Difference between Lower (Ahaṃkāra) and Higher Self (Ātman/Brahman) (33)

Difference between Lower (Ahamkara) and Higher Self (Atman/Brahman) (33)


Lesson 33 explains the process of shifting the “I” away from false experiencing doer-enjoyer (ahaṃkāra), to true identity with Brahman (Awareness). Then claiming the identity right now – instead of mistakenly postponing it to a future point in time. Lesson 34+ shall build onto this, as we are building up a foundation before elucidating Bhagavad Gītā, CH 5, verse 13-21, which deals with jñāna-yoga (Self-Knowledge).

Terms used in class:

  • ahaṃ kāra: function of Subtle Body which takes ownership of the human experience generated by 5 senses (inner and outer), which are contacting Objects (external – like tree OR internal – like emotion).
    EG: Arjuna's eyes make contact with Droṇa (his teacher). This sensory data is processed in Arjuna's Subtle body, which gives Arjuna a certain experience in relation to the object perceived (Droṇa).
    In order for Arjuna to confidently validate that Droṇa is “MY” teacher, the experience of Droṇa has to be isolated and localized to just Arjuna's body-mind. If it wasn't, Arjuna couldn't tell if he is having experience of Droṇa – or if someone else is. Thus without ahaṃ kāra, functioning in the world would be impossible.
    The state of the world is that “I” is naturally accepted as ahaṃ kāra. This is why we always hear ourselves speaking “MY __”. My phone, my house, my wife, my liberation, my opinion, etc. This “MY” is ahaṃ kāra. It's what makes possible sense of individuality and warrants apartness from other individuals.
    Thus natural conclusion of an individual is: MY LIFE. It's only “MY LIFE” from standpoint of ignorance. From standpoint of jñāni, neither the “MY” (ahaṃ kara) is mine, nor the “LIFE” (jagat) is mine. Both “MY” and “LIFE” are Mithyā. Word “mine” in last sentence refers to Awareness/Ātman.
    • OBJECTION: I understand “Life” is Mithyā, because it's changing. But how is ahaṃkāra also changing? Because it has to be non-changing in order to witness all changing phenomena of the inner world (emotions/thoughts) and outer world (perceived objects by 5 senses)? Doesn't that qualify ahaṃkāra as unchanging and give it equal status to Brahman (unchanging Awareness)?
      ANSWER: ahaṃkāra is changing because it ceases in deep sleep or in coma for example. If it was present, then one could thoroughly, confidently and accurately describe one's experience of deep sleep or coma. Fact is, noone can. If one claims they can, then it wasn't deep sleep/coma, but Subtle Body was active (meaning ahaṃkāra/manas/buddhi were partially operational; which is why some coma patients upon waking claim they could hear loved ones).
      So how is it possible then to report that during deep sleep or coma or near death experience (NDE) –  there was nothing / blankness/ blissfulness?
      ANSWER: It is possible because Awareness (Brahman) continues “shining” while ahaṃkāra is absense during deep sleep/coma/NDE. So upon waking, one can by inference conclude confidently that there was nothing / blankness / blissfullness.
      EG: How is that each morning you confidently say (without feeling it to be a lie or false information), “I slept”? How is it you have proof there was sleeping, even though ahaṃkāra (including body/mind) was absent during sleep? Because YOU (Awareness) were there. 

      Another example is when we say “I zoned out!”. What happens during “zoned out” period? The 5 senses are still perceiving the world (eg; eyes/ears are working). However ahaṃkāra was unavailable or partially accepting the ownership of the sensory data. That's why one can't report accurately what happened during the length of “zoned out” period.

