We saw in the previous Sloka 3, the vedantic concept of conjoined existence and light in perception of objects and understood that both “being” and “knowing” are nothing but the same (tat tvam asi). In Sloka 4, Adi Sankara throws more light on the “Light”.
Before we venture into the Sloka, I am going to start this blog with three sets of questions.
Can you see yourselves in broad day light ?
Can you see your friend in a crowd in the park in the day light ?
Can you see yourselves in a pitch dark room ?
Can you see your friend in the same pitch dark room?
Do you need a torch to see Sun in the daytime.
Can you see the stars and constellations on a clear night?
These are very simple and innocuous questions. Answering these shouldn’t pose difficulties.
Yes. I can see myself in broad light.
Yes. I searched and can see my friend in a crowd in the park.
No. I cant see myself physically but I know that I am there.
No. I can’t see my friend in the pitch dark room. I need light.
I don’t need a torch to see the Sun in daylight. It is all powerful.
Yes. I am able to see stars and constellations on a clear night.
Explanatory Notes for the answers
Now let us amplify the answers given.
Suppose if I ask whether you have seen your friend in the crowd, you will have to look around to see whether he has come or not; which means that a process is required. But when I ask you the question, are you there, you do not take any time, or even thinking. Even before the process of thinking starts, “I am here” is an evident fact.
I don’t need a light to say that I am inside a dark room since I know that I am there. It is self evident as indicated above. But I need a process and a light to see anyone else.
I don’t need an external light to see the Sun in daylight. It is the most powerful light source. It is a “maha deepam”. But the strange fact is I can see the stars which are millions of miles away in the sky on a clear night. Perhaps I have a powerful source of light inside me (a maha deepam) that helps me to see the stars. Maybe ! I don’t know.
Preamble to the Vedic Philosophy behind the “Light”
Apparently in these three sets of questions and answers, the underlying focus is on light and sight. Let us now throw some light on this light.
An object in the world becomes known at a particular time by our special effort. If I have to see my friend in a crowd at the park, it is an event in space and time. I have to turn in that direction and my mind should be behind the eye. Or the eyes will not see. And the light should fall on the crowd; and then a thought should take place in the mind; and that is called vritti pariṇāma, and when that takes place alone, the knowledge of my friend takes place; as an event, in the mind, because of the operation of the sense organ called eye. So, the steps involved in this light throwing process called mano vritti is as under:
1. Some object is there.
2. Light falls on it.
3. You see it through your effort with your eyes.
4. It translates that it is other than you
5. You recognize it through something.
6. It forms a wave thought
7. That gets reflected in a medium to lend existence
The process is nothing complicated. Simple. Isn’t it? But then how do you say “I am here” when you are in a pitch dark room and someone asks you “Where are you?” You even say sometimes “Don’t switch on the light. I am relaxing”. Strange ! Are you self luminous? Exactly. This is called svayam prakāśatvam of ātmā; self-evidence of ātmā; this is a very important concept in vedānta. In India we have people named as Swayam Prakash.
The core of an Individual known as ātmā is not only svayam prakāś but also a “maha deepam” – a great light.
In a lighter vein that is why if we see several Indian movies particularly the historical/mythological ones, you will see in death scenes, a light moves up from the body towards the heaven. We see obituary statements like “The light in our life has merged with the Almighty” even today.
With this introductory understanding that core of all of us viz., the inner consciousness known as the ātmā is compared to a maha deepam (the light like Sun) in, let us proceed toward our goal of understanding the Sloka 4 where Adi Sankara again comes out with simple experiments to drive home the Vedantic Concepts.
To be continued……