Caitanyamātmā (चैतन्यमात्मा) (sūtra 1)
Caitanyam + ātmā. Caitanyam (Lalitha Sahasranamam nāmā 919) is derived from the word cetana (Lalitha Sahasranamam nāmā 417), which means sentient being. Caitanyam means purest form of consciousness. Consciousness (caitanyam) is derived from conscious (cetana). The highest form of knowledge is pure consciousness which is also known as Ātmā or the Self or the Brahman. Consciousness, knowledge and the Brahman are not different from each other. They are the same. However, the level of consciousness differs. The highest level of consciousness means total freedom of thoughts, the level that prevails only in Shiva. This means that Shiva alone is completely independent. Except Shiva, every other thing on this universe is interdependent. Interdependency is one of the important aspects of creation. The independent nature of Shiva is called svātantrya śaktī (śaktī means power). It is called śaktī because it is the unique feature of Shiva. When Shiva (the Brahman) is referred to as the purest form of consciousness, it means His svātantrya śaktī. This consciousness alone prevails everywhere, hence Shiva is called omnipresent.
All the individuals have different levels of consciousness. The one who has acquired the highest level of consciousness is full of knowledge. Knowledge is not something that is gifted to him. He has acquired this knowledge through his own efforts, learning from a spiritual preceptor, or by reading, etc. There are many methods of acquiring knowledge, though acquiring from a learned guru is considered as the right one. There should be someone who is able to answer trivial doubts that arise in the minds of the seekers of knowledge. If one does not get a doubt, then it means he is not serious in his learning process. The level of consciousness varies from person to person due to the level of ignorance that prevails. This ignorance can be removed only by acquiring knowledge. In the present context, knowledge or ignorance means only the level of spirituality. So, what is important is not the duration of the practice, but the quality of the practice. A few seconds of high concentration is more than enough to attain Shiva. All the practice leads only to those few seconds, which could happen any moment in one’s spiritual journey.
Vijnana Bhairava (verse 100) says, “The Brahman who is characterised as Consciousness is present in all beings. It does not vary from person to person. The one who realises that the Brahman prevails everywhere conquers the world.” The same discourse is declared by Krishna in Bhagavad Gita (IV.13). He says “According to the differentiation of attributes and actions, I have created four castes.” For understanding and realising the Truth one has to go through certain mental process. Mental process consists of three components. The first one is learning and the second one is analysing and the third one is experiencing. Shiva is omnipresent and He prevails both internally and externally is the crux of learning. Study of Upanishads and other scriptures that make elaborate discussions on the Brahman, by means of negations and affirmations is analysing. Experiencing means developing higher level of consciousness and the experience culminates in Shiva realisation. Meditation is a source of help only in the last stage. Without understanding the subject, meditation is a process of wasting one’s time. It is like writing an examination without the basic knowledge of the concerned subject.