Q:Is consciousness an attribute of the Self, or is it the Self?
Spirit is consciousness itself, and the Self is spirit. Consciousness is not an attribute, it is essential being, the nature of God himself. Consciousness does not depend on anything else for its existence, but is itself the basis of all things.
Q: Also is the “I” the ego as Shankara believes or is the “I” the self as Ramanuja believes?
Both are correct. The ahankara, the ego, is the false Self, a mirage. The true Self is the eternally existent “I.” That is why Sri Ramana Maharshi said that it was good to say “I” a few times at the beginning of meditation to attune to the true Self.
Q: Do you believe that there are individual atmans? Also I wonder if you feel that jivas retain their individuality or merge in Brahman as Shankara believes?
There is no difference between the atman and Brahman, yet a distinction is also eternal.Absolutely there are individual atmans, though they are all in eternal union with Brahman. There is no difference between them and Brahman, yet a distinction is also eternal. This we cannot figure out intellectually but have to experience for ourself through yoga.
The idea that everyone melts back into a cosmic lump is a misunderstanding. In the Gita Krishna tells Arjuna: “There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any of these kings. Nor is there any future in which we shall cease to be” (Bhagavad Gita 2:12). So the distinction is eternal.
The jivas retain their individuality forever, but their consciousness is merged completely in Brahman.
This is why the Yoga Darshana is based on Sankhya Philosophy and not on Advaita Vedanta. And why the Bhagavad Gita should be the daily study of the yogi to retain the correct perspective.
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