      In fact, during “zoned out” period, one has no sense of Identity (generated by ahaṃkāra). Meaning we can compare “zoning out” somewhat similar to waking version of deep sleep.
      So how is it possible to successfully validate that“I zoned out”, even though ahaṃkāra wasn't completely available? Because YOU (Awareness) were there.
  • ātman: brahman ‘seemingly' conditioned by 5 sheaths (or 3 bodies; Causal, Subtle, Gross). ‘Seemingly' means not actually. But “not actually” only qualifies TRUE from point of view of Self-Knowledge. Before Self-Knowledge, the “not actually” does NOT  qualify, because the “seeming” superimposition of body-mind ‘covering' brahman is ACTUAL for the ignorant person.
    In other words, Ignorant person (who in actuality is Ātman) genuinely takes themselves to be attributes of their body-mind (by help of ahaṃ kāra), thus we can't say “seemingly” for such a person.
    Seemingly only applies from point of view of knowing one's True Identity.
  • brahman: that which is non-negatable. That which is unchanging in past, present and future. Refers to one undifferentiated Consciousnesses (eg: water). While ātman refers to that same Consciousness operating through one of infinite microsomic forms (eg: just one wave being a non-separate part of the Water Ocean).
  • īśvara: the intelligent and material cause of the universe. All knoweldge, all power. The TOTAL.
  • jīvātma: Person whose “I” is placed in Body-Mind and not Ātman. Upon death, jīvātma takes on new physical body to continue it's sanchita karma (totality of all karmas from beginingless beginning), which can only be destroyed by Self-Knowledge (IE: shifting “I” to true identity; Awareness). We can say: jīvātma is a transmigrating soul going from one body to another for eternity… UNTIL mokṣa. Upon mokṣa, jīvātma gains a new name: jīvanmukti (liberated person while living and who's sancita has been destroyed thus another body-birth is impossible because “I” is disassociated from body-mind).
  • jñāni: a wise person (doesn't necessarily know the ultimate reality). OR can also mean: one who knows the ultimate reality.
  • karma-phala: final outcome, consequences or results delivered by performance of one's past actions
  • mithyā: That which depends on something else for it's existence (eg: wave is dependent on something else; the ocean. The ocean is dependent on something else; H2O – water). It's a term describing an object (meaning anything other then Satyam; Awareness) in terms of it's reality.
  • mokṣa: absolute freedom from limitation.
  • nididhyāsanam: Contemplation. Part of the process of knowing. It involves bringing the teaching back to our mind again and again to do away with our past habitual patterns, orientations, and disposition.
  • prasāda-buddhi: Whatever consequences of my action, accept gracefully.
  • puṇya/pāpa: Unseen results of our actions which accrue to the individual at some time in the future. Punya is pleasurable events or situations stemming from actions in keeping with dharma. Papa is difficult events resulting from the transgression of values or dharma.
  • śāstra: Comprises of 3 complete texts (granthas): Bhagavad Gītā, Upaniṣads, Brahma Sūtras.
  • rāga/dveṣa: Desires of two types: things that I want to have (rāga or likes); and things that I want to avoid (dveṣa or dislikes). They can be binding or non-binding.
  • Sattva/Rajas/Tamas: Three different dispositions or guṇas that people generally have in different measures.
    A person who has predominantly sattva disposition (or a sāttvic person) is one who is mature and cheerful; a rājasic person (with predominant rajas disposition) is active, ambitious and mostly guided by his personal benefits in choice of actions. A tāmasic person (with predominant tamas disposition) is characterized by negligence, slackness or sloppiness in his actions.
  • Satyam: That which exists independently (eg: H2O-water exists independently of the ocean/wave). It is a term describing an object in terms of its reality. It is also defined that which exists in the three periods of time, past present and future (in this case Brahman).
  • svadharma: Our own (sva) specific duties/to be done actions (dharma/karma). Svadharma is doing what is to be done by each individual in a given situation.

1) STAGES of Jñāna-Yoga:


We covered this in session 32.

Reason for Stage 1: One can't identity with something unless they know what are they identifying with. Once individual has been shown Ātman (one's true Identity), then next step naturally would be to…

STAGE 2: Learn to IDENTIFY with Ātman as Myself

  • Even during gestation period in mothers womb, “I” (Ātman) is linked with body. Upon birth and henceforward, “I am the body-mind” is unquestionably, unsuspectingly assumed. This assumption remains intact until it's destroyed by jñāna-yoga (more on this in next lesson).
  • Once jñāna-yoga has been expounded by a teacher, and listener has gained enough knowledge about jīva, Īśvara and Brahman… then at some point the student needs to assertively start CLAIMING his-her TRUE identity (Ātman).
    Ego will resist this, it won't feel authentic, because from beginingless beginning, the jīvātma has assumed itself to limited body-mind. This is why student needs to strongly assert his-her identity with statement like “I am the consciousness pervading this body”.
    Example of a wise sincere student: “I've heard enough knowledge from the highest authoritative sources of śāstra, which are all telling me that in actuality, and right NOW, my true identity is Ātman. Thus by this alone, I choose to gradually start objectifying my thoughts-emotions, and start consistently re-claiming over and over again that I AM indeed Ātman!” 
    Point is: By class 33, you've already been exposed to large amount of Knowledge contained throughout various Upaniṣads and Bhagavad Gītā. Therefore there's no rational reason to feel “fraud” or “inauthentic” by gradually beginning to CLAIM what YOU already are, by such statements as above.
    It would only qualify as fraud/inauthentic if one makes such statements like “I am free! I am eternal! I was never born!” (common Spiritual ego) – in form of one-liner affirmations without a proper methodology nor depth to support such claims. (This is prevalent 99.9% of time in Neo-Advaita world; subjects quacking “I'm Awareness” without ever knowing about Satya/Mithyā).
  • Body temporary gift from Lord. Can use it as MEDIUM OF TRANSACTION. Can't hold onto it permanently. So use it to fulfill the highest purpose in Creation: To reconcile that there is NO difference between Ātman (Brahman seemingly conditioned by 3 bodies or 5 sheaths) and Brahman. This reconciliation is what's referred to as mokṣa (Liberation). Anything other then this literally amounts to nothing.
    EG: A king who owns 40 palaces, 300 wife's and an entire country will lose it all upon inevitably death. Only to be reborn again as a poor man who's struggling for survival. From that point of view, one can see how fruitless any present life is. This will be talked about further in CH 8 of Bhagavad Gita, how jīvātma goes though endless life's accomplishing… yet in the big picture of eternity… what has one really accomplished!
  • Stage 2 is about shifting the “I”. Advantage: Fear of mortality goes (Body will die, not I). Eventual death of body is seen objectively. One releases the need of urgency of getting somewhere and doing “all these things”. What's the rush? To where? For whom? It'll all be given back to Bhagavan upon last breath.  😀

