What is Athma?
Athma is that inner consciousness that is permanent and all pervading. It is that principle, which makes the inner body function, which is one substance that takes forms to manifest itself in the world of transaction, that changeless principle being witness to the changing world and so on. All that changes, has a beginning or end are anathmas and athma is different from all these.
The nature of athmas is characterised by Sath (Real), Chit (Knwoledge) and Ananda (Bliss). Real implies a permanent existence. Anything that is existing can be viewed as a form of athma. If it is real it should be available at present. It can’t be a past or future principle. The knowledge of self is present with everyone at every moment. The existence of oneself is known by their experience and by perception. Adi shankara describes this appropriately as Nithya – Shudha – Buktha – Muktha – Vasthu.
What are Anathmas?
The above eleven components are classified as anathmas. Most of them are subtle in their form not easily perceptible. However athma is different from all these and is subtler than them. As we now know athma is not a matter of perception.
Swami Chinmayananda explains the connections between the athma and anathma in his own way. He represents the world of plurality in three layers representing the Instruments of experience, the Personalities of the Experiencer and the World of Experience. Athma is above all remaining a witness to the process of experience.
An understanding of the anathmas helps us to exclude them to focus on the athma. In summary the anathmas comprise of the three bodies, five koshas and the three states of experience.
Next we will discuss the various Anathmans starting with the Stula Sareerams