Being aware of the self within enlivens the body, mind, intellect and the very process of breathing is Atma Bodha. This atma or ‘I’ is not limited to the height, weight, breadth and width of the body or the popularity and fame of the individual. This ‘I’ is present everywhere and in all things and beings. In some places, it is manifest. In others it remains without revealing its presence.
Sri Adi Sankaracharya says that the self is sarvagam—it goes everywhere. When we say something goes, we understand it as a movement from point A to point B—a distance in space and time. However, this movement of the self is not really a movement, but a positioning in every point of space and every moment of time. Whether we go to Antarctica, Arctic, the Mars or Jupiter, the self or the life principle is already there within. It is only with the support of that life do we get to see every object, person or situation.
That life is present everywhere and so it is called existence. Due to the very presence of life alone we know many things, emotions and thoughts. That life itself can be known by no other equipment than by consciousness. It also has the name chit or chaitanya.The constant practice is to cultivate that keen inner perception by which this live presence can be felt. It cannot be seen or felt by the sense organs. It requires the special faculty of understanding to know its presence.
This subject matter of knowledge is the most subtle of all things we get to know and hence it is not something that we can just look around and know by ourselves. We need a teacher—a Guru, who is a Shrotriya or one who has studied the Vedas or books of knowledge and a Brahma Nishta—one who forever abides in that knowledge which has been gained through studying and through divine experience. When such a person explains and points out, the possibility of the student who contemplates upon it and realising it is there.
While the Shastras point out that this is the way to know the Truth, if a student does not achieve success in this venture, it is not because the texts of knowledge or the teacher are at fault, but because our understanding is still clouded and unready. The Atma Bodha says the eye of wisdom can perceive it while the two eyes of the body, which is otherwise called ignorance personified, will never be able to see it.
How can it not see? While the sun is shining brightly during the day, the visually challenged person still does not experience its presence. In the same way, though life is abundantly present within and without, the one who is ‘right-understanding’ challenged will not be able to see, no matter what.
The result of this knowledge is that there is always the brightness of illumination all around. We will be able to clearly witness how that consciousness is a mute spectator shedding its light of awareness on all thoughts, words and actions. To get the right understanding of ‘I’ is the primary challenge. When the limitations to that knowledge are understood, transcending it is easy and it can be practised as an event many times in a year.