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Discovery of the Changeless Essence

Om Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

Lord Krishna teaches the nature of the Self in Chapter 2 of Gita- Atma swarupam and how it is different from anatma, the body-mind-complex.

Suppose I give you a quiz question or a riddle. I will give some attributes of a simple food item we consume daily. You will have to think and tell me what it is. It is not a vegetable/ fruit or grain; it does not grow in a plant or tree; it does not perish easily; it is essential component of most of our food; it pervades and gives taste to most of our food items.

After some thinking, you will tell me the correct answer as Salt. Similarly, Krishna is imparting the knowledge of atma through the attributes of atma.

However, it is very difficult because, by definition, atma has no attributes.

First, He pointed out that atma-nityah, means atma is eternal. Even when body is born and gone, atma continues to exist.

Next, He pointed out that atma satyah, atma is the reality; it exists independently; everything else depends upon atma for existence.

Then, next, He pointed out that atma-sarvagatah, which means atma is all pervading, like space.

Next, atma aprameyah. It is never an object of experience; it is ever the experiencer of everything. A camera can take picture of anything, except itself. We cannot see the camera in any of its photos. Aprameya.

Then, Krishna says atma is akarta and abhokta. It is neither a doer of any action nor it reaps the result of any action.

And finally, Krishna points out in verse 20 that atma is nirvikarah- free from all modifications like birth, growth, change, decay, and death.


न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचि न्नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः। अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ।।2.20।।

This is a highly philosophical verse and is derived from Upanishads- the Kathopanishad.

The essence of this verse is that the atma is free from all modifications or changes. Nirvikarah atma.

All the objects we experience in the world will undergo change over time. In living beings, the change is obvious and is classified into six types-

1. Asti= existence in seed form

2. Jayate= takes birth

3. Vardhate= grows

4. Viparinamate= changes/ metamorphosizes

5. Apakshiyate= decays/ becomes old

6. Vinasyati= perishes

Here Krishna says atma is free from all these six modifications. It is not born, does not grow, decay, or die. That is the essence of this verse.

Na jayate= atma is never born

Na mriyate= atma does not die

Kadacit= at any time

Why do you say so? That is because,

Na bhutva= it never comes to existence; never born

Na abhavita= it never stops to exist in future

And therefore,

It is ajah= birthless; nityah= deathless; sasvatah= free from decay. Does not get old; puranah= it does not grow

Na hanyate hanmyamane sharire= atma does not get afflicted by any disease, it does not go out of shape. And therefore, atma is free from viparinama also- free from change.

Therefore, atma is called Nirvikarah.


Existence in seed form, Birth, Growth, Change, Decay and Death. These are the modifications we see in the body.

Birth and death appear very distant to us- We tend to keep those dark phases away from our memory and thoughts.

What we generally appreciate is Growth, aging and ill health. Adding weight, greying hair, losing hair, wrinkles on skin, joint pains, back pain, diabetes the list goes on.

What Sri Krishna points out here is to remember and identify with our true self.


So next time you see your SELF in the mirror, remember this-

I am the changeless atma and not the everchanging body.

Sharira, the body, undergoes change, adds kilograms to its weight, grows vertically and horizontally, it ages, hair greys, skin wrinkles, joints start paining, other illnesses troubles...

Remember the key terms Shashwata= does not decay, Purano= does not grow, na hanyate hanyamane sharire= does not get modified when the body gets afflicted by disease.


That changing image in the mirror belongs to the sharira

That changeless essence of your SELF is the nirvikara atma


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Most beautifully and impressively explained. This type of presentations certainly gives confidence to new comers to Vedanta because there is misinformation that Vedanta is quite an abstract and boring. Thanks Sir.


It’s very good comprehensive details about Atma . I think our teacher should try to give such introductions details understanding of other frequently used : Jiva, jivatma, parmatma, nididhysan, karmayog etc. thanks


Dec 03, 2020

Very nice writeup Sir , with relevant picture and example to re-emphasize atrributeless atma.


Dec 03, 2020

Very nice article to know one self. Thank you sir. Hari om


Thimappa Hegde
Thimappa Hegde
Dec 03, 2020

Another very nice note on our true nature, the Atma. Thanks Dr Komal Prasad

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