Self-Inquiry_The Science of Self-Realization: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar
According to Advaita Vedanta, the science of Self-Realization (which we call Self-Inquiry), requires a different approach than the sciences involved in discovering the complexities of the Universe. Both approaches are similar in one way in that our consciousness with focused attention and awareness is used as an instrument of perception to gain knowledge.
Sciences involving the exploration of the universe and its laws focus the attention outside to perceived objects (time, space, matter, laws of motion, gravity, mass, etc.) to determine their nature. When attention and awareness are focused on such analysis, the relationships between various objects according to universal laws becomes clear. This is due to the inherent power of consciousness to discover and make known to itself anything that it focuses attention on. That is how sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Medicine, etc.) move forward.
However, the theoretical limit to understanding objective phenomena is always there to the extent that the observed phenomena is based on the very nature of the observer. It is not clear how precisely the relationship between the subject and the object can be determined scientifically. Philosophically, this is due to the logical difficulty of separating the subject from the object and demonstrating their independence.
Science of the Self, however, is a radical departure from the physical sciences and has a different aim. Here attention is directed inwards towards the subject and not outwards towards objects of perception. The classic methodology given by Sri Ramana for Self-Inquiry is to ask oneself with attention and inquire, “Who am I?” This is done in order to introvert the mind and drive it deeper into its source. In Self-Inquiry, the quality of consciousness itself becomes the center of attention. In this method, consciousness is not focused anywhere or on anything other than itself.
Language is not perfect but there are many ways to say this. Attention focused on attention itself is Self-Inquiry. Consciousness becoming self-focused is Self-Inquiry. Mind turning inwards to its source is Self-Inquiry. Awareness aware of itself is Self-Inquiry. All of these are variations of the same process and basically refer to the same thing. These statements indicate that one should quietly abide in one’s own sense of identity and being with full awareness.
This is not an easy notion to grasp. The Self-Inquiry methodology does not present the aspirant with an image or a sound to concentrate on. Because we are so dependent on our sense of hearing and sight even for meditation and prayer, Self-Inquiry presents a challenge. People often find it difficult to know what to focus in doing the Self-Inquiry because they associate their identity and thus consciousness strongly with the body.
This is why Sri Ramana used to say that Self-Inquiry is not for everyone to take on immediately. I have observed this phenomena carefully for a long time. People find meditation, yoga, tantra, chakras, and kundalini methods much more interesting and exciting to talk about and practice than Self-Inquiry. It is because all of these Yoga systems are directly or indirectly based on producing changes in the physical or the subtle bodies which one can experience.
Consumption of experience in some form or another is natural to all living beings. Self-Inquiry points, however, to the subject; the one who experiences. What is the nature of the one who experiences? Self-Inquiry shifts our attention from perception to the perceiver. Who is the one who perceives and experiences reality?
The practice of meditation and yoga leads the mind to temporarily withdraw the senses from objects of perception. However, internal perceptions in meditative states or Samadhi will most likely still exist. These internal perceptions may manifest in a number of ways including that of visions of angels, holy sages, the Goddess. Various spiritual and religious symbols often appear spontaneously in the mental eye of the aspirant during meditation or contemplative prayer and there may also be experiences of lucid dreaming states. So even in higher meditation states, the distinction between the subject and the objects of perception continues as we engage in and consume one experience after another.
Self-Inquiry, on the other hand, is found to be boring and irrelevant by many people because it promises them no special experience to enjoy other than being their own self. People should always do what feels natural. Nothing can be forced.
Eventually with the practice of meditation and other types of yogas, the mind becomes more subtle. The understanding of the nature of consciousness as free from outer perception (of physical objects) as well as internal perceptions (dreams, visions, other mental experiences) can then start to emerge. Once the independent nature of consciousness (free from all perceptions) is understood, one can recognize the essential quality of existence and pure being in the midst of various experiences.
When attention/awareness become self-focused, that is called Self-Inquiry. When attention lights up attention, awareness lights up awareness, consciousness lights up consciousness, Self is Realized as Sat-Chit-Ananda, the ultimate subject, the very core of being. Sri Ramana called it simply the Heart, whose nature is that of silence which is beyond all understanding.
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In this journey of self realisation, when we introvert ourself deeply to know our true self, what we truely learn ? As mentiioned, this subjective experince is SatChitAanand. But, what excatly it is ?
Also, Is it the state of Ahm Brahmasmi where observer (ourself) becomes the observe?
What a beautiful article. You write so well and make everything clear. There is also truth in your words. I just “discovered” you through Facebook, and have been reading your beautiful articles to my husband this morning. I cried when reading “Lovers Love Completely,” That’s how powerful it was. keep up the good work. You just got 2 new fans!
Marilyn and Sol Sandperl(fellow devotees of Sri Ramana Maharshi and from the “Tribe of Judah”- who also love the “I AM that I AM.”)
Thanks for your kind comments. Good to be among Bhagavan devotees.
There are a few scientifically based theories in modern psychology that i believe are touching on the process of self-realization. EMDR is a recently popularized method used by professional psychologists to release memories of trauma that are locked in the subconscious reptilian brain Patients are asked to stare at a light bar as lights flash from side to side and while they are under this semi-hypnotic state they are then asked to relive the trauma. Having gone through this process when it was first being popularly developed i was asked by my psychologiest what i was experiencing. My theory is that the hypnosis overpowers the physical senses by concentrating on the light bar, and while the conscious brain is preoccupied, that enables the patient to delve into the reptilian brain and explore traumatic memories that are entrapped there, since traumatic memories are stored in both the conscious and reptilian brain.
