represents man as a Moral and Spiritual being. The Knowing-Self is the seat of consciousness where the contents of consciousness are composed in a very selective manner. The Knowing-Self is responsible for the condition called ‘AROUSAL’ that can keep man fully alert and awake. The Knowing-Self knows man’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and sensory experiences. The Knowing-Self plays a central role in maintaining and sustaining the vital functions like circulation, and respiration to support existence.
Indian tradition and various religious and philosophical traditions speak about Soul, Spirit, and Atman without describing its precise location in the human body which is comprised of trillions of independent, individual living cells which have their own individual life span or lifetime. If the information about Soul, Spirit, and Atman is valid, there must be some useful or practical applications of that information. Indian tradition while being silent about the anatomical description of Soul, Spirit, and Atman, speaks about the hierarchical arrangement of mental functions and guides man to control or exercise supervision of his intellect, mind, sense organs, and the body.
Indian tradition uses the term “SELF” to describe Soul, Spirit, or Atman. The “SELF” is the ‘Knower’, the Controller, and the ‘Supreme Enjoyer’, or the ‘Indweller’ of the Body which is often called the house or a place of residence. For example, KathOpanishad(KATHA + UPANISHAD),1:3:4 states:
“Atmanam rathinam viddhi,
Sariram ratham eva cha,
Buddhim tu Sarathim viddhi,
Manah pragraham eva cha,
Indriyani hayan ahur,
Visayams tesu gocaran,
Bhoktety ahur Manisinah.”
This statement may not give the precise location of Soul or Atman in man’s human body but shows as to how man manages his intellect(BUDDHI) to apply restraint on his mind which in return controls the organs of sense perception which are in hot pursuit of desires and cravings of the body whose actions and responses are driven by the sensory experiences of various kinds. It uses the analogy of a Chariot to assign Man and his organs to perform specific roles.
This statement must be carefully interpreted for it can have useful practical applications in promoting Man’s Physical, Mental, Social, Moral, and Spiritual Well-being.
Indian tradition is fully concerned about knowing the ‘identity’ of things. My concern is about the ‘unity’ of various parts to establish the Objective and the Subjective Reality of Man’s existence in the natural world. Man is a Mortal Being and his physical existence provides a finite experience for it is related, connected, bonded, associated, partnered or yoked with an Infinite Substance of which Soul, Spirit, or Atman is of interest for it brings Unity between the Infinite and Finite Man’s Physical Reality.
Using the analogy of a ‘CHARIOT’, Man can reach the Final Destination or ‘The Goal’ using the Knowledge(JNANA) about Self, Soul, Spirit, or Atman.