The names of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Shri Aurobindo, Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi and Shri Chandrashekara Bharati, among countless others come to mind in this context. They have been called "Brahmajnanis", those who have understood the real nature of the "I" or the self.

Here, it would be of help to understand what is the nature of this "self" or "Atman" as it is called. Shankara's work "Vivekachudamani" throws a great deal of light on this subject.

Shankara says that this Atman is "that, by knowing which man attains liberation and is freed from the endless cycle of births and deaths". It is of the nature of pure, undifferentiated existence. Man leads his life in the three states, namely the waking, the dream  and the dreamless sleep states. The sole witness in all these three states is the Atman and thus, it is aware of waking state experiences as well as the state of "Susupti" or dreamless sleep. Therefore, the Atman is of the nature of absolute intelligence, it is that which perceives everything .

It is that which imparts intelligence to inanimate things, but which by itself is not dependent on anything else. It is that effulgent intelligence because of which the entire universe shines and which knows no limi tations of time or space. It is that which impels the mind, the intellect and the sense organs to act. The Atman radiates the light of knowledge on everything.  But though it is the knower of all the workings of the mind and the bodily activities, it remains as an unmoving witness. The Atman has no beginning or end. It is unchanging and indestructible. The analogy of a small portion of space being enclosed by a pot and which does not disappear when the pot breaks is given here for the Atman not being destroyed when the body perishes. The Atman has no qualities of its own and is formless.

The one who realizes this "Brahman" is a Brahmajnani. The ceaseless cycle of birth and death is compared to a shoreless ocean with its waves.. The only shore is the knowledge of the self. The one who reaches this shore is a “Yogi” for whom remains nothing else to be done.

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