This is part XI of our series on understanding our physical body. Atman is super imposed by these five sheaths or koshas. All these coverings are not pure like the atman. As a matter of fact the purity of atman cannot be compared to anything in this universe even in the wildest of dreams. Because of the coverings that are placed one above the other atman in its purest form appear to be modified. Shankara draws a comparison to the fire that takes the shape of an iron rod when put in fire. Fire has no shape but still it attains the shape of an iron when the rod is heated. In the same way the atman undergoes modifications when superimposed by these sheaths. At least such a modification is felt by the mental sheath and sheath of knowledge. In fact nothing can change the atman and atman never identifies itself with other objects. It is the supreme prakasha form that cannot be divided as it is the minutest of the minute forms. Such a supreme form cannot undergo changes under any circumstances. Therefore it is only our buddhi feels so. Our buddhi is under the control of maya or illusion. Due to the impact of wrong interpretation by buddhi, we feel that the impact is on our atman. It is like the reflection of the sun in hundred pots full of water. Sun is one, and on seeing the sun in all the hundred pots, can we say that there are hundred suns? In the same way atman is one, and because of its illuminating nature, its reflection is felt everywhere. This reflection of atman is wrongly interpreted as the functioning of the atman, as atman does not function. This concept is beautifully explained by Krishna in Gita. He says that atman appears to be divided but not actually divided.
Taitttriya Upanishad in its Bhrgu valli also says that everything is born out of Brahman and Brahman is the source of this world. This is the reality and therefore nothing can modify the Brahman or atman. Maya with falsified authority and brute force is presenting the atman as the one with modifications. We also tend to believe in the presentation of maya and we come to the conclusion that atman is also susceptible to changes. In the same way jiva is also falsely identified with atman. Jiva is soul and atman is God. Don’t we pray that may his soul rest in peace. You cannot ask God to rest in peace. You can only pray for the jiva or soul of a person to rest in peace. Identifying the soul as atman is again the role played by the maya in collusion with mind and intellect. We also know that mind gets information from the sensory organs. Intellect plays an important role in controlling the sense organs. The one that is not bound by time and space is atman. The intellect plays an extremely crucial role. We have come to a stage where we can differentiate between maya and the real. We know the effects of maya. We are yet to understand the reality. When we do not know what reality is, we start our search for reality. We begin this search by questioning and investigating. Our questions need answers and for investigation we need intelligence. This is derived from the sheath of knowledge. If the knowledge is under the influence of impure mind, how can you find your answers? This stage is called avidya, the stage of spiritual illiteracy. An illiterate man can become a literate man. You have to have determination to become so. You need to have will power. All these are provided by mind and mind’s quest for knowledge is provided by this sheath of knowledge.