Atma-Svarajya (Freedom of the Self)
Sri Swami Sivananda
Message from the book Lectures on Yoga and Vedanta.
The Infinite is Bliss. The Infinite is Brahman or Atman or the Supreme Self. The Infinite is the Absolute. The Infinite is Bhuma or the unconditioned that is beyond time, space and causation. The Infinite is Immortality. Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else, there is Infinity. The Infinite abides in its own greatness. The Infinite is Supreme Peace. The Infinite is fearlessness. The Infinite is Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute and Bliss Absolute. The Infinite is all-full and indivisible. The Infinite is self-existent, self-contained and self-luminous. The Infinite alone is real. The Infinite alone exists in the three periods of time. You must search, understand and realise the Infinite.
The ‘oversoul’ of the Western philosophers is the Brahman of the Upanishads or Atman of the Vedantins. The Supreme Soul or Paramatma which is the support for the individual is the ‘Oversoul’. The ‘oversoul’ is the ‘Substance’ of Spinoza or the ‘Thing-in-Itself’ of Kant. The essence of Vedanta has slowly infiltrated into the minds of Western philosophers and they have accepted now the existence of one eternal principle or the immortal soul which is distinct from the body and mind.
Brahman is the Soul or Atman of man. He is the Soul of the Universe. Brahman alone is Infinite. There cannot be two infinities. If there are two infinities, there will be fighting among the infinities themselves. One infinite will be creating something, another infinite will be destroying it. There can be only one infinite. This Atman is the one Infinite Brahman. Everything else is its manifestation or expression.
Vedanta holds the first place amongst all systems of philosophies. It is a system of philosophy in which human speculation has reached its very pinnacle or acme. It is indeed a unique system of thought, which demands a subtle, sharp intellect to grasp its fundamental principles. It is unique in the boldness of its conclusions. It is absolutely free from all shades of dogmatism or pet doctrines.
Vedanta is very practical. It does not preach an impossible ideal. Vamadeva, Jada Bharata, Sankara and many others realised the Truth of Vedanta. You can also realise it if you will. What is wanted is regular and constant practice. You must have perfect faith in the utterance of the Srutis and in the words of the Guru. You must have perfect faith in yourself first.
Vedanta wants you to give up Moha (selfish love) for the physical body, wife, children and property. Vedanta wants you to abandon all worldly desires, cravings and longings. Vedanta wants you to eradicate the desire for power, name and fame. Vedanta wants you to break all ties and connections with the world mentally. Vedanta wants you to cut off ruthlessly all worldly attachments by the sword of discrimination.
Some ignorant people say that Vedanta preaches immorality, hatred and pessimism. This is a very sad mistake. Vedanta does not preach either immorality or even indifference to morality. The realisation of Brahman is not possible for the immoral. An aspirant who has ethical perfection and who is endowed with the four means can become a student of Vedanta. How can you expect an aspirant who possesses discrimination, dispassion, serenity, self-restraint, forbearance, endurance, faith, one-pointed mind and a burning desire for liberation to lead an immoral life? It is quite absurd. Vedanta wants you to destroy Moha or selfish love and passion for the body and to develop pure, disinterested, cosmic love or the magnanimous divine Prem. It never preaches pessimism but it preaches the pinnacle of optimism. It preaches: “Give up this little illusory pleasure. You will get eternal and infinite bliss. Kill this little ‘I’. You will become one with the Infinite. You will become immortal. Give up this illusory world. You will get the vast domain of Supreme Peace or Kingdom of God.” Is this pessimism? Certainly not. It is wonderful optimism.
In the whirlpool of fleeting sensual pleasures you have forgotten the purpose of life and its goal. You live more for the body than for the soul. In your pursuit after the phantom shows of worldly vanities you have annihilated the spiritual instincts and longings of the soul. What a sad state! Mysterious is Maya! Mysterious is Moha! Open your eyes now. Wake up from the long slumber of ignorance. Realise that ultimate Reality and enjoy Eternal Bliss.
You cannot die, because you were never born. You are immortal Atman. Birth and death are two false scenes in the unreal drama of Maya. They concern the physical sheath only, a false product formed by the combination of five elements. The ideas of birth and death are mere superstition.
You admire the sun, the moon and the stars, the snowy peaks of the Himalayas, the jessamine, the rose, the Niagara falls and the vast ocean. You admire the air-ship, the steamer, the railway, the telegraph and the wireless. But the mind that has its seat in the brain is still more wonderful. In the twinkling of an eye it moves from Colombo to London, from Himalayas to Alps. The greatest wonder is the Immortal Brahman or Atman that pervades the whole universe, that illumines the sun, the moon, the stars and the mind.
You see your dear brother Banerjee in front of you. What is it that you call and recognise as Banerjee? Certainly Banerjee is not his hands, feet, head, chest or belly. Even if his hands and legs are amputated, even if he gets leucoderma or white skin, even if his eye-balls are removed, you have the same love for him. You will call him by the name ‘Banerjee’. This proves that ‘Banerjee’ is not the physical body. Physical body is composed of five elements only. It has a beginning and an end. You may now say that ‘Banerjee’ consists of thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings and sentiments and that the mind is ‘Banerjee’. The thoughts change. Mind changes. Mind is made up of subtle matter. The non-quintuplicated Sattvic portion of Tanmatras or root elements or subtle elements goes to constitute the mind. Mind is an effect of Avidya or ignorance. It has a beginning and an end. Even if the thoughts and character of Banerjee change, you hold on to his personality. Therefore he is not even in the thoughts. He is somewhere behind the mind. It is He who moves the mind, the senses and the body. It is He who gives light to the mind and the senses. Real ‘Banerjee’ is the immortal Atman who is beyond mind, speech, time, space and causation. Body, mind and senses are his illusory appendages created by Avidya.
Do not depend upon anybody. Rely on your Self. Be centred in the Atman only. The wife deserts her husband when he becomes poor and marries another young man. The rich husband divorces his wife when she loses her beauty and marries another young woman. Even Jesus and Buddha were forsaken by all their friends, followers and disciples. This is a strange world. Mysterious is Maya!
Everybody wishes to be independent. Everybody wants to be a ruler. Everyone does not like to be guided by the wishes of others. Everyone desires others to be guided by his wishes. Everybody in his heart of hearts really desires to rule over all others if only he could. Everybody wishes to have no rival. The real cause is that there is in you the immortal, self-effulgent soul or Atman, which is one without a second, which has no rival, which is the inner ruler, which is the support for the whole universe. In reality you are this Atman. That is the reason why you have such a feeling and desire. Suzerainty is quite natural to you. Suzerainty is an attribute of the Atman. On account of ignorance you have mistaken the body for the Atman and you try to have no rivals in the physical body, in business, in office, in college, in games, in dominions and in any field of activity. You can have absolute suzerainty only by realising the Atman. Atma-Svarajya only can make you absolutely independent. Atma-Svarajya only can make you the supreme ruler or absolute monarch of the whole universe. Therefore realise this wonderful Atman and become a veritable, mighty potentate of the three worlds.