The following describes in a nutshell what Atma means. This was stated by the Sage Hasthamalaka: Naaha manushyo na cha daeva yakshow Na brahmaNa kshathriya vais(h)ya s(h)oodraah Na cha brahmachari na gr(u)hee vanastho Bhikshurnachaaham nijabodharoopah “I am not a man,neither a deva nor a yaksha. I am not a brahmana, kshathriya, vaishya or sudra. Nor am I a brahmachari, not a house-holder or a forest dweller. I am not even a monk. I am the Self whose nature is pure awareness.” All distinctions such as a man etc are all based on the body. It is sheer body consciousness born out of ignorance that breeds these distinctions. That pure consciousness which pulsates in the heart of all beings as “I”, is untouched by the body. Pure “I” consciousness transcends all time and space. Although the rhythm which pulsates in the heart as “I” seems to be different in each individual, it is in reality non-dual. Due to ignorance, we consider matter as consciousness and consciousness as matter. This mutual superimposition causes the dire malady of body consciousness from where springs forth the idea “ I am a man or a woman, an Indian ... “. Atma is light of all lights. It illumines the world through sense organs. It is self-evident all the time and because of that alone, everything becomes evident. To take atma as an object, is a big misconception. In our tradition, this self-evident consciousness is revealed by comparing it to light, which is self-luminous. In Vedanta, the term “ illumines” means, that in whose presence things are known. By this reasoning, it follows that every sense organ is like a light as it makes known various sense objects. Extending this principle, the “ultimate light” has to be Atma ( consciousness), as it is only because of consciousness that everything else can be known. So, we can conclude that Atma is invisible, eternal and infinite. The qualities are: 1 – Atma is not a part, product or property of the body. 2 – Atma is an independent identity which pervades and enlivens the body. 3 – Atma is not limited by the boundaries of the body. It is like space – all pervading and formless. 4 – It survives even when the body perishes and hence is eternal. Atma with example: Objects in a dark room cannot be known in the absence of light. If the window is open and a mirror is placed outside the room directed towards the sun, sunlight falls on the mirror, forming a reflection. With the reflected light, the mirror has become luminous and can act as an illuminator of the objects in the dark room. If it is questioned what illumines the dark room, the proper answer would be that it is a combination of sunlight and the mirror. While expressing this idea, one may give emphasis to the sun by saying that the sun illumines the room through the mirror and another might emphasise the mirror by saying that the mirror, backed by the sunlight, illumines the room. Applying the above example, atma is comparable to the sun and the inert mind of every individual is comparable to the mirror, the world being compared to the dark room. The whole world is seen and experienced because of the two factors, the mirror-like mind and the sun-like atma. Now, the question can arise as to why the same uniform light is not reflected from every human being. Well, the reflected light will be clear, only if the reflecting medium is equally clear. The mirror (here, our mind) is so clouded with impurities that the reflected light varies with every individual depending on his or her anatma. You can say, either the mind experiences the world backed by atma or atma illumines the world through the mind. When the mind is resolved, as happens in deep sleep, atma cannot illumine the world, though it continues to be self-evident. You employ your body, mind and intellect to contact the world. Atma merely animates them. It has little to do with their activities. It serves like electricity in electrical gadgets. Electricity activates the bulb to glow and the fan to run; but it has nothing to do with these expressions. Similarly, Atma remains a mere animating principle witnessing our physical, mental and intellectual activities. To be continued…. Love, Chithra.