Bhagawatam 148: The definition of Self (atma); greatness of path of devotion (bhakti)

Nārasimhāya namah

Maharishi Kapila continued to preach, “Devotion (bhakti) and detachment (vairagya) then emerge in the spiritual aspirant. They in turn give rise to Spiritual Knowledge.

He then realizes that his original form is the Self (atma) which is non-dual; which is over and above Nature (Prakriti); which is beyond differences within and without; which is Self-illuminating; which cannot be understood through any decisive proofs; which is beyond differences such as ‘you’ and ‘me’ and which is a mere witness to dualities such as joys and sorrows”.

If you listen with rapt attention you will understand the preaching being given by Kapila to mother Devahuti.  We need to listen to this subject about Self (atma) again and again so that we understand it better. Let us recapitulate.

The Self (atma, soul) is non-dual. It is beyond Prakriti (Nature). In other words it is beyond that which is visible to our eyes. At the same time it is also beyond that which is not visible to our eyes. When we see the beauty in Nature, we are astonished. We are filled with deep joy. Thus we conclude that everything is contained within it. But there is something beyond it too! That is bliss. It is impossible to describe bliss which is beyond everything. No amount of words will suffice to explain bliss.

Is it possible to taste nectar? Is it possible to describe its taste? That which is tasteless is nectar. But what do we say? Whenever we taste some delicious food we say it tastes like nectar. Even a spoon of jaggery water we say is nectarous. Saying so actually limits the value of nectar. In reality nectar is beyond this taste.

We state that mango juice tastes like nectar. But do you think a person who has really tasted nectar will ever seek to taste mango juice again? Will he entertain such desire? Never. This is the speciality of nectar. Whatever we consider to be nectarous, real nectar surpasses even that. In other words, it is beyond Nature (Prakriti). It is beyond creation and beyond all those planets that exist within the creation.

There are limitless planets in this creation. It should be understood that the Self has enveloped these planets. The Self (atma) has enveloped the entire vast creation. It also means that it pervades everything equally within the creation and outside of it without any difference.

The same God pervades everything inside and outside of this creation. It is He who exists within the body. It is He who exists outside of it, isn’t it? He who is outside is also inside. We cannot say that a different God exists within us and a different God exists outside of us. Thus this Self pervades everything!

The Self (atma) intrinsically illumines (self-illuminating). It does not depend upon anyone for illumination. It emits its own light. Illumination is an intrinsic characteristic of Parabrahma. Now do not assume the word ‘illumination’ to be some bright light, lamp or like the Sun’s light. How are all these planets shining? That shine itself is Paramatma. The Lord glows on His own.

The Self cannot be reached through any proofs or firmly determined knowledge (pratyaksha pramāṇa). Knowledge of the Self cannot be given through any examples also. It is beyond all examples and all proofs. It is beyond the scope of examples and proofs.

The Self (atma) is neither the visible object nor the invisible object. We cannot say that it is only the object that exists before our eyes. We cannot state that it is only the invisible object that is beyond our perception. It is beyond them both.

Differences such as ‘you’ and ‘me’ do not exist in the Self. It remains a mere witness to dualities such as joys and sorrows. It does not consider joy to be different from sorrows. At times of grief it does not believe that something has been lost or taken away from it. The Self is beyond joy. It is also beyond sorrow. That which is beyond joys and sorrows should be blissful, isn’t it? Hence this Self remains a mere witness to all forms of dualities.

In this way, the spiritual aspirant realizes that this Self is his true form! In addition, he understands that due to this knowledge obtained, the ability of Nature (Prakriti) to trap him has diminished! Now that he is beyond dualities, Nature loses its grip over him.

The spiritual aspirant who seeks to reach Godhead should walk on the path of devotion! Bhakti alone is the boat that will take us to the destination! There is no path other than bhakti! There is no path more auspicious or simpler than bhakti. This entire treatise Bhagawatam is all about bhakti.

Bhakti alone is the tool. Vyasa and other Maharishis attained liberation only through bhakti. Bhakti means fixing the mind exclusively on Supreme Lord! ‘Although we are living here on earth and undergoing all these experiences, in reality nothing belongs to us. We do not want this’- this should be our firm decision. ‘In this illusory world every action that we perform, be it eating, sleeping, talking or working, everything belongs to the Supreme Lord’ – such an attitude reflects Self-surrender. It alone is bhakti.

We should strive to increase this bhakti every single day. We should nourish it. In every possible method we should strive to increase our bhakti (devotion).

Deep attachment to this world turns out to be a powerful noose that traps the person. Most persons hold on to these worldly attachments with full force. They believe everything exists within them. Such persons will be reborn again amidst such bondages. They will experience the same karma again. It becomes an endless cycle. It will be like an automatic button that has been pressed. Birth after birth endlessly such persons will experience the same karma.

Willfully we should step away from frutitive actions. Every person believes he is stepping away but then again he gets pulled into frutitive actions. Verbally he states- ‘I have no connection with them. I have come away from them.’ The one who says this actually gets dragged into it. Once these attachments are pampered, they grow enormously. This noose will never release you from its grip once it catches.

Willful efforts are needed to shred it. Determined attempts do not mean escaping from them. Merely distancing from these bondages physically is of no use. Mentally also we should distance from them.

If the human being shows the same inclination towards holy associations with saints, then this holy association will open up the gates to liberation!

The human being is always concerned about worldly attachments. At all times his thoughts are focused upon them. Even his prayers to God are about these worldly attachments and problems. He worries about them all the time. ‘My job is pending. This task is still incomplete.’ Do you realize that by worrying about it, you are actually carrying forward that job with you when you leave? You will worry about this pending task even in your next birth. For this reason cut your attachment towards it in this birth itself. Only when you think deeply about this, you will step into the path of bhakti.

Titikṣavaḥ kāruṇikāḥ suhṛda sarva-dehinām

Ajāta-śatravaḥ śāntāḥ  sādhavaḥ sādhu-bhūṣaā

Patience is a noble virtue found in saints. They will be naturally endowed with feelings of compassion towards all beings and will strive to help them. In this world, until now for such saints, no enemy has been born. He will never ever be born.

Those who possess saintly nature never have feelings of enmity towards any being in this universe! Everyone is equal in their eyes. They have feelings of compassion towards every being. Those who are on the path of bhakti should necessarily inculcate such traits.

Achyutaya namah

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