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The Petite Paramatma

Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

The very term “Brahmam” brings to our mind a huge and immeasurable entity. We are used to thinking of the Paramatma as a colossus, led to believe so by the various Vedic texts like “Sahasra Seershaa Purusha: Sahasraaksha: Sahara paat”, ascribing to the Lord innumerable heads, eyes and feet. Not only His physical features, His auspicious attributes too are endless, we are told—“ananta kalyaana gunaganougha mahaarnavam”. Additionally, the very term “Brahmam” etymologically refers to a giant—“Brihatvaat Brahma”. Azhwars too attest to the Lord’s huge and immeasurable form—

“soozhndu agandru aazhndu uyarnda mudivil perum paazheyo
soozhundu adanil periya en para nan malar sodeeyo”

“சூழ்ந்து அகன்று ஆழ்ந்து உயர்ந்த முடிவில் பெரும் பாழே ஓ
சூழ்ந்து அதனில் பெரிய பர நல் மலர்ச் சோதீ ஓ
சூழ்ந்து அதனில் பெரிய சுடர் ஞான இன்பமே ஓ
சூழ்ந்து அதனில் பெரிய என் அவா அறச் சூழ்ந்தாயே”

Our VisihstAdvaita Sampradaya too supports a gigantic Parabrahmam, which has for its body the entire gamut of universes and galaxies, with all their sentient and non-sentient inhabitants. Anyone with such an elaborate form must necessarily be huge beyond imagination and ipso facto, the Brahmam must be of inconceivably gargantuan proportions. The Lord is bigger than the biggest, greater than the greatest, says the Shruti—“mahato maheeyaan”. He is bigger than the Universe, the skies and everything else imaginable, says the Upanishad—“Jyaayaan Prithivya: jyaayaan Antarishshaat, jyaayaan divo, jyaayaan ebhyo lokebhya:” It is thus a well-established tenet that the Lord is indeed a Colossus, in all senses of the word.

However, the Scripture speaks of another form of the Parabrahmam, which is diametrically opposite to that described above.

Many are the Veda vaakyas, which tell us that the Lord resides in our hearts. “anta: pravishta: Shaasta janaanaam Sarvaatma” says the Taittiriya Aranyakam, describing Him as the Inner Controller of everyone. The same text tells us that the Universal Creator also enters into every one of us and dwells within—“anta: pravishtam Kartaaram etam”. “Prajaapati: charati garbhe anta:” says the Purusha Suktam, ascribing to the Lord, a residence inside us. He Himself tells Arjuna that this is so, that He resides in the heart of all beings—“ Isvara: sarva bhootaanaam hrit dese Arjuna tishttathi”

The Brihadaaranyaka Upanishad too speaks about a peculiar Stranger. This Stranger resides pretty close by, in fact inside us. He functions as the Inner Controller of the body and the soul, while being distinctly different from both. Neither the soul nor the body realise His existence, much less know Him intimately. We know not what He looks like, what His attributes are, what He stands for and what is the relationship between this Stranger and ourselves.

“Ya Atmani tishttan, Atmana: antara:, yam Atma na veda, yasya Atma
shareeram, ya Atmaanam antaro yamayati, sa ta Atma antaryaami amruta:” says the Upanishad.

We thus have the Scriptures speaking in two different voices about the Parabrahmam—one that He is a Giant, huge beyond description, infinitely bigger than the biggest known entity. In the same breath, the Shruti tells us that the Lord resides in the hearts of all beings. We are prepared to accept these two different forms of the Lord, because it is the Shruti which says so.

However, we are assailed by a doubt—if the Lord is indeed huge, how can He reside inside the heart of a being, which is supposed to be extremely small? As we know, the human heart, or that of any other being, must indeed be tiny, with hardly any space but for the blood vessels and the pump. How then can the Parabrahmam accommodate itself in such a cramped space? Conversely, if He can indeed reside inside such a tiny room of flesh, can He indeed be the glorious and huge Supreme Being? And, wouldn’t the extremely limited and stuffy environs cramp His splendour and style? The residence of the Universal Emperor must be a magnificent palace, a glorious accommodation befitting the Brahmam. Can you imagine a King residing in a hut? And if he indeed does, what sort of respect would he command? And we are told that He contracts His huge form to one smaller than a grain of rice, so as to accommodate Himself in the human body. Whither the Colossus whom we are used to adoring as the Paramatma, and whither this Antaryami, with an infinitesimal form, subtler than the subtlest of micro-bacteria (“Ano: aneeyaan”)?

