How am I to look beyond the name and form? I do not see anything.
You are right. The teacher would suggest you look within before you venture out. Therefore, for now, do not try to see ‘Atman’ in all.
- First, we should know what to look for?
- Second, it doesn’t have a form; it cannot be described(like space).
- Most importantly, you and I are also part of ‘All’. So, the search should start within.
You might worry that ‘Atman’ may vary from being to being. For example, the aloe vera plant sitting in the balcony might have less of ‘Him’ compared to ‘Him’ in me. Or the Himalayas would have more of ‘Him’.
Arjuna pretty much had the same doubt. To which Krishna answered: “Ajuna, I, Atman is equally disposed to all living beings(BG 9.29). Everything rests in me, as beads strung on a thread.”-Bhagavad Gita 7.7
Since he doesn’t have a form. How do I experience him?
Let’s apply the basic meditation here-Observing the Thoughts.
- Sit with your eyes closed in a quiet place. why? Because we give way too much importance to our sense perceptions. So, shut them out for some time. Bhagavad Gita 8.12
- You see your thoughts coming & going? Do not go with them however interesting they may seem.
- Where are the thoughts appearing and disappearing? Watch that space that is helping the thoughts come and go. Hmm, interesting. That doesn’t have a form, either.
- Now, what is that which is observing that space? Your eyes are closed but there is something which is witnessing the flow & intensity of thoughts.
- If you have ever dreamed, you know that something was watching that dream too. That is when you say I dreamt. Your body lay there like a corpse while dreaming. So, who was watching that dream?
- Even in your deep sleep state, there is that thing which is observing nothingness(cessation of activities) Who is That?
Now our scriptures say, that ‘Observer’ who is observing all the three states is ‘YOU’. Unless someone is walking in and out of you, ‘That’ should be YOU 😉
Now we may realize, what do we mean by “Man having a body and mind”?
So, the ‘Man’ is Atman. He is not different from us but He is us.
I suppose we also understand who we are addressing when we use ‘I am’. And the Vedantic phrase “Nitya Shuddha Atman”.
Why am I Nitya? Because I do not come and go. I am there as an observer in all the states at all times.
Why Shuddha? Because the thoughts/emotions/dream/waking doesn’t taint me. They exist in Me. Like what we do under the Sun, doesn’t malign the Sun. Gita in 13.33 reiterates the same with another example of space.
I observe the mind & body in the waking state and the mind building a dream. I also observe when all the activities cease.
I am there. I am That.
As my teacher would put – we are like the Musk deer which spends its entire life searching outward for its own scent. Completely unaware that the smell is from its own navel 🙂
Note: This is my understanding. I might never be able to understand another person, or for that matter, even my mind or body. Though we do not wish for situations/people in our lives to change yet they change and so do we. But you might notice that we are longing for permanence – our very nature.
We should not stay unhappy with what we get. We should find our happiness and trust me, that isn’t anywhere outside. Change is the only constant thing in this world and we are seeking the opposite. So…..
Bahir antaśh cha bhūtānām Acharaṁ charam eva cha
Sūkṣhmatvāt tad avijñeyaṁ Dūra-sthaṁ chāntike cha tat// 13.16
Exists outside and inside all living beings, those that are moving and not moving. Subtle, and hence incomprehensible. Always near yet at the unspeakable distance- such is imperishable He!