The idea that there is no difference between the living being (jīva-ātmā) and the Supreme Soul (Paramātmā) leads to the erroneous conclusion that “I am God”. This idea is promoted by many of the well-known so-called gurus who have taught in the Western world.
The idea arises from an incomplete understanding of the nature of both the soul and of God. It is a fact that the essence of the soul/self is Brahman (spirit), but the “essence” of the soul alone, does not give the complete picture or knowledge of the soul. One must also come to understand my “position” and natural “function” to be in complete knowledge.
The “I am God” philosophy appeals to the “false ego” – this is the ultimate ego=stroking one could have, and it can lead to the highest forms of hedonism. But the greatest misfortune for those who adopt this philosophy lies in their rejection of the existence of the highest object of love (the supremely loveable Personality of Godhead) and the chance to experience the greatest transcendental ecstasy which arises from prema – love for God.
It is uninformed to think I am the Supreme Controller when I am obviously controlled by so many forces, and in so many ways.
Nor can I ever be cognizant or aware of everything that another entity experiences, what to speak of the sum total of all the experiences of all other living beings.
Some of the verses I quoted:
SPARKS FROM THE FIRE
“This is the truth: As sparks of similar form spring forth by the thousands from a strongly blazing fire, so from the Absolute Truth are produced the various living beings, O gentle one, and there also do they go.” – Mundaka Upanishad 2:1:1
yathāgne kṣudrā visphuliṅgā vyuccaranti evam
evāsmād ātmānaḥ sarvāni bhūtāni vyuccaranti
“As tiny sparks fly from a fire, so all the individual souls have come from the Supreme.” – Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad, 2.2.20
THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL IS NOT SUPREME
pareśa-vaimukhyāt teṣām avidyābhiniveśaḥ
sthūla-liṅgābhimāna-janita-saṁśāra kleśāś ca
“By turning away from the Supreme Lord, they, the jīvas, have become absorbed in the Lord’s separated energy—matter. Because of this, they are bewildered and deluded about their real identity. Due to this delusion, they are critically bound up in the terrible snare of lust and karmic activities. Their false identification with the gross and subtle bodies as their real self is the cause of their distress in material existence.” – Vedānta-sūtra (35-38)
The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind. – Bhagavad-gīta 15.7
ONE SUPREME BEING AMONG ALL BEINGS
nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām
eko bahūnāṁ yo vidadhāti kāmān
nityaḥ – an eternal; nityānāṁ – a vast number of eternal beings; cetanaḥ – cognizant or conscious; cetanānām – a vast number of cognizant or conscious beings; ekaḥ – one alone; bahūnāṁ – of many; yaḥ – one who; vidadhāti – He awards; kāmān – desires;
He is the eternal among all eternal entities, and the chief conscious being among all conscious beings. Among the many living entities, He is the chief, who fulfills their desires. Śvetāsvatara Upaniṣad 6.13 & Kaṭha Upaniṣad 2.2.13
Īśvara is a special Puruṣa, unlike other puruṣas, being untouched by afflictions, actions (material activity) and the fruit of actions, and latent impressions or material desires. In Him the seed of omniscience is unsurpassed (infinite). He is also the Teacher of all ancient teachers (sages), being not limited by time. The transcendental sound personifying Him is AUṀ. – Yoga Sūtra 1.25-27
AN ETERNAL BOND OF KINSHIP
sa nityo nitya-sambandhaḥ
prakṛtiś ca paraiva sā
The same jīva is eternal and is for eternity and without a beginning joined to the Supreme Lord by the tie of an eternal kinship. He is transcendental spiritual potency. – Śrī Brahma-saṁhitā 5.21
Two birds (Paramātmā and the individual jīva), are perched like friends on the same branch of a tree, which represents the material body. One of them, the jīva, is eating the fruit of the tree according to his karma, while the other, the Paramātmā, is a silent non-participating witness. – Mundaka Upaniṣad 3.1.1-2
“Bhagavān [Paramātmā] is situated in everyone’s heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine, made of the material energy.” – Bhagavad-gīta 18.61.
“Thus are māyā’s captive jīvas thrown into the dungeon of material existence. If, by chance, the association of saintly souls awakens their attraction to spiritual principles, then gradually their loving service attitudes are enhanced. This endows them with knowledge of Paramātmā, who is beginningless, endless, the seed of all incarnations, the creator of the cosmic manifestation and who resides within it. Thus enlightened, the jīva becomes liberated from maya’s bond.” – Śvetāsvatara Upaniṣad 5.13