Viveka Choodamani

This great Self is Immutable, Eternal and One without a second. The glory of the Self is never away from us. It is always present in us, illumining both the inner pulsations of the mind and the outer presence of objects. Even though this Consciousness is always present in us, it is not readily available for our cognition because of the veil over it created by Tamas. How does this great Consciousness come to be covered by Tamas? How can ignorance cover knowledge? Sankara answers this doubt with an illustrative example from nature.

The phenomenon of the solar eclipse is explained with characteristic poetic expression in Hindu mythology. It is said that Rahu, a demon swallows the sun during the eclipse but Rahu is a demon having only a head and no trunk. So when he swallows the sun by the mouth, it emerges out from his neck.

When the moon comes between the sun and Earth, the phenomenon is termed as solar eclipse. In fact, the moon only ‘covers’ the sun from the vision of the observer. The moon does not and cannot cover the sun. Since the sun is so far and the moon is nearer, and the observer on the earth is so very much smaller than both, it appears as though the moon has ‘covered’ the sun. All the same, the moon has obstructed the observer’s vision of the sun. From his standpoint, the sun is completely covered. If we could move away even a little from the shadow of the moon we will see that the sun is not covered at all. For those who could rise above the moon there would be no solar eclipse at all. If there were inhabitants on the sun, they would not even be conscious of the eclipse.

In Hindu mythology, the moon is the presiding deity of the mind. The sun, the illuminating factor, is equated with the Atman, the Self. Applying the above example subjectively, as long as there is this mind between me and my Self, the glory of the Self is veiled from me. Mind is the manifestation of avidya, the non-apprehension of Reality caused by Tamas. Transcend the mind and there is no pluralistic perception. Realise the Self and all suffering will end.