CHENNAI:The basis of Advaita philosophy is the attainment of knowledge of the Self (Atma Jnana) by recognising the non-Self (Anatama). Ignorance (Avidya) of the true nature of the Self is the cause of the Jivatma's inability to recognise it, pointed out Sri N. Veezhinathan in a lecture. Avidya casts a spell on the Jivatma and deludes the proper perception of the Self (Atma) and the non-Self (Anatma). Scriptures state that none can deny the presence of the Self (Atma), for the person who makes this claim is himself the Atma. Unless there is the attempt to understand the nature of the Self and its relationship with the universe and the Supreme Brahman, this quest cannot make any progress.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Janaka and Yagnyavalkya discuss the nature of the Self. Yagnyavalkya describes it as the light that illumines every being. The light of the sun or moon or fire can illumine objects; but the light of the Self is shown to be the essence of knowledge, the very strength and sustenance of each being. Even the sun, moon, etc., are able to throw light because of this effulgence that is the power behind the functioning of every being. This light of the Self is embedded within and remains unrecognised due to the Jivatma's preoccupation with the outside world and sense attractions.

The Atma enables the reason, understanding and intellect to function. It does not explicitly manifest itself. We can infer that it exists through the very act of understanding. It cannot be seen though it is cause for our ability to see. It is the Self that sees. Its presence can only be inferred. In the waking state, when we are engaged in various activities, we are told it is the Self that is the prime force behind these functions we perform. When we sleep, though all our senses and the body are at rest, the Self is alert in the acts of the mind. In deep sleep, even the mind is at rest but the Self is awake as a witness. On waking, we only recall a brief period of calm without any worldly interference. To understand the Ultimate Truth is very difficult and that is why the Upanishads caution us to overcome false assumptions and delusions.