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One Verse By shrI shaMkara   10/18/2011 12:00:00 AM


shrI shankara has given the entire teaching of the Upanishads in one verse which is known by the name eka shlokaprakaraNam literally meaning one verse.



किम् ज्योतिस्तव भानुमानहनि मे रत्रौ प्रदीपादिकम्
स्यादेवम् रविदीपदर्शनविधौ किम् ज्योतिराख्याहि मे ।
चक्षुस्तस्य निमीलनादिसमये किम् धीर्धियोदर्शने
किम् तत्राहमतो भवान्परमकम् ज्योतिस्तदस्मि प्रभो ॥


Kim jyotiH tava bhAnumAnahani me rAtrau pradIpAdikam

syAdevam ravidIpadarshana vidhau kim jyotiH AkhyAhi me|

chakshustasya nimIlanAdisamaye kim dhIrdhiyo darshane

kim tatrAhamato bhavAnparamakam jyotistadasmi prabho ||



(Guru:)Is it your light that shines as the sun in the daytime and as the lamp in the night time?Let it be.Which light shines when  your eyes are closed? (which light illumines the mind?) Which light illumines my intellect?  You are the absolute light that illumines the mind; 

(Disciple:)That absolute light am I.



In this verse, again, light is used to bring out the illumining nature of Atma.  Just as light helps us know things in the empirical world, so also, Atma is the illumining principle in the absolute sense; that ever shining Atma, I am. This is the import of the verse.



Let us analyze the verse step by step:


1. In the absence of sun, there is darkness all around in the world. This darkness is ‘known’ to me. We can perceive darkness, i.e. absence of light. How? The eyes coupled with the mind help us to perceive darkness.


2. The sun rises spreading its rays around the world

a) It is this star, which on rising in the morning makes the world available, visually, to beings.

b) It is the rising of the sun which makes all living beings get to work with their daily routines.

c) In the absence of the sun, we are unable to perceive objects.


3. Again, during night time, we need a light for us to be able to carry on our transactions. We use a lamp for this purpose.

In the above three instances, we are using the eye as a medium to perceive darkness, light and objects. When we see darkness, we appreciate the absence of light. We are also not able to see objects clearly. In the presence of light, we perceive objects. At this point it is important to note that when I see an object, what I am actually seeing is the object plus light. Suppose, I switch on a light in a dark room; a book lying on the table is now perceived clearly. So, when I see the book, what I am actually seeing is the book and the light reflected by it. There are two factors involved. We, by default only pay attention to the object and not to the light. But it is because of the light that the object is perceived. Remembering this, we can move forward to the next section of the verse.


 4. Now, when we close our eyes, the mental world is 'visible' to us; meaning, we are aware of our thoughts, emotions, feelings, worries, pleasures etc. When the eyes are closed, there is no visible light, as such. Then how are my thoughts illumined?


 It is the Atma by whose presence the inert mind functions. Not only does it function, I am also aware of the modifications of the mind. I do not need any other light to light up my mind and its functions.


5. Again when my eyes are closed, all the reasoning and rational thoughts of my intellect are known to me.

It is the presence of Atma which illumines the functions of the intellect.

All the modifications in my mind and intellect do not require a lamp outside. They are illumined i.e. ‘known’ to me through this inner ‘light’ which is Atma.


6. The Atma is the luminous principle, illumining the otherwise inert mind and intellect. It is by its presence that the mind and intellect gain sentiency. This mind acts as a medium with which the organs of perception (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) and organs of action (hands, legs, speech, organ of excretion and organ of procreation) function.


Though it is the mind which appears to be behind the functioning of the organs; it is actually the Atma, since mind is made luminous because of Atma. Atma is not performing an action but its mere presence provides sentience to the mind.


7. In the wakeful state the mind helps us function in the world. In the dream state, a dream world is created with the help of the mind and, the dreamer I interact in this dream world just as the waker I interact in the waking world. In the dream world the sun and the lamp of the waking world are missing, yet, my dream, and my dream world are known to me.


8. In deep sleep, I am not aware of anything. There is absence of duality. There is also ignorance of outside world. Though the mind is resolved in deep sleep, there is a subtle thought functioning, which cognizes the absence of duality. Even though, the mind is resolved, it is illumined by the Atma. The fact that I get up and say “I slept peacefully, I did not know anything” is a proof that I had an experience of ‘absence of everything’ in sleep. There can be a recollection of experience only when there was collection of one in sleep. Atma illumines the experience of deep sleep. Do I need a sun or lamp for this to happen?

It is the consciousness that is present in all the three states of waking, dream and sleep. Atma is in and through all the three states.


Simply put, the darkness in the waking world, the sunlight, the lamp, the objects in the world are all illumined by the mind. Is the mind the ultimate light? No. The mind and intellect, themselves are inert but are illumined by Atma. The dream state, a product of the mind is also illumined. By what? By the Atma, the illumining principle. Atma also illumines the deep sleep state. Once I get up I know that I slept blissfully, and was unaware of everything. I am aware that I was unaware of the waking world. How? Only due to the presence of Atma. Atma illumines the presence and absence of all. Everything is known and unknown due to the absolute light, Atma.


This Atma, the existence principle is the supreme light. Then who am I? I myself am that Atma which is the illumining, witnessing principle in whose presence the waking dream and deep sleep states come and go.  It is the nature of the Atma to illumine. It is not an action done by it. Atma is not a doer. It alone is. In its presence everything shines. That absolute light am I.

