Meaning of Adhyatma | The path to Self Discovery
November 16, 2019
We had discussed the subtle difference between the same sounding terms like Adhyatma and Spirituality in our previous post. Now in this post we will immerse ourselves deeper into the meaning of Adhyatma.
This term has become a wide catching word in all the cultures of India. Different people have different ideas of adhyatma and adhyatmik people. Some think that people who go to temple everyday are adhyatmik while somethink that following a particular ritual or a following a guru makes one adhyatmik people. On the other hand there are some people who think that adhyatmik people are those people who do social work and bring about social change by building hospitals, schools and orphanages.
As we have discussed earlier in the previous post, the word adhyatma is made up of two words adhi and atma which literally means understanding oneself. If we look into the Bhagwad Geeta the same term and its relevance has been asked by Arjuna to Lord Krishna in the 8th chapter.
This means all these terms brahman, adhyatma, and karma has distinct meaning but all these terms are intricately connected. The answer given by Lord Krishna is Brahman is akshara that means it is imperishable and beyond destruction and everpresent. This presents the aspect of Ishwara to which we have a feeling of devotion or bhakti. Hence this term implies the Bhakti Yoga. The word Karma is also asked separately which signifies the aspect of Karma Yoga which we will discuss it later on.
Bhagwad Geeta is an important text which has given equal importance to bhakti, to gyana and the karma yoga. So the next term adhyatma is related to the gyana yoga. This term doesn’t give importance to devotion or bhakti tradition but on self analysis. Lord Krishna tells that adhyatma is swabhava. Now swabhava is also a complex term. Swa means self and bhava means experience. So it means personal experience. That is when a person embarks on his adhyatmik journey, he goes through a experience which is ones own.
In this path of adhyatmik self discovery, the word self or swa is very fluid and subjective. Its meaning depends on the level of sadhaka. Initially self may mean the physical body which the person considers himself since the childhood. The body acts as the base for the intangible mind to work on. The mind then starts creating its field on the basis of existence of body and its different identities like gender, language, class, caste, statehood and nationality. Then the intellect or buddhi is another part of self which tries to act according to its self interest. So all this body, mind and intellect forms the part of self. These work in tandem to give an apparent form of me, mine and myself which is the part of ego. Mind it that this presence of self is apparent and a created one. But once one practices sadhana, this false identification keeps dropping and the real Self (denoted by capital S) starts presenting itself thereby walls of false identities start crumbling down and the real Me which is beyond the boundary of Mind and language gets accessible. This process or inward journey is represented by adhyatma. It represents the journey to the real swabhava. The swabhava which is the ultimate experience and not the apparent experience.
How does one have the ultimate experience or param swabhava?
For this one has to embark on the journey of deciphering oneself. Obsering our false attachment to body and mind. Observing its latent tendencies and the subtle desires and understanfing the raga or craving and dvesha or aversion. All this process makes the samskaras become weak. This is the whole objective of adhyatma. And the contrary notation of having faith on religious ritual or having faith on the particular deity is not adhyatma.