The Atma Bodha, verse after verse, written in beautiful poetry with many similes by the great philosopher Sri Adi Sankaracharya, throws an understanding of the self, facet by facet, like the many faces of the diamond, each illumining the intellect with its beauty.
The Acharya says the self or pure awareness expresses through the sense organs of action and perception that absorb energy from outside and give away energy to the world. When functioning in this way, to the one ignorant of its presence and zero-transactional status of existence, it seems like a trader—giving out something and taking in something.
There is a beautiful simile given here to further describe the nature of our misunderstanding. To the one looking at the bright night sky at the full moon, many a time the moon may appear to be running so fast. A child that looks at this sight may run to his father and say, “Daddy, look the moon is running!” The father too may look up to check if there is some new phenomenon in the horizon that the child has discovered. No sooner than he sees, the father knows that it is not the moon but the clouds, close to our vision, that are moving so fast.
Yet how does it appear to the child that the moon is running? The child is ignorant of this phenomenon of objects moving in the sky. His attention seems to be on the moon, but in reality, the vision stops with the clouds. Since the attention is on the clouds, his vision is identified with the movement of the cloud and the vision moves along. But he is really not aware of the presence of the clouds, but only of the presence of the moon. The movement is superimposed or mentally pasted on the moon and hence the moon seems to be running fast.
In the same way, the self or awareness in our being is still. It has zero movement and zero activity. Yet we get to observe this self through the medium of the body with its 10 sense organs and the mind, which is functioning from behind the senses, knowing sounds, smells, tastes, sights and feeling, and responding by grasping, walking, speaking, evacuating and reproducing is like the clouds that give a sense of movement to the moon. The mind gives a seeming sense of activity to the awareness which is still.
So how do I translate this knowledge in my daily life? There are moments when there is a flurry of nervous activity, unwelcome happenings and heated exchanges. We are shaken by it as the child mistakes the movement for the moon, while seeing clouds move. In and through such disturbances, just sit back a few minutes and relax. Know yourself to be the unmoving self in which all disturbing agitations take place. That knowledge brings instant peace.