The first narrative prior to creation is very interesting. Then Atman was alone, by itself in the real sense of the term and in masculine form. His first dialogue, considered immortal in Vedic philosophy, is: Ahamasmi meaning Here I am. The expression could be taken as a way of indicating presence of self as I or Me. Only after that people spell out their name.
Ahamasmi should not be confused with Aham Brahmasmi, which is a famous Sanskrit Mantra of Adwaita philosophy. It means “I am Brahman,” which constitutes one of four great sayings – the Mahavakyas. The saying expresses the unity of Atman – the individual self or soul – with Brahman – universal consciousness the Absolute.
As the solo Atman surveys around the universe, he finds none but self and this ignites fear in him. Then the Atman goes on thinking deeply and intensively. The intellectual exercise makes him brood over and ultimately generates in him a knowledge or realization regarding who he should fear when there is none else. The same idea helps him eradicate the fear. That experiment could be taken as the first Atman-chintan or pondering about self or contemplation or realization of real self.
The Vedic texts later explained how fear could be wiped out through knowledge or realization. In modern vocabulary that knowledge could be taken as fact or understanding or comprehension. Lack of knowledge creates conditions for fear, further interpretations add.
The knowledge of Adwaita compels fear to evaporate. Adwaita, it might be recalled, means Brahman is the true Self, Consciousness, Awareness and the only Reality – the Sat or the Truth. Some Vedic scholars take it to be Paramarthik Satyam, the ultimate reality which is characterized as unborn, unchanging and immortal. Other scholars describe the same as recognition of unity in multiplicity – identity between individual and pure consciousness. They believe that the world experienced by sense organs does not have separate existence apart from Brahman.
Interpreters of Vedic philosophy of Adwaita strongly believe that the knowledge of one’s true self or Atman is in reality liberating, making one free from fear or attachment or longing. It also states that Moksha is possible through correct understanding of one’s true identity as Atman, which, according to sages, is dispassionate and unmoveable observer.
By Shirish Ballabh Pradhan