What is the nature of the atma? If we understood properly the answer to that question, we may be said to have begun our journey towards liberation.

Only those who have understood the nature of the atma will know that they have to surrender to the Almighty to attain moksha. The atma is not the body, or the sense organs, or the mind, or the intellect, M.K. Srinivasan said in a discourse. It is different from all of these. This body is composed of the five elements. The indriyas are embedded in this body. It is the mind that controls our indriyas, and the mind is easily led astray by them.

To know itself, the atma is not dependent on anything. It can know itself. The indriyas will perish, but the atma never perishes.

The atma is conscious of its body. The atma is the size of an atom. The atma has two types of knowledge. The first type is the ability to know itself. It also has the knowledge to be aware of every little thing that happens to the body. If you stub your toe against a stone, the atma knows it. So the atma is capable of knowing external things too. This second type of the knowledge, namely the ability to know external things, can also be used to know the atma.

But the ability to know itself cannot be put to use to understand the outside world. So when it comes to knowing itself, the atma can use both kinds of knowledge it possesses. The atma, by its very nature, is full of joy. Everything has an atma, even an insect or a plant.

Servant of Lord

When you say “I,” it is not a reference to the body or the mind. You are the atma, not the body. And that you, namely the atma, is a servant of Lord Mahavishnu.

That is what the philosophy of Visishtadvaita teaches us. Lord Vishnu is the Master of everything. The entire Universe constitutes His body, and we are all His servants. We need to understand this aspect of our connection with the Supreme One. He is the Owner. We are the Owned. The undying atma is His property, not ours.