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Treasure Concealed in the Heart

The Treasure Concealed within the Heart
By Swami Rama

The treasure according to Vedanta is Atman, the Self or absolute Reality, that exists within all individuals. In the language of the Bible, Atman is the image of God, that which is identical to Brahman, pure consciousness, ultimate Reality, or however else we attempt to express with words that which is indescribable. Atman and Brahman are one, just as Jesus said, “I and my Father are one.”

“Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” Jesus told his disciples. Know your identity with God. You are the same but have forgotten it, is the message. So remember. Do that essential work of remembering, of getting the clutter removed so you can remember.

Let’s define some terms here, with the understanding that words are subject to limitations, whereas what we are talking about is beyond words and intellect. As the book of Tao says, the Tao that can be spoken of is not the real Tao. So also the Buddha instructed his disciples not to think or argue about God. Because of this instruction, Buddha and Buddhism are misunderstood as being atheistic. What the Buddha meant was that God, or pure consciousness, is beyond the limited mind, beyond the intellect. As soon as God is considered and defined by the limited mind, God becomes limited. So Buddha told his disciples to concentrate on removing the barriers that separated them from the true Self. When that is done, then whatever we call the ultimate Truth reveals itself.

With that said, the Vedantins nonetheless made a valiant effort to give these ideas perspective. Brahman is absolute existence, knowledge and bliss, the summum bonum of the life of all creatures. According to Vedantic terminology, Brahman is real and all else is unreal. That which is not subject to death, decay, and decomposition is real, and that which changes is temporal and unreal. The universe is not real. It cannot be real if it is only temporary. Another way of saying this is that the universe is not nonexistent, but it is not real in the same sense as Brahman.

When you dream, for the extent of the dream, the world that is created within the dream and the people and events in it are real. When you wake up that reality disappears. The worldly plane of the universe is considered by Vedantins to be as a dream. It is real within its own context, and it has purpose. Vedantins call it maya, an illusion. It is neither absolutely real, nor absolutely nonexistent. Maya, or this dream of worldly life, is instructive. That which is subject to time, space, and causation, to change and relativity, to pain and pleasure, to sorrow and misery, is maya. It has value but not permanence. As a dream helps you work through emotions and desires, the worldly dream, maya, creates opportunities for you to grow and work through habits and desires. You wake from it, and it disappears. You wake into realizing Atman, and this plane of existence disappears into a misty memory.

Atman is the real Self, but one’s knowledge of the real Self is separated by the different, relative aspects of the mere self. These relative aspects of mind are both the barriers and gates to the higher Self. According to eastern philosophy, the mind has four main faculties. The first is ahamkara, or ego, the part of yourself that defines you as ‘I,’ with ‘me’ and ‘mine.’ The second is buddhi, the higher mind, the aspect of discrimination that knows, decides, and judges. The buddhi is like a mirror that catches reflections of all the sense organs and perceptions, and all thoughts and cognitions of the mind. Buddhi discriminates and compares one thing with another. The third is manas, or the lower mind, that produces and processes data. Chitta, the fourth faculty, is a reservoir or data bank of impressions and memories.

There are two aspects within us all, the real Self and the mere self. The latter is but a reflection of the former. One is imperishable and beyond change, and the other is the enjoyer and the sufferer.

Yama told Nachiketa:

“The one (the Absolute) is like the self-effulgent sun, the other (the ego, or limited self) is like its image or reflection, bearing relations as between light and shade. The one is like a witness, while the other eats the fruits of its own thoughts and deeds.”

The witness is Atman. The great ninth century Indian saint and philosopher, Shankara stated:

“The nature of the Atman is pure consciousness. The Atman reveals this entire universe of mind and matter. It cannot be defined. In and through the various states of consciousness—waking, dreaming, and sleeping—it maintains our unbroken awareness of identity. It manifests itself as the witness of the intelligence.”

The Kathopanishad says the Atman is never born and never dies, that it is smaller than the smallest atom and greater than the vastest spaces. It is concealed within the heart of all beings. Shankara said the Atman does not dissolve when the body dissolves, just as the air within a jar does not cease to exist when the jar is broken.

Unchanging, unchangeable, birthless, deathless, and eternal, the Atman sits in the deepest chambers of ourselves and knows all the activities of the mind and of the individual. “It is the witness of all the actions of the body, the sense organs and the vital energy,” Shankara said. “It seems to be identified with all these, just as fire appears identified with an iron ball. But it neither acts nor is subject to the slightest change.”

The Bhagavad Gita states about the Atman, the Self:

“He is never born nor does He die; nor having been, does He ever again cease to be. Unborn, eternal, perennial, this ancient One is not killed when the body is killed. He who knows this is imperishable, eternal, unborn, unalterable...

“As a man taking off worn-out garments later puts on new ones, similarly the owner of the body, abandoning the worn-out body, dons another new one...
“Weapons do not cleave Him, fire does not burn Him, the waters do not wet Him, nor does the wind dry Him.

“He is uncleavable, unburnable, cannot be made wet, nor can He be made dry, the eternal, all permeating, absolute, and unmoving, He is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. He is the ancient One.”



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of Swami Rama of the Himalayas

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