The glory of our Scripture is that all possible doubts and misgivings, that are likely to plague ill-informed individuals like us, are anticipated and answered. Here too, the Brahma Sutras are ready with an answer, for the apparently irreconcilable riddle of the great Parabrahmam residing in the extremely cramped and fleshy confines of the human heart.

Furnishing us an example for easy comprehension, the Brahma Sutra says that just as Atmosphere or Akaasam, which is really infinite and all-pervasive, is present inside a pot too, with none of its qualities compromised, so too the infinite Paramatma, with an unimaginably huge size and body, is present in the human heart too–Evam Vyomavat cha”. Just as we cannot deny the presence of omnipresent Atmosphere inside a bottle, so too, merely on account of the cramped confines, we cannot doubt the Antaryaami’s existence in the human heart, in a minute form.

Now to the question of visibility of the Antaryami roopam of the Lord. We know that the Paramatma at Sri Vaikuntam is visible to the Nitya Sooris like Adisesha, Garuda, Vishvaksena, et al. We understand from Epics and Puranas that during His avataras as Rama and Krishna, the Supreme Lord made Himself visible to the eyes of the inhabitants of Ayodhya, Dwaraka, Mathura, etc. We are told that Emperuman accorded special eyesight to Sanjaya, Arjuna and others, so that they might witness His primordial form in His Visvaroopam. And in His Arcchaavataram (the images of stone, wood, etc. which He inhabits at various temples in this world) He makes Himself the subject of vision for all frail mortals. To whom then is His form as the Antaryami or Inner Dweller of the human heart, visible?

The Antaryaami is visible in this infinitesimal form only to Yogis, those exalted souls who reserve all their faculties only for His service—“Hridaa maneeshaa manasa abhiklipto ya enam vidu:” says the Upanishad. He is visible to those who consider Him their all—“Unnum soru, parugum neer, tinnum vettrilai ellaam Kannan Emperuman”, to those with hearts brimming over with devotion, to those who have banished all sorts of dirt and refuse from their heart, making it a fit place for the Paramatma to reside. And such devotion and love for the Lord, in turn, comes about only due to His blessing, says the Upanishad, telling us that only those whom He Himself has blessed would be able to see this Antaryaami—“tam akratum pasyati veeta shoko Dhaatu: prasaadaat mahimaanam Eesam”

One more doubt may arise. Just as the good and bad deeds performed by the body leave their accumulated impression on the Jeevatma, pushing him into deeper into interminable cycles of births and deaths, would not the Paramatma also be similarly affected, inhabiting the same body as the Jeevatma? If you reside in a dustbin (which is what this body really is, in its present form) you really can’t escape dirt adhering to your person. This being so, would it be logical to say that the Jeeva is affected by the deeds of the body, while the Lord, who too dwells in the same body, is not?

What we must note here is that it is not mere residence in the human body that makes Karma stick to the Jeevatma—it is the susceptibility to fruits flowing from good and bad deeds, the punishing baggage acquired over interminable births, cumulatively known as Karma. It is this Karma, which causes contraction and expansion in the wisdom of the Individual Soul.

The Lord, on the other hand, is outside the purview of Karma. He is the Divine Arbiter, dealing out pleasure and pain to Jeevas as per their Karma, while Himself remaining unaffected by it. The Lord Himself clarifies this in the Gita, telling Arjuna that the fruits of good and bad deeds do not touch Him, as His deeds are without any desire therefor–

“na maam karmaani limpanti, na me karma phale spruha”

Just as water does not stick to the lotus leaf, despite the former remaining in aquatic environs all the time, the Lord too has a non-stick nature, as for Karma is concerned, despite residing in the human heart.

It is this aspect, which is referred to in the following beautiful Mundakopanishad mantra—

“Dvaa suparnaa sayujaa sakhaayaa samaanam vriksham parishasvajaate
Tayo: anya: pippalam svaadu atti, anasnan anya: abhichaakaseeti”.

In an exquisite allegory, this mantra describes two birds of beautiful plumage/feathers, equal in enjoyment, bound in eternal friendship, residing in the same tree from time immemorial. One of the birds feasts on the fruits of the tree, while the other shining bird eats not and just looks on.

On the face of it, there is nothing remarkable about this mantra, which can at best be dubbed as a description of a picture-postcard scenario. However, a closer look reveals a wealth of meaning. The tree described in the mantra refers to the non-sentient body. This particular tree is immobilized by the surrounding soil of Samsaara, and the roots represent the accumulated baggage of rights and wrongs, collectively called “Karma”.

