Chart of the Self


This chart is a wonderful depiction of the self, limitless-conscious-existence and all that appears within the self. It is also an incredible Vedanta teaching/learning tool.

The self is the substratum of all creation, that which cannot be reduced further. Through Maya, a conditioning agent (upadhi) within the self, the three gunas or qualities of consciousness combine to create the macrocosmic Jiva (creator), Jagat or creation and the microcosmic jiva (human being).

The three gunas (qualities of consciousness) are: sattva (intelligence), tamas (the raw material), and rajas (the projecting power of creation). Everything within the circle of Maya is the apparent self, also known as Mithya. Everything outside the circle is Satya, that which is always whole, complete and good – the real you! Note: that which is inside the circle is Satya too but for teaching purposes it is communicated as apparently separate.

The triangle represents the jiva or embodied soul which has three bodies – Gross, Subtle and Causal. The gross body includes the five elements, organs of perception, organs of action and the five pranas. The subtle body, contains the mind or psycho-emotional sheath which takes in and synthesizes sensory input through the organs of perception, the intellect or wisdom sheath, the discriminating faculty that then tells the third component, the ego/doer, what to do. A forth aspect of the subtle body is memory, not depicted here. The causal body is subconscious, and contains the seeds of past action, known as vasanas.

There are two OMs in this chart. The one above the circle of maya is the true self, original consciousness. The little OM within the subtle body, is reflected consciousness. Awareness is non-dual and object-less and therefore not perceivable by the gross sense organs. However, when the vasanas have been purified or neutralized through sadhana or practice, a reflection of true self is revealed to the jiva. This is called sakshi chaitanyam or reflected consciousness. For all intents and purposes a clear reflection of the self is as good as the self itself, just as it’s difficult to tell the difference between the moon in the sky and it’s reflection in a glassy lake.

There are three primary practices of purification: karma yoga, upasana yoga and jnana yoga. Bhakt or devotion is not considered a separate practice because devotion is infused into all three yogas.

The above is a description of the microcosmic jiva, the body-mind-sense complex. The macrocosmic jiva is known as Isvara, the creator. When Maya conditions limitless conscious existence, Isvara the creator is manifest. Isvara is responsible for maintaining the dharma or structure of creation. For all intents and purposes, Maya and Isvara are synonymous.

Suffering results when we identify as the microcosmic jiva (consciousness plus the three bodies). Freedom results when we identify as our true self, Satchitananda, limitless, conscious existence.

This chart of the self was created by James Swartz.

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