In this episode, The Bearded Mystic Podcast discusses the sacred saying of The Upanishads, a mahavakhya 'Aham Brahmasmi'. This simply translates as 'I am Brahman'. This episode dwells upon whether the ego can say this great saying and what are the consequences if we declare this prematurely.
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Rahul N Singh 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the sixth episode of The Bearded Mystic Podcast. And I'm your host, Rahul N Singh. Thank you for joining today and taking out the time to either watch or listen to this podcast. Today, we're going to be discussing, one of the greatest sayings of the Upanishads or the Mahavakya of the Upanishads. That Mahavakya, the great saying is, Aham Brahmasmi. Now I know some of you may know this Mahavakya from this from Sacred Games, which is a Netflix drama, but it actually has a huge spiritual significance and has been one of the spiritual sayings or Mahavakya that has been discussed by the great sages like Nisargadatta Maharaj, or Ramana Maharshi. This saying is something we're going to go and delve deep into. So what does actually Aham Brahmasmi mean? The literal translation is 'I am Brahman' it is very tricky when it comes to understanding this because we have to first understand well what is Brahman? Brahman is the Ultimate Reality. It is that reality which does not change which is eternal, which is formless, which is imageless, which is timeless, which has no beginning, which has no end. Basically, nothing can modify it. It's self creating, and self sustaining. It requires no outside agency, to support itself or to be itself. It simply is reality, it's consciousness, pure consciousness. That's as simple as it is. When someone says, Aham Brahmasmi, they the saying, I am pure consciousness or I am the ultimate reality or I am formless reality or I am timeless reality. Now, when this is said, or whenever a sage, especially the sage that had written this or said this, in the Upanishads has probably gone through a lot of effort in order to say it and has come to a realization where there is nothing but Brahman. So there is no way there can be any modification of realisation. So, in very simple terms, the Mahavakya will state that when someone says Aham Brahmasmi, that's the only thing they are experiencing. So, even if they come across somebody else, although it may look like two people, in that Sage's mind, there is only one or there is only this Brahman.
For the mystic or the sage to reach this point, again, like I mentioned, it deserves or definitely needs a lot of effort from the seeker. We have to put a lot of spiritual practice in, we have to be really devoted to it, we have to really work on it. There is no rest for the wicked, literally. And then there is a little grace from the (Spiritual) Masters because as we have to remind ourselves, this is from the Upanishads. And the Upanishads does mean sitting at the feet of the Master. We can understand from this, that the Master can give a little bit of grace, a little bit of their blessings to help us along the way.
This state only appears really after the dissolution of the ego. If there is the ego, one cannot say Aham Brahmasmi because there will still be duality. Aham Brahmasmi is a complete nondual state. But if we have ego and we say Aham Brahmasmi, we are literally saying 'I am God and nobody else is'. That is what happens when the ego says it. Sometimes, a lot of people do interpret it in that way, and we'll go into that a little bit later. But I really want to emphasize that is only when the ego has dissolved away does the State of Aham Brahmasmi become our state of being so it takes time.
Brahman can only know Brahman. Think about that very deeply Brahman can only know Brahman. This Ultimate Reality can only be understood from the perspective of the Ultimate Reality. And to get to the perspective of the Ultimate Reality you have to become the Ultimate Reality. From the transactional level, if I look in the form of Maya or illusion, and I look at the Ultimate Reality, I will have a feeling that, That (Brahman) is separate to me. But from the Ultimate Reality's perspective, I am not separate, the transactional reality is coexisting. Again, we have to understand that only Brahman can know Brahman, only the Formless can know the Formless, only the Imageless can know the Imageless, only the Eternal can know the Eternal. Very simple, yet so hard to grasp.
Brahman can only be realized by Brahman itself. And this cannot be realized, if you believe in any other identities. So if I still feel that I am this body, or I feel that I am this mind, and everything that this mind contains from its memories, its emotions, its conditioning, then I cannot say that I am Brahman. And that's my state right now I cannot say I am Brahman, because I still believe in some aspect of my mind. I am still driven by my memories, I am still driven by my karma. I feel that I am the Jiva. When really the jiva is also Brahman? Yes, but I think the Jiva is separate. Jiva means the soul, you could say as an easy translation, but really, it implies that it is the separate self. We cannot believe in any other identity, even to believe one is a soul that is separate to God is still an identity. Yeah, or if I feel that the soul the Atman is different to Brahman or Paramatma, then I'm still in the illusion of separation, therefore, I cannot say Aham Brahmasmi. If you feel we are this body, this mind and even a soul we cannot say Aham Brahmasmi as a state of our realization.
