We now know that atman is covered by the five sheaths. These five sheaths have been mistakenly identified earlier as the atman. Now we know that atman is different from these sheaths. Mere knowledge of atman is not enough and it is to be explored and experienced. Vedas, Upanishads and other scriptures tell us various means to identify the atman. They have taught us the path and we have to walk along the path to reach the atman. Walking on the path is extremely difficult and high level of dedication and sacrifice are necessary. More than anything else, we need to know what atman is. Upanishads teach us to understand and realise atman. Though atman is beyond description, at least we need to have some basic information. Atman is one and it does not have a second. It is all alone. It is self illuminating. Only by deriving light from atman everything else is visible. Even the sun gets its light only from atman. Some people are of the opinion that there are two types of atman. One is paramatman (para+atman) and another is jivatman (jiva+atman). This is not right. Since atman does not have a second, there cannot be more than one atman. This atman exists everywhere. It is smaller than an atom and bigger than the biggest.
At the most we can compare jivatma and paramatma to individual consciousness and universal consciousness. Universal consciousness is everywhere and individual consciousness is part of it when it exists in an individual. Merging of individual consciousness with the universal consciousness is known as prayer. Prayers have tremendous effect only when we pray with concentration. When you concentrate on something and ask for it, the first step is really to ask for it with confidence that you will certainly get it. When you pray without confidence and faith, your prayers will never be answered. A prayer without faith is waste of time. There is confusion about jiva and atma. Jiva is soul and is subject to transmigration. Atma is God and not subject to change. We have already seen that for creation, two things are necessary. Prakasha form is static and vimarsha form is kinetic and only from this combine creation is taking place. Atma is the prakasha form. It is static. It will not move and it has not act to do. Jiva is the soul and is the vimarsha form. At the time of death, soul leaves our body and merges with atma which is present everywhere and enters yet another body. This is the process of transmigration of jiva or soul.
The soul enables the body to undergo changes and happiness or sorrow for the body is determined by the karmas. Karma is the rule of the Lord. Sufferings or enjoyment is determined only by karma. God never breaks his law. That is why it is called law of karma. Therefore, the jiva or soul acts according to one’s karmic account. When everything is decided by karma and jiva what is the purpose of atman. Atman is like electricity. Without electricity passing through the cable lights will not burn. Having soul alone is like having a light fitting without electricity. Electricity does not burn but it makes the light fitting to burn. In the same way, atman does not act, but it makes the soul or jiva to act. You cannot see the electricity and you know it only as a form of energy. In the same way, atman cannot be seen but can be known. Atman should be explored and realised within our own self. When we break the sheaths of maya, and start exploring within, there we can realise the atman. Atman within us is called the Supreme Self. In order to differentiate between our physical body and the atman, and in order emphasize that these two are not the same, atman is called as the Supreme Self.
Atman is just witnessing the activities of the soul. It neither gives direction nor participates in any of the actions of the soul and soul acts only as per the law of karma. Atman does not have the qualities of good and bad. It does not make a person good or bad. The quality of the person is determined by the law of karma. Law of karma influences the mind, mind influences our intellect and intellect makes our sensory organs to do good things or bad things. By your action you are known as good or bad. Except atman every other thing is subject to modification and ultimate decay. That is why the things that are subject to decay are called maya or illusion. Atman is all alone and ever illuminating. We will subsequently discuss in detail about realising atman within.