The Atma

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Do you agree that western psychology knows nothing of the atma and has neglected it?

I do not agree completely with you. Western psychology has not yet perfected wisdom, science is always growing, that of the psychology of the self, and of yoga. It has arrived at a point, but that does not mean that it has terminated its search. The search will continue. If it is a religious search, you can use incense and books and all that. There is research where there are no books and no candles. In modern psychology, there will be brilliant scholars in the future, as there have been in the past like Freud, Jung and others.

In yoga you need to understand the laws of the mind relative to atman, and that atman is relative to jivatman and jivatman again to paramatman. I am not talking about God; I am talking about Paramatman, the cosmic self, the cosmic entity or cosmic unity. We do not see it, but there has to be something like that. It cannot just be floating matter in a womb of milk.

There has to be some sort of systematic link between the individual and everything else. Apart from that, the nature of atman is pure, imperishable, indestructible, homogeneous, it is not involved, it is just a witnessing consciousness. Then if atman is like that, how has it come to be bound by circumstances? Why do we feel so unhappy? Why do we suffer if there is birth and death? If the atman is not allegorical in philosophy, why does it happen? You have to discover and search to understand how this immortal self dies or appears? How can you say that it is dying?

There has to be another force somewhere in the universe. This must be creating a hallucination, as an experience, or an idea of birth and death, pain and distress, happiness and ‘mental problems’, as psychology says. If I am free from disease, death and the three gunas of prakriti, why do I get this neurosis and psychosis? Where do they come from? Do they come from matter? Then what is the relationship of matter with the atman? Where does it get mixed up? And where does it get separated?

Psychology will discover more areas of the mind. That will be the relationship between East and West. The East also has to understand that it cannot neglect matter because there is nothing but matter in the whole cosmos. Both matter and the Self are neglected. The East has neglected the study of matter and nature, and the West has neglected the study of the self and the transcendental. That is why meditations have to come into both eastern and western systems, their philosophical systems and psychology.

4 April 1986, Munger