All spiritual practice, from neti neti that Ramana Maharshi really emphasized upon to Who am I ? Another thing that Ramana Maharshi has stated. To Pranayama is to get us ready to comprehend this Reality, this Divinity that is the only real thing in existence. The real essence of existence is this Supreme Reality. All spiritual practices to lead us to that, whether through mantra jaap, whether through pranayam, whether through meditation, through Neti-Neti, through self inquiry, whatever way, everything is to get us to that understanding that only the Divinity is real, this Reality is real. The Supreme reality, God is the only thing that's real. Everything else that is subject to modification is an appearance. Like for example, the way we see life now is as if you were walking in a dark forest. And it's dark now, it's nighttime. And you're hearing all the sounds of the forest. Then you come across a tree which has it's branches going along the path. So as you're walking towards that tree, and you see the branch in front of you, you notice something dangling down from the branch. Now because it's dark. You see it as a snake. You think it's a snake, fear rises, so you then sit down where you are. You find a place to sit down and you wait and you watch that snake that is there apparently. But when it becomes daytime, you notice that the snake was actually just a rope but you had mistaken it for a snake and you stopped on your journey.
So the same way, everything that we see is an appearance. Or you could say everything that we see as an appearance is actually real enough to say Aham Brahmasmi. Let's get that again. Everything that we see as an appearance can also from its Ultimate Reality standpoint say Aham Brahmasmi, from It's essence can say Aham Brahmasmi. But as is subject to modification, as we know that things do not last. One day, this microphone will modify in some other form. Therefore, it cannot be the eternal reality. Therefore we say that the eternal reality tends to be without content, or without form, without color, without shape, not subject to the five elements. That's what we tend to refer to as the Ultimate Reality.
We know from here, that there's only the reality there has to be the perspective of the mystic or the sage. And in the Mundaka Upanishad, it states brahmavid brahmaiva bhavati. So the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman himself. Hence, the knower of Brahman knows Aham Brahmasmi. This is what that mantra really says in the Upanishads. That the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman himself. Once you know that you are this ultimate reality, once that comes to your point of view, when you're shown by the teacher, or the master or the guru, or you come through it through practice, when you come to that point where there is, you come to this point of stillness of absolute calm, blissfulness, then you know, you've got there. Then you see everything as Brahman. If you have to see yourself as Brahman, you have to see others as Brahman because there's no difference in terms of your form, you are made from the same elements as everything else that you see in existence. But you know that Brahman is beyond every element of existence.
So let's go back a few steps. Can the ego declare Aham Brahmasmi? Now the ego cannot declare this at all because it requires complete and utter humility. Nobody says Aham Brahmasmi, nobody can say this with a sense of pride that they've achieved something. This state isn't something you achieve. It's already there. This state has always been there. It's never disappeared, it's never gone away. It's never gone on travels, it's never gone on a vacation. It's always been here. Brahman has always been here. God has always been here. In Sanskrit, they call it Nirakar, this Formless has always been here. We have to understand that because this hasn't gone anywhere, it isn't something to attain, it isn't something to achieve. It's just something that is kind of unveiled to you. And you're like, it's like this, you know, with a joke, when you sometimes get it after a few days, is that 'aha' moment. That's exactly what it is. It's not the individual that says, I am Brahman. The individual ego does not say this. It is Brahman Itself that is declaring.
Now, for example, if say, someone has understood that there is only Brahman, and they have now become realized, you know, they've understood this knowledge, and they've utilized it. They've got to the bottom of all the problems of existence and found there is only Brahman. This person isn't really going to go out in the world and start shouting Aham Brahmasmi to everyone. This is a silent realization that is or a feeling that is processed within. It's not something that is said without.
Again, when the sage had written or said this to the disciple, it was to show something or, portray something. Even with the portrayal of it, it is missed. So even if someone says if you go out there saying Aham Brahmasmi, you are only going to be looking like a crazy person because a lot of people will see this as saying, 'I am God'. People will be thinking that you're 1) being blasphemous and 2) you're off the rocker. Realistically, the world will not see this as normal behavior. The sage will not go crazy out there shouting, Aham Brahmasmi, I'm Brahman, I'm God. They will only feel this internally. Actually it's a feeling that cannot be translated. Even Aham Brahmasmi misses that feeling. And some of you may have experienced this actually through meditation. But you feel there's only this energy, this essence, nothing but this essence. This is everything, and you feel it. Now, if I had to translate what I just felt now to you through either audio or video, I can't. It can only be experienced by the individual, by themselves first. Then you understand that this experience is everyone's experience on the fundamental level, but many of us aren't awake to that.
