nayam atma pravacanena labhyo na medhaya , na bahuna srutena : yamevaisa vrnute tena labhyas tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam . || 1.2.23 ||

This is a very famous , often quoted verse :

" Not by speech can It be known , not by the intellect , not even by hearing . "

Speech returns baffled . Who expresses speech ?
The Atman ! Who can express the Atman ? **

Even rationality , the Atman's partial expression through the buddhi which is a modification of prakriti , cannot express It . Frail is the intellect when it tries to stretch itself beyond its limits .

As one who cuts the branch on which one sits will fall down , one who tries to know the Atman through the intellect will break . All the faculties of the human mind break down when they try to turn towards the Atman .

" It is known only by one whom It chooses . "
If GOD chooses , you may know , otherwise not .

This is the interpretation of the Bhakti School .

It is GOD's grace that GOD gives you darshan . By a miracle taking place , you can see GOD , not by ordinary effort .

But Sankara's interpretation is unique :

It is not that someone chooses , because , for Sankara , that someone does not exist to choose .

Sankara's understanding of this part of the mantra is :

" It is beheld only by That which is the seeker oneself . "

That which you behold is within yourself , is the meaning .

Who is the seeker ? Is one outside the Atman ?
GOD is the prompter even behind the seeker .
Sadhana ( spiritual practice ) is not possible without GOD .

Rather than from without , the choice has to come from within .

The seeker and the sought are one .

The sought or GOD is not outside the seeker , choosing the seeker arbitrarily ; if it were so , we would have to attribute partiality to GOD .

Reality is one , and on the basis of this doctrine , Sankara opines that Self-Knowledge is an inexplicable wonder :

It arises — that is all .

It is not caused by the jiva , because it has no freedom .
But , if GOD is the cause , what conditions does GOD impose ?

If you say it is the jiva's karmas , you limit GOD's power , so even that is not a satisfactory explanation .

Hence , either you accept that GOD's ways are mysterious , ununderstandable , or knowledge is a miracle , and when you say miracle , you cannot say anything .

By the passage of time , by the fructification of good deeds , by the process of the Universe , by the grace of GOD — by a mysterious combination of all these factors which the jiva cannot understand , GOD is revealed .

When GOD reveals Itself , the person ( jiva ) is no more .
GOD reveals Itself to Itself .

It is not an end reached by the effort of human personality .

The whole difficulty is expressed in a single statement :

The Atman is the subject , not the object . Thus , It cannot be manipulated by an instrument .

Speech , mind and intellect are signified by the terms pravacanena medhaya . Speech is indicative of all senses .

So , not through them , not through the mind , not through the intellect can the Atman be realised , because these faculties have a tendency to move outward .

They catch the object , not the subject .
The mind never catches the mind .

Both the mind and intellect work on the dictate of the senses which are untrustworthy , concluding that all reality is confined to phenomena .

Any description of the Atman is given by them , and they cannot conceive of anything other than objects .

This mystery of atmasakshatkara is given in the second half of the verse .

The Atman chooses the Atman . GOD chooses GOD . It is Self-efflorescence .

To such a fortunate being who has so withdrawn oneself into oneself that one is indistinguishable from the Supreme Subject , to such is the Atman revealed — not by process , but instantaneously .

It is a timeless flash of a sudden consciousness which is called atmasakshatkara .

It comes by the maturity of one's sadhana ( spiritual practice ) .
The links of this process are indescribable .

The last occurrence is such that it cannot be regarded as an effect of all the preceding ones , though it comes as a result of these .

It is beyond the causational process .

< : ** | NOTE : ATMAN = BRAHMAN = GOD | — SV : >