This sutra gives us some indications about the nature of the atman - above all, that it is created of itself. Atman, existence, alone is self-created. The word swayambhoo means self-originated. It means that which is not created by any other thing, that which is self-created. Its existence is from itself. Its existence is in no one else's hands; it depends upon itself.
So this first point, that the atman is self-originated, should be comprehended fully. Everything we see can be produced. Whatever is produced, whatever can be made, will not be the atman. We construct a building; it is not self-originating, it is made. We manufacture a machine; it is not self- created, it is manufactured by us. Seek that element, that essence, that is manufactured by no one.
This uncreated essence is the atman. In our effort to seek into the existence of the universe, if we reach there, if we can grasp that supreme substance of the universe which is not created by anyone, which is eternal, unoriginated, the self itself, then we shall attain to godliness.
The atman and the supreme atman are not two; they are the names of the same thing seen from two viewpoints. If you find it within yourself, then that unmanufactured, unborn, self-created element is called the atman. And if you seek and find it in another, then that element is called the great, the supreme atman. The atman is simply the supreme atman known from within. The supreme atman is simply the atman known from without.
If you examine yourself you will see that this body is a created thing. It could not have been produced without the cooperation of your parents. Even if, in the future, it is made in a test-tube, it remains a manufactured thing. The scientists and biologists of the West may be able, if not today then in the future, to fulfill their claim of producing a child in a test-tube. They will succeed in manufacturing a body in a test-tube, and hope thereby to finally defeat religion. But they are mistaken in their view, because the spiritual man never saw this body as the atman.
The spiritual man says, "That which is unborn, uncreated, is the atman." By manufacturing a body in a test-tube, scientists will simply prove that the body is not the soul - the atman. It seems that the body will be manufactured in the future; I do not see any reason why it should not be so. Many spiritualists are apprehensive about this: "What will happen to the atman when the body is created in a test-tube in a laboratory? It will prove that the atman does not exist if we are able to produce a child without the parents' cooperation and with the help of chemicals." But such spiritualists do not know that the body is not the atman. It is precisely if the scientist succeeds in his experiment that this sutra of the Upanishad will be proved true - that this body is not the atman. Only this much, and nothing more, will be proved.
Even now we know that the body is not the soul. This fact is proved by the physical sciences. In the future the body will be created by artificial and chemical processes. At present, when the chemical substances of the parents combine and create that cell which is the first cell of the body, then the soul enters it. If in the future that cell is produced in the laboratory, and if that genetic situation is created which is being created by parents up to now, then the soul will enter there also.
But that cell, the cell which is the first cell of the body, is not the atman. It is a manufactured thing, it is not selfborn. It is made by somebody. Its existence, its birth, depends upon something, so those who know the atman are not prepared to call it the atman. It is not the atman. To know that, we shall have to work our way back and back; we shall have to go down deeper and deeper.
So I myself am pleased and hope that science succeeds in making a test-tube baby as soon as possible, because then we will be helped by scientific investigations to break our identity with the body. Then we will know for sure that the body is a kind of machine, and that to believe in it as the self is foolish. It is foolishness even now, but at present we are unwilling to recognize that the body is a machine. It is a machine even so. It is produced by natural forces, so by understanding the secrets of nature we will be able to produce it, and then we will have the cooperation of natural forces to break our identification with the body.
Entering deep within ourselves, we have to reach that place, that essence, which cannot be created; and as long as manufacturing it is possible, know that it cannot be the atman. So by going deeper and deeper into manufacturing, science helps religion, because whatsoever science can create, that is not the atman. The atman is further than that. The atman is always beyond that which can be made.
So we are greatly obliged to science that it goes on making one thing after another, extending the limits of what can be manufactured and thereby defining what the atman is not; because we call that element the atman which is self-originated, which is unborn, which cannot be created. It means the original.
There has to be, without doubt, an ultimate, a fundamental element for this universe to be created, and this ultimate element must be uncreated. If a basis is required for the creation of everything, then creation is impossible. If you say, "God is required to create the world," then you will have to say another superior God is necessary to create God. There is no end to this sort of logic. Then we shall never reach that place where we can say, "Okay, here is the place for whose creation no other creator is necessary."
It will be better and more scientific if we understand it thus: that which is self-originated is the atman.
This is more scientific than saying that the atman is self-originated. It is more scientific if we say, "We call him the supreme atman - God - who is uncreated, who is not created by anyone," than to say, "Nobody has created God."
