It is an eternal question. The Self—that is I—was never born. The Self is the Brahman which we refer to as I in everyday parlance. So I was never born. I will never die. Then, I see that I am existing and relate to other people who are existing. What is it then that exists? This is the question that Vedanta dismisses like a puff of smoke! What exists is Maya, the power of Brahman which has neither birth nor death.
Sri Adi Sankaracharya in the Vivekachoodamani brings all the threads together as he gets ready to conclude the 581 verses which we have been tasting bit by bit for 112 columns since mid-July 2019! As we have inhaled deeply on these verses, it is time to exhale and revel in the bliss of its completion in another week.
It is this joy that the Acharya is talking about when he describes the process by which this knowledge that the Brahman and the Atman—the Self—are one and the same burns up the confusing thoughts of myself, existing as the body, mind, and intellect. The individual becomes the Brahman which he always was, only very clearly now. For that Brahman, where is another birth?
The notions of bondage and liberation were brought up by Maya—the projecting thought force springing from ignorance of one’s true Self. So these ideas were just a thought. They never had any real existence. This world appears and disappears in Brahman just as a moving snake appears and disappears in a stable rope. How much ever fear we may have on account of the snake we saw, it is never going to change the harmless reality of the rope. In the same way, the Atman, or I, appears and disappears in the Brahman. How much ever we may think that I am born and I will die, it is not going to change the reality of Brahman which is without birth and death.
The Brahman was never covered by any ignorance. Only when there is a covering with a thought and a subsequent uncovering, there is a question of bondage and liberation. When the sense of I is covered with body, mind, and intellect, there is bondage. When the covering is removed, there is liberation. The Brahman was never subject to this phenomenon. The scriptures always assert this non-dual state of existence and will not suffer any sense of duality.