| What is atma chintan? This word comprises of two words ‘Atma’ and ‘Chintan’. Atma is what you really are and not what you see yourself as- this would make no sense to a being of kaliyug(the present yug) All you think yourself to be only the physical form that you see and this is what the role of kaliyug is- to delude you (bhramit karna).
Let us try and understand how kaliyug has its effect by going back in the history, in the times of Yayati itself. (Yayati was the ancestor of kauravas and pandavas) Even after enjoying the pleasures of bhu lok for 4000 years (by exchanging his curse of old age with youth of his son Puru), he was not satisfied and could not believe that 4000 years had passed. So even a dharmatma and noble king like Yayati, could not go beyond the svah (swarg) lok.
Shantanu was a descendant of Yayati. He wanted to marry Ganga but she put forth a condition that he must never question any of her actions and the day he broke this promise, she would leave him. Shantanu agreed and the two married. They had seven sons, six of whom were thrown into the ganges by Ganga as soon as they were born. when she was about to do the same to the seventh, Shantanu stopped her and asked her the reason behind this brutal act. Ganga stopped and told him that the seven sons were seven rishis who had been cursed to be born in bhu lok, she was relieving them of the curse by sending them back to where they belong. After this Ganga left Shantanu to fend for the seventh son alone. He grew up to become Devavratta or Bhishma...(Devavratta continued to live and it is no secret that his was a life of constant suffering)
So imagine, even being born as son to a King like Shantanu was a curse, and that by facilitating an early exit, Ganga bestowd a favour on her six sons! And each of you pray and long for longer life, and do not tire to be born again and again in this bhu loka. That is kaliyug, that which has screened the vision of a human being - each one is cursed and voluntarily strives to extend the period of the
Ganga left, and Shantanu while wandering in forest lost his heart to the fisherwoman, Matsyagandha (who on marrying Shantanu was called Satyavati). Matsyagandha had nursed Rishi Parashar back to health, after he was injured in an attack by Sahastra Arjun. Rishi Vyas (who authored all the texts) was the son of Matsyagandha and Rishi Parashar. In today's time, he might be considered an illegimate child, however back then there was no greater punya than rishi-seva. In fact, pleased by her service, Rishi Parashar gave her the boon to become a Rajkanya. And hence, Shantanu asked her father, for her hand in marriage. The fisherman agreed but on the condition that the child of Satyavati should inherit the throne. King Shantanu was helpless and seeing his father's misery, Bhisma took the pledge of lifelong celibacy and got his father married to Satyavati.
Satyavati gave birth to two sons- Chitrangada and Vichitraveerya. Chitrangada died at an early age and
VIchitraveerya acceded to the throne. Vichitraveerya being impotent faced rejection in all marriage proposals. Due to this Bhishma abducted Amba, Ambika and Ambalika for marriage with Vichitraveerya. (Amba refused and asked Bhishma instead to marry her which he could not due to his pledge of celibacy.Thus Amba was reborn as Shikhandi in the Mahabharat to seek vengeance from Bhishma).
Vichitraveerya died without leaving any heir (being impotent) and so Satyavati requetsted her son Vyas to carry forward the bloodline.
Likewise Vyas had three sons, Dhritrashtra with Ambika, Pandu with Ambalika and Vidur with their maid. (Vidur was none other than yamraj, who again was cursed to be born to thebhulok!) Kauravas were born to Dhrirashtra and Pandavas to Pandu. (We all know the story of Pandu's curse, and how Kunti produced the five Pandavas with the help of different Devas)
Although cursed, all these were great men with phenomenal powers and siddhis. They possessed divine astras such as the brahmastras, which no longer belonged here since the kaliyug was approaching and men with their inflated egos would have spelled doom for the Creation by deploying these astras. (two brahmastras used simultaneously had the power of wiping out entire humanity) However, there was still time in the end of Creation. Hence Krishna was born with the purpose returning the divine astras and shastras to their rightful places while preserving the Creation from their effect. Krishna had to devise various ways so that no two people fire brahmastra at each other at the same time. For instance, Karna was cursed that when the time comes he would forget all that he had learnt. Thus he could not use Brahmastra when Arjun used it against him. Similarly, when Dronacharya was about to deploy it against Arjun, various gods and goddeses came down to request him not to. Likewise when Ashwathama and Arjun did use it against each other, both were asked to take it back. Arjun did take it back but Ashwathama did not know how to, so his brahmastra was redirected by Krishna to Parikshit who was in the womb of Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu. (Later Parikshit was brought back to life by Krishna) In this way all the brahmastras were returned back. Ashwathama was cursed to continue to live on Bhulok forever. Next time you go searching for ways to longetivity, think of
From this, one fact becomes clear- life in Bhulok is equivalent to a curse. But the reason that you want to continue living here is just one- Bhram or delusion- the effect of kaliyug, which does not allow you to see (or want to see) the higher dimensions of existence or loks. In all there are seven loks - Bhu, Bhuvah, Svah, Maha, Jana, Tapa and Satya lok. In the Bhulok, a being has shadchakras each corresponding to a tattva- prithvi, jal, agni, vayu, akash and paratatva and assciated pleasures of the material comforts, kamvasna, power, love and creativity. As one transgresses from the Bhulok to Bhuvahlok, all the chakras merge to form one chakra and ek tattva. (its colour changes in subsequent lokas which can be seen clairvoyantly) Next comes Svahlok- the lok of bhog - Yayati could only reach upto this level. Once a being moves beyond bhog, he enters the Mahalok and begins the onwards journey to the Janalok. It is the Janalok where one is exposed to workings of the creation and one is able to aid the Creator in running the creation. Rishi Markandya is a good example of a being from Janalok. After the Jana is the Tapalok, which is the lok of tapasya. Like a raindrop gets contaminated as it descends on to the earth and needs to be heated to leave behind impurites and return to where it came from, so is true for a being. Through rigourous tapa and sadhna, one disposes off the impurities to merge back with supreme consciousness in the Satyaloka, which is the lok of ParamGuru.
This is the journey of the soul. It is an individual choice, how long you want to continue to be on this Bhulok enjoying the 5 basic sensory pleasures, because even after thousands of years, you will still not be satiated, as in the case of Yayati. However if these sensory pleasures are your prime concern, there are thousands of ways to attain them, there is no need for you to venture into Yoga. It is when you want to rise above them and start the onward journey, that you should think of pursuing Yoga. Before that you'll be wasting your time.
Atma chintan occurs once you have the gyan of the atma.