Science also experiences this. In their investigations, scientists reach certain limits and then they feel that there is something beyond the limits, which is beyond creation. As it happened, science was always making investigations about elements, and the ancient scientists declared that there were five elements. This was not said by the ancient spiritualists - the religious people - because they had no concern with such elements. They were concerned with only one, the self-originated element.
The old scientific thinking of nearly four to five thousand years ago maintained that everything is created from five elements. Now the mistake happened because there did not exist separate books of science; every subject was included in religious books. The religious books were the collections of all the knowledge of those days, and so the belief that everything was created from five elements was available in religious books. But this matter relates to science and not to religion. Religion seeks only one element - the self-originated element.
Science continued its investigations, and it found that the principle of five elements was incorrect.
When this was found out the foolish so-called religious people were very worried. They thought everything was now in confusion, because they had come to believe in five elements. But science went on steadily with its research. Now scientists have discovered one hundred and eight elements.
But I want to make it clear that the new researches of science disprove only the old science.
No discovery of science can disprove religion, because the directions of religion and science are quite separate. Someone may compose a very fine poem, but that cannot disprove a principle of mathematics. There is no relation between poetry and mathematics. Similarly someone may develop a deep and difficult mathematical theory, but that will not disqualify a good poem, because their directions are separate; they don't cancel each other. They don't even touch each other. These directions run parallel like railway lines. If they seem to meet each other somewhere, it is our illusion.
If you go to the meeting point you will find that they run parallel. Only an illusion of their meeting each other can arise, as it does in the case of railway lines.
When science disproves something it disproves the old fact or belief. The whole Christian world became very nervous when science declared that the earth is not flat but round, because it is mentioned in the Bible that the earth is flat. But what is written in the Bible about the earth's shape is the affirmation of scientists of those days; it is not a religious affirmation. So when science found out that the earth is round it disproved the old belief. But this new discovery showed that the ancient science was wrong. Science can never make religion incorrect, nor can religion ever make science wrong. They have no relation at all to each other, there is no interconnection between them. There is not even communication between them; their dimensions are different from each other. Their directions are absolutely separate.
Starting with five elements science found many other elements and their number is one hundred and eight today, thus proving that the ancient five elements were incorrectly known as elements. They were certainly not elements. In fact, those which were known as elements in the beginning were not elements; they were compounds. As for example, earth. Now there are many substances in earth - there is not just one substance alone in any sort of earth. Another example is water. Science says there are two substances, hydrogen and oxygen, in water. Water is not a single element, it is a mixture of two substances. A combination is not an element; according to science, it is called a compound. So water cannot be considered an element. Oxygen and hydrogen are elements.
So science discovered one hundred and eight elements. But as science went deeper and deeper into its researches, scientists by and by began to realize that all these one hundred and eight elements have a common intermediary. It may be hydrogen or it may be oxygen, but both of them are created by electric particles. So it appears that hydrogen and oxygen are also not elements.
Electricity has now become the element. The union of some electric particles makes hydrogen and the union of some electric particles makes oxygen, and these one hundred and eight elements are simply the combinations of electric particles. If three particles are there, they make one element; if there are two particles, another element is produced. If there are four, another element is created.
But whether they are three or four or two, they are all particles of electricity.
Hence science had a new experience - that there is only one element, and that is electricity. All the one hundred and eight so-called elements are, in the final analysis, compounds. They are combinations. They are not elements, they are not basic substances.
The position of science at present is that it is prepared to believe that electricity is uncreated, that it is self-originated, and that all this vast growth, this expansion, is that of the only element - electricity.
Electricity, says science, is not a compound produced by the combination of two substances, it is uncreated. Science calls that substance an element which is self-originated. So now science calls electricity a self-originated element. It cannot be created, because only that substance which can be produced by a combination can be made. If you combine two things, a third thing will be produced.
If you combine three things, the result will be the making of a fourth. But how can you create the original element which is without any combination? You can neither make it nor destroy it. If we wish to destroy water, we can do so by separating hydrogen and oxygen, because water is made by combination. If we wish to destroy hydrogen, we can do so. If we separate its electric particles - which we call atomic energy - then hydrogen will no longer be there. Only the electric energy will remain. Only the energy will remain. But we cannot destroy that energy because there is no combination of two substances which we can separate. We can simply do this much - we can either combine or separate things. We cannot create. That which is uncreated is element.
