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The Light of Atma Illuminates Everything
During the day, the sun illuminates the various objects of the world; at night, the moon plays a similar though lesser role. Therefore, you can declare that it is the sun and the moon that are responsible for the luminous nature of the world and its objects. But during the dream state you also see various things; where are the sun and the moon in that state? The sun that you see in the daytime during your waking state is not there in the dream state; nor is the moon there, nor is any other source of light visible there to illuminate the various objects. Yet you can see an entire world, namely, the world of the dream. What is it that illuminates that world? In the deep-sleep state there is absolute darkness. There is neither knowledge nor wisdom in that state. But how do you know that it is dark? What is it that enables you to apprehend this darkness?
The deep-sleep state has been described as the unconscious state; the dream state has been described as the sub-conscious state; the waking state has been described as the conscious state. There is a fourth state which transcends all these other states; it may be described as the super-conscious state. In the super-conscious state you are able to see everything, everywhere, and enjoy bliss supreme. What is the light that illuminates this bliss state and permits you to experience this unmitigated joy? That light is the effulgence that emanates from the atma. It is this light which illuminates all the other states as well and enables you to see them.
In the Vedas, the sages have spoken of this super-conscious state. They declared, "We are able to see a state which transcends the others, including the darkness of the dreamless state. Beyond the dreamless state is the supreme light of the atma which illuminates the waking, the dream and the deep-sleep states." To understand this a little better, consider an example from the waking state. When you close your eyes for a minute, what exactly are you seeing? You will say that there is nothing there, only absolute darkness. But then the question arises, 'How is it that I am able to perceive this darkness? Since I seem to see it and am able to describe it, there must be a light of consciousness which illuminates this state and enables me to see even this darkness.' That light is the light of the atma It is only through this transcendental light that all the other lights can shine.
We celebrate a festival of light in which we light a candle, and from that one candle go on lighting all the other candles and lamps. This first light is the basis for lighting the others. It is because we have this first light that we are able to light so many others. For living beings, this first light is the divine light of the one atma. With it, all the individual lamps, representing the countless individual beings, are lit in turn. It is because of this divine light that the eyes are able to see. It shines from inside and illuminates all beings. But it is not only the source of all living beings, it is also the source of all objects and all the external bodies of light, such as the sun and the moon.
You may wonder, since you cannot see this divine light, how can you be sure that it illuminates all these other objects and lights. Here the example of a battery will be instructive. You cannot see the electrical power which is in the cells, but if you switch on the current flow you can see the light in the bulb. If there had been no electric power in the cell, you would not have been able to get any light from the bulb. The body may be thought of as an electric lamp driven by this battery cell which is the mind your eyes are the bulb and your intelligence is the switch which controls it. In this battery cell of the mind, a very special type of energy derived from the atma is stored. In ordinary electric batteries the power gets exhausted very quickly, but the atmic current flows continuously through the mind. The Vedas have declared that the mind is the receptacle for storing the atmic energy. It is this inexhaustible source that provides the temporary flow of pleasure when some pleasing object is perceived.