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What exactly is Atmavichaara? Not the study of the attributes of the Atma, as given in books, but the analysis of the nature of the 'I', laying bare the enveloping sheaths, the Panchakosas, through concentrated discrimination, directed inward. It is not the Vichara of the external world or the outer objective world, or the academic scholarship directed towards the interpretation of texts. It is the analytical penetration of the secret of the Atma, achieved by the keen edge of intellect.
Is it then impossible to realise the Atma through a study of the Sastras, it may be asked; the answer is, it is not possible. The Atma is of the nature of Sath-Chith-Ananda; it transcends the Sthula, Sukshma and Karana Sariras; it is the Witness of waking, the dream and the deep sleep stages; can a mastery of the meanings of these words give the direct vision of the Atma? How then is it to be seen? By unravelling the Five Sheaths that cover the personality, by negating each of them and experiencing, "Not this", and passing beneath and beyond to the substratum of the Atma, the Brahmam, which all the while appeared varied and manifold.
Anything misplaced in the home must be sought in the home itself; how can it be recovered by a search in the woods? The Brahmam covered by the Five Sheaths must be sought in the Five-sheathed Body, not in the woods of Sastric lore.
Though Brahmam cannot be discovered in the Sastras, they tell you of
the Pancha Kosas or the Five Sheaths and of their identification marks
and characteristics and so, by the exercise of the intellect, it is possible
to reach down to the Atmic Truth. How can one not versed in the Sastras
master the process of this analysis and this consummation, it may be asked.
He can learn it from a Guru, or an elder Sadhaka, can he not?