We do not understand our fundamental existence. We cannot feel a sense of pride when we say this, because if we do feel pride when we say this, it's ego. Again, only bliss follows this experience. Have you ever experienced bliss, like happiness that is beyond our senses? My master used to say that bliss is true happiness beyond the senses. Anyone who has experienced bliss cannot even say they feel blissful. The word just does not do justice to the feeling, to that state of being. It just does not do justice.
That's why spirituality is so difficult because words never do justice to it. Yet, you need language and words to communicate it. And this is one of those things. Bliss is one of those things which is so difficult, and it's always missed when talked about. And our next episode will be discussing bliss. I'm not going to go too deep into it.
In this experience of Aham Brahmasmi, you see all as Brahman. And as this is an attributeless state, and it's transactional state is the universe whose attributes are within us, and has created us. Ee understand from this point of view that the attributes are in the transactional universe, that this is also Brahman.
In Advaita, Vedanta, the way they the way we can understand the transactional universe because a lot of people misinterpret Advaita Vedanta as only Brahman is real, and everything else is unreal. And therefore it's an illusion. And people have a hard time understanding this, especially people who are from, who believe in dvaita or duality. They have a hard time because they can't understand how we can say this world is unreal, because we feel pain, we feel happiness, we feel joy. For example, if someone punches me, I'm not going to say Aham Brahmasmi. I'm going to feel pain. Yeah. So can we say the pain is an illusion? No, I'm feeling it's real. So Shankaracharya, Adi Shankara, who coined or was the person who really populated or made popular Advaita Vedanta. He states that Maya is real on the transactional level, as you're living in this world, it is real. But our background awareness is this attributeless state and the way he defined it was, there is what I learned it from him and he probably learned it from someone else. That there's Nirgun Brahman, which is the attributeless Brahman, or Ultimate Reality. Then there's Saguna Brahman, which is Brahman, or the Ultimate Reality with attributes. So this is how you relate Maya and Brahman together or what we see as the world and Brahman together, existence and Brahman together. That's how we marry the two up. They both coexist with each other without a problem. Now, during meditation, I may need Saguna Brahman and saguna Brahman, may be your teacher, maybe a guru, maybe a devi or devta that you worship or gods or goddesses. It maybe a spiritual teacher like Jesus Christ that you may worship. It can be anything that you love and which is tangible for you. When you concentrate on that, which is tangible, you will find eventually that tangible thing will move away for something imageless, which is intangible. This is what eventually happens. So, this is a state of someone who understand Aham Brahmasmi, they are able to understand and differentiate between the world in its rightful place, and Brahman in its rightful place, they're able to live in that state all the time. So, when they feel something in the body, they feel it as real for the body, but they understand that 'I am Brahman' does not feel it, Brahman does not feel it. This body feels it, this mind is affected but Brahman is not affected. Yeah, they live from that state of Brahman. So that doesn't mean they ignore their problems, they face their problems. But we have to understand that state of being. It is really hard to explain sometimes, but I think the more we go into these podcasts, we will use certain scriptures, which will really help us to understand this.
To recap this episode, it's been pretty deep for me to explain all this and it's taken a lot for me to try to explain it. So I hope I've done justice to it. And do let me know in the comments to this video, or let me know through social media what you think. So to recap, only after the complete removal of the ego, can someone say Aham Brahmasmi and this is a universal perspective and not an individual perspective. To understand that this is a whole existence perspective. Yeah, everything experiences is, not just one individual self. And that love, humility and kindness will always follow from this state of Aham Brahmasmi and not pride, nor a desire to be worshipped.
You will find actually, a lot of the teachers in the spiritual circles in the past and present, very reluctant to be teachers, very reluctant. The real genuine ones, always reluctant. They find they function better as as guides instead of gurus. And you'll find that they actually function as guides as well. They're willing to travel with you, because they know that if they travel with you, they're able to help you progress much further. To understand this state of Aham Brahmasmi, it has to come from a place of love, humility, affection, kindness, we have to have the same virtues as Brahman. That is the most important thing. I hope and pray that we can all attain that state of Aham Brahmasmi with the sense of humility, and that we see each other as Brahman.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai