It is possible to experience one’s own svarūpa without experiencing Bhagavān or Brahman

Some people claim that it is not possible for the jīva to experience its own svarūpa or essential nature without experiencing itself as a servant of Bhagavān. In their view, the only ‘fourth’ state of consciousness (turiya), separate from the three states of deep sleep, wakefulness, and dreams, is when one renders direct service to Bhagavān, situated in a specific relationship with Him. Unfortunately for this view, Śrī Jīva shows that one can experience one’s own self when the mind is completely stilled by practice, without realizing either Brahman or Bhagavān at all. I reproduce text from the Bhagavat Sandarbha Anuchheda 6 below. There he is explaining a verse from Śrī Brahmā:

sa tava mahimā amalāntarātmabhiḥ śuddhāntaḥ-karaṇair janair viboddhum arhati, teṣāṁ bodhe prakāśitum arhati, samartho bhavatīty arthaḥ |

This glory of Yours (Brahman) deserves to be perceived by pure-hearted selves, that is, to persons whose inner perceptual faculties have been purified. In other words, the Brahman aspect is potentially revealed to their awareness, i.e., it is possible for this to happen.

[My notes: the discussion here is going to be about the mechanism by which the jīva could experience Brahman.]

kasmān nimittāt? tatrāha—svānubhavāt śuddha-tvaṁ-padārthasya bodhāt | 

 What is the immediate cause of such perception? To this Brahmā says: “It is due to experience of, or establishment in, the self ( svānubhavāt ), that is, through awareness of the pure ‘you-principle’ ( tvam-padārtha , i.e., ‘the pure self’).” 

[Experience of Brahman requires certain conditions. The first condition is that one must experience one’s own self, or the pure jīva. The word ‘tvam’ refers to the jīva from the famous tat tvam asi verse. The word śuddha-tvam-padārtha means the pure jīva, unmixed with māyā, i.e. from whom all external elements like the material mind and body are stripped away.]

nanv anubhavaḥ khalv antaḥkaraṇasya vṛttiḥ | sā ca sthūla-sūkṣma-deha-vikāra-mayy eva satī, kathaṁ nirvikāra-tvam-padārthaḥ viṣayaṁ kurvīta ?

 The objection may be raised that all experiences are mental states ( antaḥ-karaṇa-vṛtti ), which are transformations of the gross and subtle bodies. How can the material mind perceive the pure self ( tvam-padārtha ), which is devoid of such transformations?

[How will the pure jīva be perceived by itself? All perceptions are states of the material mind. The pure jīva is not material. Nor does the pure jīva have its own mind or senses. This leads to the above objection, and Śrī Brahmā replies:]

tatrāha—avikriyāt tyakta-tat-tad-vikārāt |

To this, Śrī Brahmā answers: “This experience is immutable or free from any transformation ( avikriyāt ), i.e., the minds of these persons are free of all said transformations”

[The perception is not the usual mental perception which involves a sensation transmitted by the senses, and then decoding of the sensation. It actually occurs in the mind, but the mind does not register any disturbance. This is another way of saying that the experience does not occur through the usual mode of functioning of the mind. ]

nanu viṣayākāra evānubhavo viṣayam upādadīta | śuddha-tvam-padārthas tu na kasyāpi viṣayaḥ syāt, pratyag-rūpatvāt |

 Another objection may be raised that any experience of an object [in the form of mental states, or vṛttis ] takes the shape of that object. However, the pure self is not subject to anyone’s experience, being situated within or beyond the senses.

[The pure jīva is beyond the grasp of the senses. How will it be detected in the first place? The pure jīva has no form, as it lacks any parts, being aṇu. How then can it be perceived in the mind at all? Whatever we perceive with the mind has a form. The reply is:]

tatrāha—arūpataḥ rūpyate bhāvyate iti rūpo viṣayaḥ, tad-ākāratā-rahitāt |  adeha-dvayāveśa-viṣayākāratā-rāhitye sati svayaṁ śuddha-tvaṁ-padārthaḥ prakāśata iti bhāvaḥ | 

In answer to this, Brahmājī says, “Being formless ( arūpataḥ ), etc.” Form means something that can be measured or conceived (i.e., viṣaya , “an object of the senses”). The self is devoid of any such shape. In other words, when the mind is free from any modifications caused by attachment to the gross or subtle bodies, then the pure self manifests itself.

[The pure jīva manifests itself in the mind to itself- it is not that it is sensed by the senses, which would require it to have a form. This is called self-realization. The distinction between subject and object, which is always present in all perceptions, is absent here. The point is that the pure jīva is self-luminous, and can reveal itself to itself.

When self-realization or self-experience happens, there is naturally an experience of the svarūpa of the jīva. This is a ‘fourth state of consciousness’, because the the state is not deep sleep ( the experiencer is meditating, not sleeping), is not wakefulness ( there are no disturbances whatsoever in the mind), and it is not a dream-state (obviously). This is why it is called turiya. Note that there is no experience of Bhagavān or Brahman here. As the mind is emptied of all thoughts, such experience is any way not possible. This is why in Anuchheda 20 of the Paramātmā Sandarbha, Śrī Jīva separates the jīva’s turiyatva from the Paramātmā’s turiyatva. This refutes the notion that the only state of turiyatva or fourth state of consciousness is direct service to Bhagavān. But let us continue on.]

nanu sūkṣma-cid-rūpa-tvam-padārthānubhave kathaṁ pūrṇa-cid-ākāra-rūpa-madīya-brahma-svarūpaṁ sphuratu ?

 A final objection is that even if one realizes the infinitesimal individual consciousness ( tvam-padārtha ), how can God’s Brahman aspect, which is complete, undivided consciousness, become revealed to him?

[If we carefully study the question, it will become obvious that it is possible to experience the pure jīva without experiencing Brahman. This is why the question is raised- how will Brahman become revealed? The answer is very revealing:]

tatrāha—ananya-bodhyātmatayā cid-ākāratā-sāmyena śuddha-tvaṁ-padārthaikya-bodhya-svarūpatayā |

 Brahmājī answers, “This glory can be known through awareness of non-distinction from it (ananya-bodhyātmatayā ), and not otherwise.” In other words, this realization of non-distinction is possible because Brahman and the jīva share the same characteristic of being conscious by nature.

[Both Brahman and the pure jīva are conscious, a quality that is expressed by the word ‘cit’. This is their similarity, and this is also what is expressed in the statement tat tvam asi. ]

Brahman realization is the next step that follows after realizing the the pure jīva’s svarūpa. But this cannot happen by one’s own efforts as stated below. As such, it is not a certainty (actually far from it). One needs the mercy of Bhagavān, which can only be invoked through the practice of bhakti. Thus, it is possible to realize one’s own self and still not be liberated. This refutes the notion that liberation is necessary for experiencing one’s own svarūpa.]

yadyapi tādṛg-ātmānubhavānantaraṁ tad-ananya-bodhyatākṛtau sādhaka-śaktir nāsti, tathāpi pūrvaṁ tad-artham eva kṛtayā sarvatrāpy upajīvyayā sādhana-bhaktyārādhitasya śrī-bhagavataḥ prabhāvād eva tad api tatrodayata iti bhāvaḥ |

Even if one recognizes that the self is pure consciousness, however, this does not result in the ability to experience oneness with Brahman by one’s own efforts. One can, however, attain it by the power or grace of God who has been worshiped by devotion ( sādhanā-bhakti ), which is the source and shelter of all perfections, with the aim of such realization.

[Note here, that Sri Jiva has separated the manifestation of the pure jīva or ātmā to itself through the mind, from the revelation of Brahman, twice in this section.]


Self realization or self experience means perceiving the pure jīva in the mind which is stilled of all thoughts.

This state is distinct from the three states of deep sleep, wakefulness and dreams. It is a ‘fourth state’, also called turiya.

Experience of the self precedes the experience of Brahman.

Brahman-experience need not occur even after experience of the pure jīva .

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6 replies »

  1. When the pure jiva reveals itself to itself, what type of realization or understanding do I get? What type of feeling? Do I feel sad? Do I feel happy? Sorry to say it, but this article is not informing the reader about what the jiva feels, after becoming self-realized! Any help, please?

  2. Thank you for your previous answer. If I may, if absence of misery is what I feel because of having become self-realized, what do I feel after achieving Brahman realization? Immortality? Please?

    • You experience the ananda of Brahman, which is more than the ananda of the atma. Immortality is after death. This article is on the state while the meditator is living.

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