Pariprasna
The Vedanta Kesari|March 2021
Srimat Swami Tapasyananda Ji (1904 – 1991) was one of the Vice-Presidents of the Ramakrishna Order. His deeply convincing answers to devotees’ questions raised in spiritual retreats and in personal letters have been published in book form as Spiritual Quest: Questions & Answers. Pariprasna is a selection from this book.

QUESTION: Who is the individual self? Who is the Universal Self? How can they be identical and how can a statement like ‘Thou art That’ prove their identity?

MAHARAJ: The individual self is the centre of consciousness with reference to an individual person. To put it according to the Vedanta psychology, a person is an assemblage of several layers of bodies centring on a point of consciousness. There is first the gross physical sheath. Behind it, and permeating it, are the vitalistic sheath, intellectual sheath and causal sheath. The true Self is distinct from even this last. It is the centre of Self-consciousness which flows through and enlivens all the sheaths and integrates them into a whole, which we call the personality. In the state of liberation the Self is released from the hold of all these sheaths and becomes one with Brahman, while at the time of death it is temporarily released from the gross physical sheath alone, to be embodied in another afterwards. In release or Mukti the centre of consciousness gets united with the universal Self according to pure monists, or retains its individuality clothed in a divine body and participates in divine life, according to others.

The Universal Self is the Self of the whole universe. Just as our individual being is a physical body superficially, but basically a non-physical self-conscious entity, so also the gross totality we experience as the universe of matter and individual selves, is at the core of its being Sat-chit-ananda or absolute existence, awareness and bliss. Now this Satchidananda, the core of the reality, is the Universal Self.

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