The Nature of the Individual Living Entity

By Atmatattva dasa

One day as I was walking, I saw my mind giving a lecture to a large audience. He started with a series of questions, “If there is no real self what is it that incarnates or suffers is the question. If that non-material self is also illusory, than how can it get carried over from one body to another, that is the follow-up question? This requires some more explanation of what advaita says: The so-called individual self is the pratibimba or reflected consciousness or jiva.”

I raised my hand and asked a question to my esteemed mind, “Then the immediate question is what is it reflecting on? There must be a reflected (Brahman), relector, and a reflection (what you claim to be jIva). Therefore what is that which is reflecting the Brahman, and how is it that the Absolute is non-dual if there are three aspects of reflected, reflector, and reflection. If one of these is not Brahman, then you create two independent entities. If one of them is mithyA, then it doesn’t exist and it is therefore impossible to reflect anything. If there is a reflector, then it must be real, and therefore must be Brahman. These are my doubts, O mind.”

Not liking my questions, my mind ignored my doubts and continued, “Because the true self or atman is all pervading Brahman then it cannot be only inside the body. It is there in the dead body too as it pervades all the cara and acara, both sentient and insentient. Then the question is what is that, that transmigrates. It is the subtle and causal body – subtle body (sukshma sarira) consisting of mind and intellect and the causal body (karana sareera) consisting of vasanas.”

Again my doubts manifested in the form of speech, “And just what was the cause of the causal body? And what about the sruti, where it states that there are two birds sitting on a branch (the body), one who is trying to enjoy the fruits, and the other who is just watching. Or what about the verse that describe the jIva (individual living entity) as residing within the subtle body, resting in the 5 kinds of airs?”

My mind continued on his train of thought, “These vasanas are the ones that get separated from the gross body (bhautika sareera) at the time of death. Hence we say he is dead and gone (mar-gaya). Since the bhautika sareera is there, then who is the one who has left. That individual who was living in that body.”

For a third time I blurted out my objections, “But the individual soul is seperate from the subtle body. When the body dies, the jiva along with the subtle body leaves the gross body. This is because the subtle body contains in it your next destinations based upon your mind, yam yam vApi smaran bhAvam.”

He replied, “This will become clear when I ask you, who are you? Your answer will be I am so and so, I am a Krishna devotee, son of so and so, and all other relations etc. You can only tell me with reference to your relationships with the bhautica sareera, I am brown, black, white etc, short, long, thin, fat etc., or your emotional relationships, son of so and so, husband of so and so, or father of so and so etc., or your intellectual relationships, engineer, doctor, scientist etc. Can you provide anything more beyond that? You could even tell me that you are some spiritual soul etc. since you are familiar with the sastras.”

I answered to my mind thus, “One can say he is a servant of Krishna. That is not in relation to the gross body, the subtle body, or any other material form. That is the constitutional position of the jiva.”

He replied, “But these statements including that I am a soul statement are all intellectual statements. That is it is nothing but mental and intellectual notions about yourself based on what has been taught to you and what you have learned.”

I answered to him, “How can one conclude that all realizations are on the level of mind and intelligence. What about that citta that is our nature. You can not be conscious of something beyond the body and mind? Then jivan-mukti is a meaningless phrase.”

He continued, “What J. K. Krishnamurty calls as mental conditioning…”

I thought to myself. “…I call as mental concoction.”

He continued, “What advaita calls this identification as is conditioned consciousness. I have already given how I, sitting in a air-conditioned room, forgetting my self who I am, could identify with the hero and heroin in a tragic movie. In those moments of identification with the characters in the movie, I am conditioned to their limitions.”

I replied to him, “But you can only identify with them if they exist. Therefore the world is real, and if the world is real, then Brahman cannot be non-dual.”

He replied, “This individual self is also called a reflected consciousness – pratibimba. The reflected medium is the antah karana – subtle and causal body.”

I raised another doubt to my mind, “And what is the source of the reflector? Is it real or is it false? If it is real, it must be Brahman, if it is false it has no capacity to reflect.”

My mind spoke again, “Jiva or the concept of that I am individual arises when consciousness identifies with the gross and subtle bodies.”

I replied, “But that identification is a vritti, therefore non-dual Brahman could never engage in such an activity to cover Himself.”

Hearing my reply, my mind said, “No liberation can occur with death since death does not make me see that I am not the upadhis. That is, death does not give the requisite knowledge.”

I laughed and began to answer my mind, “According to you, whether liberated or not liberated you are still the one, so who cares which state you are in, they are mithya (false). If I am gold, I will never become not gold, and if I am not gold, I will never become gold. Therefore I am the one, and I am eternally sat-cit-ananda, just feel the bliss. Om.”

He continued his lecture, “Atman is Brahman – infinite.”

I interupted, “Which atma? The jivatma or the paramatma? If your answer is the jivatma then how are you infinite? Has the infinite been covered by illusion?”