Identifying the jivatma

What is actually intended by an individual when he uses the term ‘I’? Generally it refers to both the body and the atma within. When it is said that a child is born or someone has died, does birth or death bind the person inclusive of the body and the atma? There is lack of clarity in such matters from a laukika standpoint.

The Charuvakas, for instance, see no difference between the body and the atma and they view birth and death accordingly. But Vedanta sees the jivatma as an individual being with a sarira in which there is the atma and teaches us to differentiate between the two entities. To clarify this matter further, the Brahmasutra discusses at length about the nature of the atma swaroopa, pointed out Sri Mani Dravid Sastrigal in a discourse.

In the view of Vedanta, when it is said the jivatma is born and dies it pertains only to the sarira with the senses, mind, intellect, etc, and not the atma which is nitya and of chaitanya swaroopa. Sastras say that unlike the sarira, the atma is not bound by birth and death. The atma does not die even when the individual body dies. They explain that the atma leaves that body to take another sarira according to its karma. The jivatma’s awareness of the laukika world is owing to the association of the atma with the sarira. Whatever is affecting the sarira is also felt by the atma. But in actuality, all the experiences and knowledge of the laukika world is called vritti jnana. This is only a reflection of the atma’s chaitanya swaroopa in the antakarana. Atmaswaroopa is to be recognised and meditated upon. This is necessary to grasp the import of the Mahavakyas such as Tat Tvam Asi, and understand that the self spoken about in these statements is the atma alone and not the sarira.

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