Acharya Prashant (AP): What is the Aatman ?
Do you already know what I am going to tell you?
Questioner (Q): No.
AP: Yet you will understand, right? Now, how do you understand without knowledge? How do you understand without having already known? How does something absolutely new come to you and yet you are enamored by its beauty?
That, which remains active, even in your absence, even in the mind’s absence, even in knowledge’s absence, is Aatma.
Hence, it is utterly reliable. Because it is not a product of circumstances, because it is not a product of time. So, it can never desert you. It never came to you. It is not a product of some happening. Did somebody teach you that these mountains are beautiful? Then why are you captivated by them? You have been looking at them, over and over, again and again, and your eye seems to have some strange fascination for these mountains. Every day or the other, I am seeing somebody or the other, just standing, lost, absorbed. Who taught you exactly that these are beautiful?
That, which you know, without being taught, is the Aatma.
Who taught you that silence is soothing? Who taught you? Then why do you all look so peaceful in silence?
Aatman is innate. And that is what is peaceful, and that is what is soothing.
That, which is so intrinsic, so innate, that man has neither made it, nor can man comprehend it, is the Atman.
And the proof of Atman is everywhere. Just open your eyes and you will see nothing but Atman . And that is such a relief that man does not have to do everything. That there is something so beautiful, so all-encompassing, present before us, present in spite of us, and would be present, even in our absence. Is that not a great relief?
That takes away a lot of burden from our shoulders. You don’t have to try to understand. You don’t have to define beauty; you don’t have to enter in love. You don’t have to fall silent. You don’t have to be liberated. All this just is. Peace, relief, I don’t have to do all these things, not my responsibility. The Atman is ready-made (smilingly).
Q: Does the Atman leave the body after death?
AP: The Atman does not reside the body, how can it leave the body?
The Atman, mind you, is the foundation of that which sees the body take birth and die.
I repeat. There is somebody who is talking about birth and death. There is somebody who is saying, “I take birth and I die.” The Atman is the foundation of the one, who is talking about the body, who is talking about birth, who is talking about death. Even as you say that 'I have died', surely there is somebody who is talking about death. So, not all is over. Or is all over? If all is over then who is asking this question?
AP: Where do others exist?
Q: In their body.
AP: If they are existing in their body, how do you know of them? If they are totally outside of you, how do you know of them? In fact, not only you know of them, but you are also utterly sure that even after your death, others will be there and would be talking about you. How are you so sure?
After the death, there is no talking. But still there is so much of talking. And this talking never ceases. The Atman is the source of all this talking, of all this wondering.
The Atman does not reside in the body. The body is material, the body is an object in the Mind. And the Atman is the very source of the Mind.
May I repeat it? The body is an object in the mind, the body is an object in the consciousness. And the proof of that is that as your consciousness changes, your body too, keeps appearing and disappearing. Does the body exist for you when you are snoring away, at dawn? Does body exist in the thick of your sleep? Had the body been an absolute reality, how can an absolute reality keep appearing and disappearing? The body is just an apparition in the Mind. And hence, as the Mind keeps on changing, the body also keeps on changing.
When you talk of the body, you are actually talking of the Mind that is perceiving the body. The Atman is the very foundation of the Mind. In the Mind, the bodies keep on appearing and disappearing. In the Mind, there is birth and death. In the Mind, there are all these changes. The Atman is that which is unchangeable. Within the Atman, within the expanse of the Mind, a thousand births and deaths are taking place every moment. Those are births and deaths of objects and appearances. The Aatma, the Truth, is not affected by objects and experiences. All of them are happening within the Aatma.
You walk into a room, you come out of the room, does that change the room? But your question is analogous to, “What happens to the room, after my death?” The room was there before your birth, the room would be there, after your death. All this drama is taking place within the room. People are coming, people are going. But there is a very common misperception that there is Aatma inside the body.
There is no Aatma inside the body, the body is inside the Aatma. Kindly, totally get rid of this idea that the Aatma resides somewhere in the body. The body is material, the body is space-time. Everything that is inside the body occupies space. Is the Aatma in space? No. Space is an expression of Aatma. Aatma may express itself as space and it may not express itself as space. It may express itself as time and may not express itself as time.