At present science calls electricity, electrical energy, a selforiginated element. But religion calls the atman a self-originated element. It will become possible, if not now then in future, for scientific investigation to break, to separate electricity also; and then we will be able to see that even electricity is not self-originated. Some years back we knew water as an element; then we were able to analyze it and found that oxygen and hydrogen are elements, water is not. Then we analyzed hydrogen and could see that it is also not an element; electricity is the element.
There are two possibilities: either it may be established that electricity and the atman are one and the same, or it may be that electricity will also be broken down and we will discover that it is also not an element. As far as I understand, electricity also can be broken down, and when it is broken we will find that only consciousness remains.
Now, it is interesting to consider that no one regards stone as energy. It is a substance - a matter.
Our old distinctions divide things into matter and energy. Stone is matter. But when stone was analyzed, and in the final analysis the atom was found, then matter was lost and energy remained; and science had to abandon its old notion of duality - duality of matter and energy. On matter being analyzed further and further, it was found that it did not exist; there was only energy. Matter is energy. Now there is no substance like matter; the latest position of science is that there is nothing like matter. Now the materialists have to be very careful in saying anything in support of matter because nothing like matter exists; there is only energy.
As long as we had not arrived at the final analysis of matter, two substances were accepted by scientists - matter and energy. You will definitely see the distinction if you hold a stone in one hand and touch an electric wire with the other. You will know that a stone is a stone and what is passing through the wire is energy. There is a great difference between the two. But now science says if you go on breaking and analyzing a stone, you will end up with energy which can pass through an electric wire. By further breaking it, we killed one hundred thousand people in Hiroshima. That was an electric shock! By breaking matter, by the explosion of a small atom, so much energy was produced that we could kill one hundred thousand people in Hiroshima and one hundred and twenty thousand in Nagasaki. So many people would not die by touching even the most powerful current.
A small atom produces a tremendous amount of electricity, and by transforming it into electricity the atom was destroyed - it was no more. So science now says that its old notion of duality - matter and energy - is gone. Now only energy remains. But I tell you, there still exists one more distinction, and that is the distinction of energy and consciousness.
When we touch electricity we know it is energy, but when we talk with a person we don't feel that he is simply energy, we feel his consciousness also. If the electric current is on, this tape recorder here will work, it will speak. But it will only repeat what I am saying. So when it speaks, it is only energy. But when I speak it is not only energy; there is consciousness also. The tape recorder cannot make any changes, it will report what I have said; but even if I want I cannot repeat tomorrow what I am saying today, because I am not a machine. I myself do not know what sentence will follow this sentence. When you listen to it, I am also listening to it.
The distinction between consciousness and energy still exists. It should be said that the old world was not a duality, it was a threefold world of matter, energy and consciousness. Out of these three, matter has been dropped. Now there are two - energy and consciousness. Deep investigations into matter proved it to be nonexistent; it disappeared because we knew that it was energy. And I tell you energy will also disappear in further and deeper investigations, and we shall see that there is only consciousness. That consciousness is the atman. Then there will be no matter, and no energy; everything will disappear and only consciousness will remain.
That is why we have named that supreme element satchitanand. To convey the true meaning of the word 'atman', three words are used. The word sat means existence - what is, which is always existing, which was never nonexistent. Sat means that which is there always. It is never in that state of which you can say 'It is'. Everything changes and goes on changing; yet it is there, unchanged.
The word chit means consciousness. It is not that it is simply existing, but it knows that 'I am'. It knows its presence. A thing can exist; for example, a stone is lying on the ground, but it is mere existence. If that stone knows that it exists, then and then only, it is consciousness also.
The third word is anand - bliss. It is not enough that it is the atman, it is not enough that it is consciousness, it is not enough that it exists and is aware of its existence. Just as it is aware of its existence, it also knows that 'I am anand' - the highest ecstasy!
The atman is said in this sutra to be self-originated because it can neither be created nor destroyed by anyone. Remember, as it is self-originated it is indestructible, it is immortal. The thing that can be made will die; that which can be manufactured will be destroyed. No production can be everlasting, no structure can be of a permanent nature. All constructions are produced at the appropriate time and disappear at their destined time. In fact, the thing that is born will die. However strong it may be made, it is sure to die though it may last a little longer. Palaces, whether made of paper or granite, are sure to fall down. Millions of wind blasts eventually fell the stone walls of palaces. If they are made of steel they will take a little longer, but in the end they are sure to fall. A palace of playing-cards will fall down even with one light puff of wind. It is a difference of degree only.
The difference between the falling of a house made of playing-cards and that made of stone is simply a matter of difference in wind velocity. There is no basic difference in the houses; the palace of cards is a constructed thing, so it must fall, and the stone palace is also a constructed thing, so it too must fall. Where there is making at one end, there will certainly be destruction at the other end. Because it is self-originated, the atman is indestructible. As it has never been made at one end, it will never be destroyed at the other end.
The self-originated has two characteristics: it is uncreated and it is indestructible. Let me tell you also that science supports this view, that whatever is made by the combination of two things will die; while the element which is made of one thing cannot be destroyed, cannot die. There is no way for it either to be destroyed or to be created. To create something other things have to be combined, and to destroy a thing, those things have to be separated. To make is to join, and to destroy is to separate. But the element which is single, which has no other element in it, cannot be destroyed.
How can it be destroyed? It cannot be broken. If it were made of two things it could have been broken. But as it is single, it will be always. The element which has its origin in itself is indestructible, and that element is called the atman by the Upanishads.
Some of its other features, its unavoidable characteristics, are also described. It is said that the self-created atman is all-knowing. What does all-knowing mean? It can have two meanings, and the wrong one of the two is fashionable. It usually happens that the fashionable thing is wrong. True knowledge is so deep and mysterious that it can never be the fashion. A matter without much depth can be understood by all and is likely to be fashionable.
One meaning of the term all-knowing is having knowledge about everything; this is the fashionable meaning. For example, the Jainas call Mahavira all-knowing, because when a person knows the atman he becomes omniscient, all-seeing; such is the nature of the atman. Mahavira himself has said that he who knows the one, knows all. In this sense it is correct to say that Mahavira knew all.
Then what usually happens is that the follower interprets this as meaning that Mahavira knows how to repair a bicycle puncture! But Mahavira did not know what a bicycle was. Or that Mahavira must know how an airplane is built.... If the term all-knowing is understood in this way, it gives rise to great delusion and difficulty; and the Jainas were in great difficulty when they began to consider Mahavira all-knowing in this sense.
Buddha frequently ridiculed this belief of the Jainas. What he was really laughing at was the absurdity of Mahavira's followers interpreting his enlightenment in this way, because they actually began to claim that Mahavira knew everything. So Buddha on many occasions joked, "I have heard some people claim that a certain individual is all-knowing, but I have seen that individual begging in front of a house in which there was nobody. After some time he realized that the house was unoccupied. I have seen him walking in the pale morning light; did he know of the dog lying in his path when he trod on its tail?"
So Buddha laughed at the foolish interpretations of that term all-knowing. He would say, "I have heard about this all-knowing individual standing on the outskirts of a town asking people the way to that town." But this fun is not directed at Mahavira. Mahavira never made such claims. The claimants are his followers. They say, "Mahavira is all-knowing; he knows which road leads to what place."
All-knowing has another meaning - a negative meaning. This positive meaning of 'he knows all' is incorrect. The negative meaning is that now there is nothing left to know; there is nothing left worth knowing. Is it worth knowing where a particular road leads to, or whether there is anyone in the house? What does it matter if such matters are not known? Is it worth knowing whether a dog is sleeping or not sleeping on the road? Where is the harm if it is not known?
As I see it, the word all-knowing means that after knowing the atman, nothing is left unknown which is worth knowing. All that is worth knowing is known. In this humdrum world many things seem to be worth knowing, but what difference does it make to know them? So to me its meaning is that nothing is left out which is worth knowing. Not the slightest thing is omitted from our knowing that might bring about even the tiniest diminution in our life's ecstasy. Nothing is left out whose omission might cause a hindrance in our becoming satchitanand.
If a particular road goes to the left it will lead one to a certain place and if it goes to the right it will lead one to another place, but this makes no difference in the quality of satchitanand. If Mahavira misses his way and reaches the wrong destination it will make no difference to him, because what difference does it make for a person who has attained his goal, who has reached the final destination, to miss his way during his wanderings in this world? What difference does it make for a person who, having reached his destination, wanders here and there? What does it do to us who have not reached our destination to find the right village? And what difference does it make to us if we know all our roads as accurately as if we are geographical maps?
