This question was asked on Day 2 of the 7 Day Retreat program in Rishikesh ‑Dec 2015
Question: What is Aham Brahmasmi?
Aham brahmasmi is a mahvakya. The veda, body of knowledge, give us certain important formula. Those formulae, which are like capsules, those are called Mahavakyas. By remembering the Mahavakyas, we remember the entire background of the Mahavakya, the entire reasoning associated with it. For example, you take notes during an exam. By looking at one word you remember what all you have studied. In a way Aham Brahmasmi is one such statement. Sarvam Brahmamayam. Ayam atma brahma, prajnayanam brahma are the other Mahavakyas that appear in the Upanishads. Brahman comes from brh..which is vast. It is all encompassing. What is all encompassing can it have a name and form? Space..can it have a name and form. The name ofcourse is there. But the name is more like a pointer. What is space? infact it should what is not space? Its all encompassing. Its within us, outside of us and everywhere and hence nowhere in particular. So what is not space? This is called negative logic- neti neti. Na iti Na iti. Not this not that. That is how you can reason it out. Naan Yaar? Who am i? Am i this body? Am I the senses? Am I the mind? Am I the antahkarana? Then what Am I? because i am not just that this but much more Am I. But if you define “I am this..” then you limit it by the definition. So that vastness of this is encompassed by the term Brahman. Brahman has no beginning and no end. This is beyond form but within this is included all forms. It is difficult to conceive this. These forms don’t affect it. Is space affected by our forms? Yet, without space would these forms exist? and hence it is also difficult to It comprehend or speak about it. Anirvachaneeya.. it cannot be spoken of. It cannot be encompassed. That is called Brahman. So aham brahmasmi is referring to this principle where I am not this body.
We are here in Rishikesh today. It is believed that there was this Rishi who was dragged by a tiger. At that moment..at that very moment he said “Aham Brahmasmi” and he attained moksha and disappeared. For so many of us, remembering such a thing while in great danger can be impossible
Question:Then why do some Rishis posses this capability and some do not?
We can call this a Siddhi. Not everyone possess the same siddhis. Siddhis can be looked at capabilities. I have something called Linux siddhi. While I don’t have electronics siddhi,vlsi siddhi..definitely not! There are other rishis who have displayed siddhis of taming tigers and lions. The whole of nature listens to them. But a siddhi is in terms of expertise. You need to work towards to develop that. I have worked to develop linux siddhi. You might have worked towards VLSI siddhi. Does it mean you have analog electronics siddhi? Need not be, isn’t it. Siddhis are specific. In that we also refer to Ashta maha siddhis..anima mahima lahima ... Those are 8 great siddhis. There are other super specific siddhis. The ashta mahasiddhis are difficult to achieve. Difficulty in the sense of training, rigor, time and effort invested. We have invested so much time and effort in becoming an engineer. To become what we are now, we have invested so much time and energy. That also assumes a certain background, environmental support and so many things are involved implicitly. Whether you need that siddhi or not depends on your aspiration. Why do u need that? You decide. Linux siddhi was important to me at that point in time. So I invested time. That is one way of looking at siddhis. Many people spend lot of time and effort in developing siddhis for benefiting others. But an outsider view of Siddhis can be complicated. Have people asked you this: “Oh you are an engineer. Please set this tap right” and you said, ” But I am electronic engineer.” and they are like “What! you are an engineer right!”. That is an outsiders view of engineer. But the insiders view are much different. “Oh you are a computer engineer then set this computer right for me” .. “This is a macbook. Sorry I don’t know how to do it”. An insiders view is much more detailed and specific. From an outside perspective siddhis look very different to us and we expect Rishis to know and do everything.