Jivatma & Paramatma

Swami Atmananda

Asti - God is there :

Jivatma means the individual self and Paramatma means God. Vedas in their earlier sections reveal the existence of God to man. Man is told of the ways of God, his nature and teachings. God is someone to be loved, because he is himself an embodiment of infinite love. He is revealed as the very creator, sustainer and also the destroyer of the world. Just as all musicians in an orchestra have to tune themselves to a basic note being played by one, so also every person has to tune him or herself to that basic harmony and order of the world called God. This facilitates bringing about a holistic vision. Such a person is never alone, on the other hand such person always has company of the highest embodiment of knowledge, love & power. It is a well known fact that it is our thinking which carves out our personality, thus with a single stroke the Vedic masters saw to it that all their followers not only retain the thought of the best and highest but also ultimately be an embodiment of all what God represents.

Asmi - I am that :

The Vedic masters do not merely stop at revealing the existence of God. All religions and religious masters have been talking about these things. The unique aspect of Vedas is to reveal that there is a state in this very life & this very body where this Jivatma discovers its total identity with Paramatma. It was the summum bonum of human life. It was an experience beyond imagination. The contentment was total. It was something which he or she always was seeking. It was total liberation from all limitations of time, space and objectivity. They called it Moksha - the total freedom, the ultimate goal of human life. They discovered that Jivatma is & always was Paramatma alone. The duality was born out of ignorance. The seeker is the sought. Like in a dream a person erroneously takes oneself to be something which one is not and suffers unnecessarily, so also are the suffering of man. The final leap to total freedom & fulfillment is merely by some knowledge, the knowledge of Self.

Vedanta - the science of revealing the identity :

It is interesting to note the two words Jiv-atma and Param-atma. Both have the word 'atma' in common. Atma means the Self, that which reveals as the 'I' in the hearts of all. When this 'I' is seen to have a sense of limitation, along with a sense of enjoyership & doership, then such 'I' is referred to as the Jiva-atma. A Jiva is someone who sees himself to be limited by space & time - he is at one place alone and not everywhere, and his existence is at a particular time alone and not at all times. When these sense of limitations are inquired upon and are realized to be an error then this sense of limitation drops and the same 'I' is seen to be free from these limitations of time & space then this very 'I' is referred to as the Paramatma. Param means that which is free from all limitations of time, space & objectivity i.e. that which is there at all times, all places and in all objects. Thus the word atma which is the common denominator in both these words shows that God is always realized as the very subjective essence of a person and not as some objective reality. The science which facilitates us to conduct this inquiry into the Self is Vedanta, the culmination of which is in the discovery of oneself to be free from all limitations. That person alone is said to have attained proper spiritual health, that person alone makes the best of his or her life, rest are comparable to a sick man, always seeking and seeking, and at the end of it all dying also with all the sense of limitations. They know not the joy & potential of human life. They have missed the boat.

 

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