Because of the mistaken interpretation of the term all-knowing by his followers, Mahavira was unnecessarily subjected to a lot of ridicule, because the claims they made were foolish; and now, yet again, these claimants are greatly puzzled. For instance, they were in difficulty recently when the astronauts landed on the moon for the first time, because the astronauts' description of the moon did not correspond with the moon as it is described in their scriptures: and it is stated in their scriptures that the facts declared by 'the all-knowing' cannot be wrong. So the Jaina devotees have gone to the extent of saying that the space travelers were under an illusion that they had landed on the moon.
They had not landed on the moon, but had traveled to the far side of the moon where the vehicles - chariots of the gods - remain in waiting. There they had landed and from there had returned! They had certainly not landed on the moon.
One Jaina follower even began fund raising, and managed to collect hundreds of thousands of rupees from simple, foolish people to prove in a laboratory that the astronauts had not landed on the moon, but in some god's vehicle. "And if they ever reach the moon, they will find the moon as described in our scriptures, because whatever is said in those scriptures is the testimony of an all-knowing person."
To use one's scripture to cling to such foolish arguments leaves the scripture worthless. When it is mentioned in your scripture that the moon is so and so, and the statement is later proved incorrect, remember that the statement in the scripture is that of a scientist of those days, not of one who knows the atman. What concern has the knower of the atman with describing what kind of stones are and are not found on the moon? And if such a statement is made by him, it is not made in his capacity as a knower of the atman.
Such a position creates great difficulty. Let us consider the case of a great thinker like Einstein - a great mathematician. Being a great mathematician does not define all other features of his personality; there are many other things in his life. He is not a mathematician when he plays cards.
And what concern would he have with mathematics when he falls in love with a woman? He is not making a mathematical statement at all when he says to her that there is no other woman more beautiful than her. But if somebody claims in the future that such a great mathematician as Einstein must have said so only after measuring and comparing the beauty of all women in the world, the claim is certainly childish. No, such statements are made by anybody and everybody in this world.
Every woman meets some man who will tell her so. It is not necessary to be a mathematician to say so. Such a statement is made, not in the capacity of a mathematician, but of a lover.
So the word all-knowing means that there is now nothing left worth knowing, nothing which would enhance this man's ecstasy. His ecstasy is entire. And there is nothing left which might be a hindrance to it. All his ignorance, all his folly, is destroyed. His anger, his attachment, his greed, are all gone, all destroyed. He is in a state of supreme ecstasy. All-knowing means one is living in supreme ecstasy. He knows that true knowledge which puts him in ecstasy and removes any possibility of unhappiness.
The atman is all-knowing in this sense, and not in the sense of the knower of the three tenses - the past, the present and the future. He does not know what will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. He does not know who will win the election or lose it; and there is no reason or necessity to know such things. All the events happening within limits of time are to him like lines drawn on water. He keeps no account of them, he does not worry about them. Who wins or who loses is the substance of dreams to him; such matters belong to a children's world, he is too mature for them.
He is not concerned with such things.
In knowing the supreme element he becomes all-knowing - that is, his ignorance falls away. The avarice, attachment and anger produced in ignorance fall away. In their place comes ecstasy, born out of true knowing. The light of knowing begins to shine, and to live in its illumination is to live in supreme ecstasy - ceaseless and eternal.
The third characteristic of this atman is purity - always immaculate, always holy, and always innocent. When we become impure it does not become impure. Our whole impurity is our delusion.
As I was saying last night, the sun's reflection is as pure in a dirty pool as in a crystal lake. There is not the least difference in its purity. Its purity is not an accidental characteristic; it is intrinsic, inborn.
So this matter will be easily understood if you understand the difference between the accidental and the inborn.
The accidental characteristic is foreign; it is linked to you but does not come from within you. For instance, a man is dishonest; his dishonesty is accidental, not inherent. It has been practiced, it has been acquired. This is why no person can remain dishonest twenty-four hours a day. Even the most dishonest person cannot be so every hour of the day, because what is acquired is a burden which has to be put aside sometimes. The person needs to be relieved of it some of the time. It is not his nature, so he has to be honest with someone in his dealings. And sometimes it happens that dishonest people are honest among themselves to a degree that even honest people are not. The reason is that what we call honesty is also an acquired thing from which we sometimes have to seek relief.