Light and Consciousness   10/10/2011 12:00:00 AM


In vedAnta, teaching is given out in an indirect manner. Consciousness is subtle and not an object of perception; it is not available for perception or objective cognition. In the beginning, the student is much habituated to the dualistic world and cannot comprehend non-dualism. Hence, teachers take support of this very dualistic world to make him arrive at the truth.


Though advaita vedAnta talks about the world being unreal; yet for catering to the unprepared mind of the student, teachers introduce the topic of "creation of the world". As the student improves his understanding and clarity, this creation is negated as being just a seeming reality. Just as the dream world ‘as though’ exists, but disappears on waking; so also this world that we see, has no substantiality of its own. It borrows its existence from consciousness, the Atma.


One of the common analogies that teachers give from the material world we know, is light. Here, we will look into some of the aspects which are common between light and consciousness.


1. nirAkAra – Formless

Both are devoid of forms. Only an object can have a form. Consciousness being the very subject, it is formless. It is due to the consciousness that all forms are cognized. Light also has no form. We see it in our daily lives. We light up a room. The light pervades the whole room without any form as such.


2. nirvikalpa – Divisionless

Consciousness is uniform and homogenous. It cannot be broken into parts. All the divisions happen only at the material level. Consciousness is a non material entity that is divisionless. Light is also divisionless. One cannot divide the light in a room. Furniture etc can be divided but not the light.


3. nirmala – Taintless

Consciousness is nityashuddha (ever- pure). All impurities belong to objects. Atma, the consciousness is attribute-less and the attributes and properties of objects do not taint it. Same is the case with light. Neither the fragrance of the flowers, nor any bad odour can taint the light in the room.


4. nissIma – Limitless

This consciousness, Atma, is limitless. Anything with a limitation becomes an object of perception. Atma is infinite, ananta. Light is also limitless (relatively). We see that when an astronaut goes out in space, there is pitch darkness everywhere, but we can see the astronaut and the spacecraft clearly. This is so, because pure light cannot be perceived without a medium. In the presence of an object, it is known. This light is perceived in the place where the astronaut and spacecraft are.

 This light is limitless like space (again this is in a relative sense, because space and light are also mithyA(unreal), hence enjoy only dependent existence)


5. nissanga- Associationless

Atma, consciousness being free from attributes, pure, non-dual and all pervasive, it is associationless. Association can happen if there is something other than consciousness. There is only non-dual Atma. Rest all is mithyA(unreal). Hence Atma is associationless; the objective universe is temporary, seemingly appearing. Light also is associationless. It has nothing to do with what it illumines.




Due to these similarities, it is quite possible that an aspirant might equate consciousness to some kind of light or energy. Examples should be taken in the right spirit and should not be stretched too far. One should not say "Consciousness is like light; I saw a light in meditation; so, I have seen Atma." This is absurd. Atma cannot be ‘seen’ since it is not an object. It has to be known and cognized as the core of one’s own being. One should also not start imagining Atma as a ball of fire emanating energy.


There are many places in the scriptures where Atma is indicated by the words which mean ‘self illuming’ or ‘nature of light; for e.g. ‘svayamprabha’(self illumining) ‘svayamprakasha’(self illumining), ‘jyothisvarUpa’ (nature of light) etc. If Atma is not a blazing ball of fire or a packet of energy; why is Atma called a light innumerable number of times in the scriptures. That’s a good question which has a simple answer.


What is light?


That, in the presence of which objects are visible and in the absence of which the objects are not visible is light. So, it is the principle due to which one is able to see an object. In that sense, the eyes are ‘light’, because, due to the eyes, I see. In the absence of eyes, I cannot see. The ears are light; since due to the ears I can hear and in the absence of ears I cannot hear. So, ears are light with respect to the hearing world; meaning ears are ‘light’ to perceive sound. Nose is ‘light’ with respect to the smelling world. I can smell in the presence of nose and cannot smell in the absence of nose. So, nose is the ‘light’ to perceive smell. In a nutshell, all the five organs are light to perceive their corresponding objects. The mind is the ‘light’ to know, since in the presence of the mind, I know my surrounding and in the absence of mind (sleep, swoon etc) I do not know my surroundings.


Consciousness is the light of all lights. This does not mean consciousness is 100000 watt bulb!!!  It only means that in the presence of consciousness, and due to the consciousness alone all these ‘lights’, that is, all these organs are functioning. Otherwise, the organs mind, etc are inert; they being the product of five elements. These organs, acquire sentiency and the ability to function only due to the backing of the Atma. This is the import. In other words, it is this consciousness which enlivens them and gives them the status of ‘lights’.


So, then, consciousness is called light in the sense of being an illuminator and witnessing principle. In its presence, the world manifests, in its presence the world is sustained and in its presence is it destroyed. In its presence do the organs and mind function. The fact that all this is happening with the organs and is also known, is because of Atma. Does this Atma need another light? No. It is non-dual and all-pervasive illumining principle. Here, illumining is not an action done by Atma. It only means that in the presence of Atma , everything is cognized. If there is another light needed to know this Atma, then Atma would no longer be non-dual and real.


 In the presence of Atma, one knows what one knows, and one knows what one does not know. What a lightless light!!!