Shri Shankara Acharya’s Vakyavritti Verse 8
The teacher said: ”Listen, I shall explain this to thee. Thou art jiva. That element in thee ‘ which asks: ‘What am I?’ is undoubtedly Brahman.”
There are two phases of consciousness in man. One is the empirical and the other the transcendental.
One is the surface, and the other the rock-bottom, truth. When man asks: “What am I?” he is dimly conscious of his limitations and, although he is the Absolute in reality, is in ignorance of the great truth – this is the superficial view of the reality in man; but the element which asks: “What am I?” is none other than the Absolute (Brahman), God Himself.
Let it be noted that the statement of the holy Acharya is in the present tense. The Acharya says: “Thou art Brahman”. It does not mean that today you are jiva but in the course of time you will become Brahman. It means that without the least doubt, this very moment, the enquiring essence in man is none other than Brahman. This is the grandest truth.
The Sufi conception that man is like a drop in a river seeking union with the sea cannot be interpreted literally. The consciousness in man is, was and ever shall be Brahman, and Brahman only.
It is not subject to purification or its opposite. It is neither becoming nor being. Causation has no sway over it.
It is made very clear in this text that the individual consciousness in fact is at this very moment Brahman.
The rope is always a rope, though it may appear as a snake owing to an illusion. It never was, is or ever shall be anything other than a rope.
It is an error to think: “Today I am jiva, but when I have obtained samadhi I will be Brahman”. The best practice for the aspirant is to meditate on ‘I am Brahman’, not ‘I shall be Brahman’.
When philosophy from the time of Plato to Bertrand Russell has “been trying to formulate negative and positive aspects of consciousness, the holy Shruti thunders the simple truth in one voice, and it is: “That Thou Art“.
Science has never been unanimous as to whether reality is matter or spirit. But the spiritual philosophy is different. It says: “Thou who askest the question ‘What am I?‘ art Truth, Awareness, Bliss, and none other.
Immutability is the very nature of consciousness. Let this truth be fully understood by the adherents of the Vedanta.
Indeed who can doubt it in the light of the personal experience of the greatest and holiest of men from Shankara Acharya to Swami Rama Tirtha?