One of the birds having the tree as its abode, is the Jeevaatma. The Jeevaatma is bound in an interminable cycle of births and deaths, and passes through each life enjoying the fruits of its good deeds (punyam) and suffering from the bad ones (paapam). The pleasures of this world are indeed exquisite for those who are unaware of the eternal bliss that the Lord can bestow, and hence the mantra describes the fruits of the tree to be tasty (svaadu). These fruits represent “Karma phalam”.

The other bird in the tree, the non-eating spectator, is the Paramatma. The Lord, in His infinite mercy, resides along with the Jeevaatma (as his Inner Dweller) in the perishable body, filled with blood, bones and refuse (“oonidai suvar vaitthu, enbu thoon naatti, uromam veyndu onbadu vaasal taanudai kurambai”—Sri Tirumangai Azhwar). However, He does not partake of the ephemeral, mundane pleasures, and remains untouched and untainted by Karma. His innumerable auspicious attributes make Him as different from the Jeevaatma, as day is from night. Thus the mantra says He ‘shines”. It is thus that though He resides in the same body as the Jeeva, the Lord remains unaffected by Karma and its fruits.

What are the other characteristics of this Inner Dweller of ours?

His size is infinitesimal, microscopic. The Jeevatma is described to be of the size of a hundredth of a head of corn—“Vaalaagra shata bhaagasya”. And if the Paramatma were to reside inside such a tiny entity, He in turn has to be tinier than the Jeeva.

Even in this tiny form, the Lord doesn’t lose any of His splendour and glory. Nor does He lack any of the innumerable auspicious attributes, which are the hallmark of the Supreme Being. Similarly, all His divine adornments (“Aabharanam”) and weapons (Aayudham) that He sports in Sri Vaikunttam, are intact in His form as the Antaryaami too.

Since His Consorts are inseparable from Him, the Lord as the Inner Dweller is accompanied by them, even in the tiny form that He takes, says Swami Desikan in Sri Bhagavat Dhyaana Sopaanam—“Madhye Rangam mama cha hridaye vartate saavarodha:”

What are the practical implications to us of the concept of the Antaryaami?

One is that we are assured of the divine presence at extremely close quarters, right within us, ever ready to rush to our rescue at the slightest sign of danger. While Droupati chose to appeal to Sri Krishna residing in distant Dwaraka, all we have to do is to think of our Inner Resident at times of distress, and there He is, at the ready to protect us. This is not to say that Emperuman at SriVaikunttam is incapable of rushing to our aid in a matter of micro seconds, but we do feel more comfortable with a Resident Personal Protector, who is on duty 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, residing at extremely close quarters.

Another is that though we are aware of the Supreme Lord’s omnipresent eyes seeing and recording all our deeds good and bad, we still commit offences with impunity, when we find no other human being looking at us. With the Antaryami, however, we can afford to take no such chances, for He knows each and every one of our thoughts, the moment they are conceived. He is the ever-vigilant Sentinel, who is awake even we sleep and dream. “ulluvaar ullittru ellaam udan irundu aridi – உள்ளுவார் உள்ளிற் றெல்லாம் உடனிருந் தறிதி” says Sri Tondaradippodi, telling us to behave, for the Antaryaami’s eyes are always on us.

A third implication of the Antaryami concept is this–We know that all names indicate not the bodies but the Atmas inside. For instance, when we address Sadagopan, we know that it is not his physical shell we are speaking to, but the Atma residing inside. And since the Jeevatma too is but a shell for the Antaryaami Paramatma, the name Sadagopan or for that matter any other name, indicates only the Lord. This being so, since all abuse or adulation addressed to the individual automatically reaches the Lord, we would definitely be more careful in how we speak to our counterparts. When we realise that any invective we hurl at others actually goes and hits the Indwelling Lord, we would automatically ensure that our speech is nothing but the sweetest. “Love thy neighbour” becomes much easier to practice, when we realise that it is the Paramatma we actually love, being the Antaryami of the neighbour, as He is of others.

More than anything else, we have in the Antaryami our own personal God, residing in our very own body, just inches below our chest. Here is someone with whom you can share happy tidings or sad news. Here is one who commiserates with you when you are miserable, is always intent on spurring you on the path to spiritual progress and is your sincere well-wisher. Once you develop the habit of communion with Him on a regular basis, you have in Him the closest of Friends, the sincerest of Guides and your very own personal Philosopher, awaiting the flimsiest of opportunities for leading you on to Liberation.

Article by : Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

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