The Atma is much more difficult to realize than Ishwara

One who studies the Yoga Sutra will quickly find that there are two recurring themes in the Yoga Sutras - the Purusha (i.e. the atma) and Meditation (especially Samadhi). When I taught the Sutra Study Series, it became clear that people had a much easier time understanding the concept of Ishwara (the supreme almighty) than they had understanding what the atma was. This problem apparently had existed even in olden days, according to great teachers of Vedanta such as Velukkudi Krishnan as told in this traditional Bhagavad Gita Upanyasam in tamil.

Patanjali uses many words for this indweller - Purusha (the lord of the place we call the body in 4.18), Dhristha (seer in 1.3), Chiti-shaktih (the power of the Chitta in 4.34), Apratisamkramaya (the unmoving in 4.22), Swami (the owner in 2.23) and Atma (that which cannot be divided in 2.25).

The images that come to our mind when we hear the words Ishwara and Atma look something like what is shown above - an ornate, definitive and majestic picture of Ishwara and a nebulous and unmanifested picture of the atma.

In fact visualizing something that is unmanifest is very difficult. This question was asked by Arjuna to Krishna in chapter 12 (Bhakthi Yoga) of the Bhagavad Gita in the context of how to worship the almighty - using the manifested forms such as Vishnu, Shiva etc., or using the unmanifested form.

अर्जुन उवाच |

एवं सततयुक्ता ये भक्तास्त्वां पर्युपासते |

ये चाप्यक्षरमव्यक्तं तेषां के योगवित्तमा: || 1||

12.1) Arjun inquired: Between those who are steadfastly devoted to Your personal form and those who worship the formless Brahman, whom do You consider to be more perfect in Yoga?

क्लेशोऽधिकतरस्तेषामव्यक्तासक्तचेतसाम् ||

अव्यक्ता हि गतिर्दु:खं देहवद्भिरवाप्यते || 5||

For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifest, the path of realization is full of tribulations. Worship of the unmanifest is exceedingly difficult for embodied beings.

Our path in Yoga is indeed a tall order with the use of the most sophisticated techniques like meditation to understand this entity called atma that resides in us. But, as Mundaka Upanishad says, when you practice (yoga) for a long time withour hankering after results, then one day the atma will choose to reveal itself.