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Self-Knowledge Is The Only Key To Bliss

This is article, written by Brahmacharini Sumati Chaitanya, was published in Chinmayam September 2008 issue.

Just like the Upanishads, Gita study requires the help of a sympathetic teacher. Just as water flows in a natural and effortless way from an upper to a lower level, pure knowledge flows from the Guru to the dedicated disciple.

The ultimate spiritual goal is to recognize one’s true self, not simply to go through life’s fleeting experiences. We know ‘we are,’ but do we know who we really are?

Our shifting understanding of ourselves is always in association with things and beings around us that are constantly changing. With body-association, we define ourselves as young or old, fat or thin, fair or dark.

With thought association, we see ourselves as angry, sad or happy, intelligent or dull, peaceful or agitated. Our identity is based on our identification with our nation, culture, religion, people and circumstances all of which are also constantly changing.

But in this ever-changing world, even though our relative identity keeps changing, there is one absolute identity that never changes and that is ‘I.’ I am the unchanging factor in all my experiences.

What is the true nature of this I?

Vedantic scriptures indicate the true nature of the ‘I.’ Note that the main purpose of scriptural study is not merely to know that ‘I am’ – because no one has ever had the experience of being non-existent. The main purpose is also not to merely appreciate that ‘I am other than the body’ because simply and logically; the knower is always different from the known. Scriptural study must necessarily end in the recognition of one’s self – the I – as the non-dual, existence consciousness bliss principle. Unless we rediscover our true identity as the non-dual Self, to be free from fears and sorrows will remain a mere dream.

The Self is nitya and nitya-mukta, ever present and ever liberated. Hence, the experience of the Self cannot be the result of any action. If that which always ‘is’ is not cognized cognition of Self – the I – and its nature is possible when it is pointed out by one who has knowledge or experience of the Self, as the Self. Such a one is known as the shrotriya brahma-nishtha Guru.

The Guru and scriptures indicate various types of Sadhana or spiritual practices, for the disciple. But if spiritual practices cannot create the Self, modify the Self, refine the Self or even cause on to attain the Self, then what is their purpose?

All Sadhana is to first prepare the inner equipments (mind and intellect) to grasp the import of the scriptural wisdom. Through this, once one is convinced of the true nature of one’s I, the next stage is to practice giving up the notion of being an individual, separate from the world. When this practice matures, in the subtle heights of meditation, as the notion of individuality disappears, the nature of the I, one’s true Self, reveals itself, to its own Self, as non-dual consciousness.

The Guru’s task is to introduce the disciple’s own Self to the disciple. The Guru cannot do anything if the disciple refuses to follow the instructions. Insistence, proving one’s own point, and arguing with the spiritual teacher is a complete waste of time and energy. If the spiritual path is not based on blind belief, it is also not a path of disbelief: Samshaya atma vinashyati. Shraddhavan labhate jnanam.

A student who submits to the Guru’s discipline is a true disciple. When the intelligent student – intelligent because he discovers that his limited intellect cannot grasp the infinite Truth – with an attitude of surrender, follows his Guru’s instruction and maintains perfect faith in the Guru’s wisdom, he comes to realize fully his own Self. And this self-realization frees him, at once, from all imaginary limitations of individuality.

The Gita is one of the great revealers of the true nature of the Self.

When Arjuna realizes that he is unable to rise above his present situation and is helpless before his overwhelming emotions, he surrenders to the wisdom of his teacher, Sri Krishna.

Sri Krishna advises Arjuna to renounce his physical mental intellectual estimates of the world and re-evaluate his life situation through spiritual understanding. Sri Krishna reveals to Arjuna that the world of names and forms is not other than his own Self.

The non-apprehension of the true nature of the non-dual Self leads to the misapprehension of being an individual. From such misapprehension come fears, anxieties, sorrows, and the sense of being a doer and enjoyer. The individual thus goes through birth after birth to exhaust the impressions created from all these experiences.

The Gita teaches, clearly and firmly, that the only way to end the cycle of birth and death, to rise above pain and suffering, is to recognize one’s non-dual nature. Whether under open sky, behind closed doors, in remote mountain caves, within bustling city crowds, atop financial success, at rock bottom depressions… self-knowledge is the one key.

Brahmacharini Sumati Chaitanya