2) 2 Self's: (there's actually no two Self's, please throw this “two” idea soon as having completed this lesson. It's temporary helping guide for mind).

Lower (Body-Mind). Reflected (borrowed Consciousness).

  • jīvātma.
  • Ahaṇkāra (Karta; doer / Bhokta; enjoyer)
  • 3 Karmas (sanchita, prārabdha, agami)
  • Travels loka to loka (different worlds).

Higher Self: Ātman

  • No connection to Lower.
  • Independent.
  • Not bound by limitations of body. EG: Light pervades hand, yet independent of hands condition.
  • When body does, Awareness keeps shining, but no longer reflecting on medium (jīvātma).
  • All pervading like space. Already everywhere. Meaning can't change, nor move.

3) If consciousness can't undergo change, then can't perform action. Action = movement. EG: Talking, walking. Just like space. Can't vibrate either. Thus Consciousness = akarta, abhokta. Thus no karma-phala.

4) Jñāni claims Ātma as Self, lower ego becomes insignificant to him/her.

  • Previously ego important. Obsessed how many actions to do. “I'm getting old, time running out!”. And results.
  • Cognizes ahaṇkāra from mountain of Ātman.
  • From ground, tree (humans complexities) is big. From mountain, tree is insignificant.
  • How to recognize the tree of one's complexities objectively instead of taking everything personally? Shift “I” from body to Ātma. Look at body objectively, EG: “This is one amongst millions. Bodies come/go, the light keeps shining!”
  • Benefit? Puṇya/pāpa that occur to the jñāni's body-mind are insignificant to him-her and cognized objectively.

Recorded 22 Jan, 2019


  1. Robert Green on September 19, 2020 at 9:31 am

    “ to start identifying directly with consciousness as myself”.
    These words of yours triggered something Andre.
    I have never done this.
    I now see clearly that no matter how intelligent I am( or am not) or how many different ways I try and look at things to achieve knowledge I can’t possibly do it, because I am always in the way as the perceived of an object.
    I am just making more and more complex ways of falling into the same trap, and thinking I must be making progress because I seemingly know more today than yesterday.
    It’s kinda funny really!?

  2. Robert Green on September 19, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Just listened to talk again.
    “Higher self is not bound by limitations of the form”.
    Got that,
    “What happens when your body goes? What keeps illumining itself? You!”
    So the eternally existent self keeps illumining itself.
    Am I aware that I am aware if I am without an object to reflect this consciousness?
    What is my state of existence if my awareness lacks all qualities?
    Doesn’t this mean I also lack the quality of awareness that I am aware?
    Is this not the reason for a reflexes reality, it is created in order for God, Brahmin, Ishvara, Atman to be able to know itself?
    If this is true, then is existence as a Jivanmukta, one who has achieved moksa but still has a subtle body to enable perceptions, preferable to pure existence as a state without qualities?

    I don’t really believe my own argument as I am sure this would have been obvious to the Rishis, but I can’t see the flyin the logic from my current level of perception.

    • Robert Green on September 19, 2020 at 4:27 pm

      Flaw in logic, not flyin!

    • mm Andre V on September 20, 2020 at 8:58 pm

      Doesn’t this mean I also lack the quality of awareness that I am aware?

      Question is turning awareness into an object, as if “I” can be with or without it.

      To correct understanding, let’s use a metaphore:

      Suppose H2O is Awareness.

      Ocean is Īśvara (from which waves are born, sustained and dissolved into).

      Wave is individual jīva.

      Can wave-Robert look for the H2O? No. Because wave is already the H2O.

      Can wave-Robet ever lack H2O? No. Because H2O is all there is in past, present and future.

      Can wave-Robert think about H2O? No. Because the electrical impulses of thinking themselves are H2O.

      Waves entire existence is not apart from H2O.

      All wave can do is own up to what is already TRUE right now. That’s the only job of Vedānta. To destroy notions which deny me from accepting the simple fact that even though my appearance is a wave (with apparent limitations at least while wave is alive), my real nature is H2O which is the reality of entire ocean.

  3. Robert Green on September 20, 2020 at 10:05 pm

    Hi Andre.
    Your first sentence answered my question completely.
    I am annoyed that I could not perceive this myself.
    I will try harder to have greater clarity.

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