Whenever we get dirtied by mud or dust, we go and take a bath. After that we feel squeaky clean and pure. However, the Atma Bodha of Sri Adi Sankaracharya says that the self or I is always pure. It never gets dirty.
Since we forget this often, a verse reiterates this nine times: “I am without any qualities—Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas. I do not do any actions. They are done only by the body, mind and intellect. I am their witness. I am not limited by time. I am eternal. I am not any thought. There are no different thoughts in me. I am not stained or tainted by anything physically or emotionally. I do not go through any transformation and modifications. I do not have any particular form for myself. All forms are myself and so is anything formless too. I am never bound by the limitations of the body, mind, intellect, time, spaces, name, form and qualities. None of these factors can bind me—the self. There are no impurities of desire, anger, hatred, greed, delusion or jealousy.”
Time and again the shastras keep repeating these names for one’s own self. It needs to be done because we are thoroughly convinced that I am the body—hence fat, thin, short or tall. I am the mind and hence I like this and I don’t like this. I am the intellect, which thinks and decides what to do.
Why this repetition? Just as in the case of the lion cub that was delivered among sheep kids was so convinced that it was only a sheep and was even bleating like one, instead of roaring, we the pure self completely identify with the body, mind and intellect. We think whatever be their defects are our defects and whatever be their perfections are ours too. Just as the master lion took trouble to instruct the baby lion many times over until it realised it was a lion after all, the guru here keeps repeating our real name many times over with the fond hope that sometime the realisation might sink in.
Why should I think this way? As the mind thinks, so it becomes. The only way to realisation of the true self is to first think on the lines pointed out by the books of wisdom and then constantly meditate on it. One fine day, the thought sinks in and it becomes our own.
For the true self—I—there is no question of becoming. We ask children, “What do you want to become, when you grow up?” The child answers: police officer, teacher, doctor, engineer or driver. The whole problem is in our asking, because the self can never become anything. It already is, what it was, what it is and what it will be is just the same.