You cannot live incessantly with a thing which is acquired, which is accidental. You will have to take a break from it at times. You will have to do so, otherwise the tension will increase and the burden will become great. Hence the serious-minded person has to seek out some entertainment at intervals, otherwise his seriousness becomes a burden for him. Mahavira and Buddha had no need for entertainment because they were not carrying any load of seriousness. Keep this in mind. We tend to think it is because they were so serious-minded that they would not go to see a film or a play.
If they were serious they would have to go to see a play. No, they were certainly not serious-minded.
This does not mean either that they are nonserious. Seriousness and nonseriousness, both are false. Mahavira, Buddha are themselves; they are in their intrinsic selves. They acquire nothing from without, so there is nothing from which they need to take a break. If a person practices saintliness and makes it a habit, then he will have to take a holiday from it occasionally. For three or four days every month or fortnight he will have to take a holiday. And he will not be able to maintain his saintly role during the day if he has not gone into the nonsaintly world for an hour or two during that time. It will be difficult for him.
Accidental attributes are those which we learn, which we acquire. They come to us from without, they do not come from within. They are all learned by us. For example, language is an accidental, acquired attribute. Anyone can learn Hindi or Marathi or English or German. There are thousands of languages and there could be many more also, without difficulty. All the languages that we could devise would be accidental.
But what about silence? It is not accidental. So while there will be a difference if two people are talking, if they observe complete silence there will be no difference in that silence. There can be a discussion in speech: there cannot be any discussion in silence.
There will be no distinction in the inner attribute of two people when they are in complete silence.
What difference will there be in two silences? But there will be a difference if silence is assumed from without, because speech will be going on within. There will be a difference if two people observe silence for show only. I am sitting silent, you are sitting silent beside me. I continue my thinking, you continue your thinking. So though the lips are closed, the act of thinking goes on, and there will be vast differences between us in such a condition. We will be thousands of miles away within. Nobody can say where you will be and where I will be.
But if silence is really achieved, not assumed from without but blossoming from within, unfolding from within, then and then only are we really in complete silence. Then what difference will there be between you and me, when words vanish from within, when speech has dissolved from within?
There will be no difference at all. We will be standing at the same place. We will be as if we are one. By and by, as silence progresses, our two flames will be fused into one flame. They cannot remain as two separate things, because the boundary line marking the distinction between the two has disappeared. Distinction creates a boundary; in its absence, the boundary disappears.
So silence - abiding silence, inner silence - is natural, while speech is accidental; and whatever is accidental is not everlasting. This is why you cannot maintain anger for twenty-four hours, although you can live in forgiveness for twenty-four hours. Think about this. You cannot live in anger for the whole day. You will be angry, and after some time you will be without it. There will be a sort of coming and going away of anger. But there will be no obstacle to living in forgiveness for twenty-four hours.
You can remain forgiving for the whole day. Similarly, if you wish to live in hatred twenty-four hours a day it is not possible; you will create a hell for yourself. Whereas if you want to live perpetually in love, it is possible.
But it is not possible to remain in that feeling which we presently call love, because it is not real love, it is an occasional thing. You can be full of love for maybe ten minutes out of twenty-four hours; for the rest of the time it is not possible. And if someone makes an effort to be in love for a longer period, it will be difficult for him to be in love even for ten minutes. Why? - because we can only be forever in that which is our nature, and we cannot be forever in that which is foreign to us and which has been imported from without. That will have to be removed, that load will have to be cast away.
The atman is pure, spotless. It does not get spoiled, it does not become impure sometimes and then need us to rectify it, to make it pure again. If the atman can be impure, we will not be able to make it pure. Then who will make it pure? He who could have made it pure is himself impure now.
Whatever that impure atman does will now be impure.
No, it is not the case that the atman becomes impure and we are required to make it pure. It is already pure. It is only we who accumulate impure and unholy attributes on all sides of us, just as we hang a black curtain on all sides of a lamp. The shining light does not change into darkness because of it. The light is burning in its own brightness even then, but the surrounding black curtain prevents its light from shining out in all directions. And if the light is as mad as we are, and forgets that "I am the light," then it will face the same difficulties which we are experiencing.
Our relationship with the nature of our self is completely broken and we are identified with the web made up of our body, mind, thoughts, feelings, passions and desires, surrounding us on all sides.
