|Vedanta Spiritual Library|
Module - C
Unit - C01
Lesson - C0101: Introducing 'I'
By Raja Subramaniyan
We need to start our analysis with what we think is the meaning of the word 'I'.
Imagine that you are hosting a visitor from Alaska and explaining to him about your culture and food habits. When you mention 'coconut', he wants to know what it is. Then you show him a coconut on a tree. The visitor from Alaska goes back with the memory of the coconut on the tree. The coconut, which is used in cooking, is one small part of the coconut that grows on the tree. If someone gives him a piece of coconut to eat, he will ask, "Is this coconut? The coconut I saw in India was very big and unbreakable!"
Does he know the meaning of the word 'coconut'? Yes and No. He thinks that the whole fruit is coconut (which is also correct) not realizing that the edible part is the much smaller core. Although he has eaten the coconut many times, he does not have proper knowledge of it.
Similarly, we think this body/mind complex is 'I' (which is also correct) not realizing that the core of our self is different and eternal. We are with it all the time, yet we do not know our true nature.
To understand the true meaning of "I", we have to uncover five sheaths.
In the coconut, one need to remove various covers (sheaths) like the husk, shell etc to reach the center core. Similarly, 'I' is 'located' at the center with five distinct sheaths covering it.
In case of a coconut, one need not necessarily study/ understand the sheaths to get to the nut in the center. One can just remove all the sheaths and then find the core. In case of a human being, the only way of discarding the five sheaths is to understand them.
This is like throwing out an unrelated and unwanted guest in a wedding hall. Anyone who wants a good meal can sneak into a marriage hall and pretend to be related to one of the two parties of the marriage. The only effort required (to throw him out) is to enquire who that person is. The moment questions about his identity are raised, he will escape from the hall.
Similarly when we make enquires on the each of the five sheaths, they will disappear and then the true meaning of the word 'I' will be revealed.
Statement 1: I am different from my five sheaths.