Chapter 12: I Am the Ultimate
The most fundamental Upanishadic statement is Aham brahmasmi. Is it connected in any way to sachchidanand?
The statement in the Upanishads, Aham brahmasmi, is perhaps the most fundamental and the most essential experience of all the mystics of the world. The Upanishads are the only books which are considered not to belong to any religion, yet they are the very essence of religiousness.
This statement, Aham brahmasmi, is a declaration of enlightenment - literally it means, “I am the divine, I am the ultimate, I am the absolute.” It is a declaration that, “There is no other God than my own inner being.” This does not mean that it is a declaration of a single individual about himself. It is a declaration, of course, by one individual, but it declares the potential of every individual.
It denies God as a separate entity. It denies God as a creator. It denies God as a ruler. It simply denies the existence of God, other than in our own existence. It is the whole search of the Eastern genius. In thousands of years they have discovered only one thing: don’t look for God outside your own being. If you can find him you can find him only in one place and that is in you - other than you all the temples and all the mosques and all the synagogues and all the churches are inventions of the priests to exploit you. They are not in the service of God; on the contrary they are exploiting all the potential gods.
Aham brahmasmi is perhaps the boldest statement ever made by any human being in any age in any part of the world, and I don’t think it can be improved upon in the future, ever. Its courage is so absolute and perfect that you cannot refine it, you cannot polish it. It is so fundamental that you cannot go deeper than this, neither can you go higher than this.
This simple statement Aham brahmasmi, - in Sanskrit, is only three words. In English also it can be translated in these few words: “I am the Ultimate.” Beyond me there is nothing; there is no height that is not within me and there is no depth which is not within me. If I can explore myself I have explored the whole mystery of existence.
But, unfortunately, even the people of this country - where this statement was made some five thousand years ago - have forgotten all about the dignity of human beings. This statement is nothing but the ultimate manifesto of man and his dignity. Even in this country, where such individuals existed who reached the ultimate awakening and illumination, there are people who are worshipping stones. There are people who are enslaved by ignorant priests. There are people who are living in the bondage of a certain religion, creed or cult. They have forgotten the golden age of the Upanishads.