We begin to say, "This is me!" That one which is within us identifies itself with anything and begins to say, "This is me!" And that element within is so pure, so spotless and clear that whatever is reflected in it is reflected in full; we catch hold of that reflection and begin to say, "This is me!"
The mistake is like this. Suppose the mirror in front of which you are standing becomes conscious and looks within itself and sees your image standing in front of it, and then says, "This is me!" Such an unfortunate happening only takes place because of the mirror's purity. The atman is pure and spotless, and because of its crystal clear purity, whatever approaches it is reflected in it as in a mirror - whatever the thing may be. If the body goes to it, it is reflected as in a mirror and the atman says, "I am the body."
You have no idea of the continual changes in your body and of how you identify yourself with them.
If the first cell created in your mother's womb were taken out and put before you and then you were told, "You were once this," you would at once deny it and say, "How can this be me? It is impossible."
If five to ten photos of you are taken every day of your life there will be a long series of your photos.
Every photo was once claimed by you to be yourself. But what a difference there is between the photo of your childhood and that of your old age! What a vast difference there is between the new- born child and the corpse going into the grave. In all these changes you are there. Whatever is reflected in your mirror, you have said, "This is me."
Have you ever found any similarity between your infant photo and the photo of your adulthood. Is there any affinity? Are you that baby? No, once you had owned it, and the claim was fixed in your memory; and only the claim is still there today - that this was you. The body changes every day.
Scientists tell us that every cell of the body is completely altered over a period of seven years; not a single old cell remains. But our identity continues. Identification goes on. In seven years' time our bones, our flesh, our blood and all other cells are altered. If a person lives up to seventy years, the body has changed totally ten times. The whole body has undergone change ten times.
The body changes every moment, but there is a spotless mirror within. Whatever reflection is made in it, whatever picture is made in it tells us, "This is me." If this identity is broken, if this ignorance is removed, if we stop saying, "This is me," then we shall be able to say, "I am the knower of all these changes, I am the witness of all this. I knew my childhood, and I was not that; I knew my youth and it was not me. I shall know my old age also, but it will not be me. I knew birth; this is not me. I shall know death also, and neither am I that. I am that which knew all these different phases. I am that which knew this long series, this long caravan of films. I am the knower, I am not that which is known. I am not that which is reflected. I am that in which reflections are made." Then the atman is pure and spotless, a clean mirror, a dirtless pool, where no ripple of impurity ever was.
When the Upanishads say it is pure, they speak of a total purity. Not the least impurity has ever entered the atman. So the Upanishads affirm, by breaking this identity we also become the purity. In fact nobody has ever become impure; it cannot be, it is impossible. The impurity is in the identifying.
Identity makes one a sinner or a saint. Remember, the saint is also impure because he is identified with his holiness. The sinner has an iron chain, the saint a golden one. But what difference does it make? The market value of iron and gold may differ, but identification, bondage, continues.
Someone says, "I am a sinner," somebody else says, "I am virtuous." As long as we continue to say, "This is me," we are unnecessarily making ourselves impure. Though we are not intrinsically impure, we go on adopting impurity. The day on which you are able to say, "I am not this, I am not that," you will be able to say, "I am that in which everything is reflected. I am that mirror in which all shadows come and go. I am that void in which everything glitters and vanishes."
No one knows how many births, how many bodies, how many forms and shapes, how many accidental attributes, how much worthiness, how many positions and how many variations have glittered in it. Endless are the journeys but the lake is one; and it is always clean and spotless.
Travelers go on traveling on its banks and the lake goes on supposing, "This is me, this is me." At times a thief is passing on that road and the lake says, "I am a thief"; sometimes a sadhu passes on that way and the lake says, "I am a sadhu." Sometimes a saint passes that way and the lake says, "I am a saint," and sometimes a sinner passes on that road and the lake says, "I am a sinner."
Thus the lake goes on proclaiming as caravans of reflections pass along that road. And they pass on so quickly that no sooner does one reflection vanish than another appears in it. We do not take even that moment - that interval between the two happenings - so that we can look at the lake in which there is no reflection at all.
Meditation is the practice which focuses on that interval. In that moment when nothing is reflecting, we can glimpse the lake itself; we can know, "I am the lake, I am not that caravan which is passing on the bank. I am not these reflections which form on me. I am that on which all shapes are made and yet which is itself unmade. I remain unmade, uncreated."
Keep in mind these three things. All the other things included in the Ishavasya Upanishad are only different aspects of these three.