In the same way, meditation for me is a way to delve into consciousness at a level deeper than the conscious brain where we are aware through our senses, and even further deeper than the reptilian brain, where we are aware of our ancient inherited consciousness, to a spiritual consciousness which sits at the deepest level of consciousness because it has existed before the beginning of life itself.
This is why Sri Ramana used to say that Self-Inquiry is not for everyone to take on immediately
KINDLY EXPLAIN THE ABOV E STANDPOINT THAT IT IS NOT FOR EVRYONE TO TAKE ON IMMEDIATLELY . IT MEANS THAT THE THEORY PROFESSED ALL THE TIME IS SHORT OF
STILL ANOTHER ELIGIBILITY OF STATUS OF MIND /DEGREE OF ENLIGHTENMENT REQUIRED ?
IS IT SO? . WHEN YOU DEEPLY STUDY BY SENTENCE BY SENTENCE THERE WAS NOT A SCOPE OF
LIKE THIS AS YOU HAVE MENTIONED . IN FACT HE HAS VIVIDLY EXPLAINED THE EVERY SILLY
POSITION OF THE MIND OF QUESTIONER.
KINDLY ONCE AGAIN ENLIGHTEN THIS POINT; THAT MEANS I HAVE TO WAIT BEFORE I START
PRACTISING THE TEACHINGS. i HAVE TO ASSESS MY POSITION AS TO WHERE TO START AND WHEN TO START.
Sri Ramana gave the teachings of Self-Inquiry universally. So it is for everyone to practice.
Those who cannot immediately grasp this teaching, for them Bhagavan recommended the traditional spritiual practices to puriyfy the mind. You can verify this by reference to sources on Bhagavan’s talks and teachings.
Everyone on the spiritual path can assess what the right combination of spiritual practices are appropriate for them. These can include prayers, meditation, contemplation, pranayama with mantras, along with Self-Inquiry. Everyone finds practice and the spiritual path that is most suitable for them.
Of course, for those who understand Self-Inquiry and are able to practice it, Bhagavan recommended that above all else.
Remaining ‘aware of awareness'(DHYAN) is the very purpose of all Spiritual practices leading to truth. Truth shall be truth, whether bring or do not bring the word GOD into it. Yet most of us, mostly bring God in. Why so?
We have figures of Mother, Father and other Elders, who bring us up from beginning of our life as a baby. The Father, Mother, Guru and other elderly figures are like a higher entity which takes care of us when we are dependent and feel helpless.
As we grow up and find that, the elderly figures have limitations, We start searching for such an entity , may Call it God or higher force which will help us when we find our limited faculties and resources are not able to cope up with the uncertain and unknown happenings of life. We take refuge into various religious and spiritual practices to get a favor or the blessings of the higher entity. How we go about it, depends upon our family, social and intellectual background and values. But does this search and marathon effort lead us to any God.
The meaningful search for the higher entity has to start with, who am I. Who is helpless, who wants to know? , Who is searching? , Who needs to search? Who is going to benefit from this higher entity
We may start with negation. That is, we delve deep into intellectual and experimental understanding of our life and see, which I am not, since we do not yet know, who I am.
I can start with my faculties, that is, my body, my mind, my intellect, my emotions, my social and blood relations, my social status, my owner ships, good or bad name I have earned. Is all this, me? One realizes; I am endowed with this body, mind and am born in this family, but yet this is not me. Even my intellect is not me. We are left with just one answer, I think, therefore I am, that is, I am aware of my thinking for certain. Here, intellectually, we become aware of our awareness.
In meditation, first I become aware of my fading thoughts, and subsequently, of the infinity within. Then I notice who is experiencing the infinity within. This is how I realize, that, it is my awareness which is experiencing this unbounded field. This is how I become aware of my awareness (Surti).
In day to day activity, the awareness operates thru my mind-sense-body.
While dreaming, awareness is the witness to the dreaming process going on in my brain.
In deep sleep, when activity is not recorded in our brain, we are not aware of the awareness.However, awareness is there, we are alive, and our vitals are working through ongoing autonomous system. But there is no minding, thinking and dreaming in deep sleep and also there is no conscious experience of the unbounded peaceful state of meditativeness. Our awareness is not able to describe any experience during deep sleep.
Next question arises, who am I, in relationship to the created universe around us. Whether I consider the entire creation and the creator as separate entities from me-my self (my awareness), or,
I can search the truth described by many sages, that is, oneness of me with the all pervading unbound infinity in entire creation. That is, I am Bramh? Bramh manifesting into multiple creation as universe, Bramh within every individual as Jeev-atma. Therefore, in essence, every thing is Bramh including my awareness.
What path and doctrine one chooses to pursue, understand or follow, is up to the individual.
What so ever may be the doctrine, Vedanta, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism– most of the Indian philosophies and spiritual practices are designed to become aware of awareness itself.
As you become aware that I am just a witness to the happenings and am not a doer, obviously the next step would be to seek; why and how things are happening. Eventually you realize the cause and effect and resulting destiny as per karma. But who decides the rules of resulting destiny for the karma performed by me, when, and in what form.
When my awareness ,as a witness is a non-doer, then all other individual awareness are also non-doers. Then why do we suffer. Why there is so much of agony and feeling of non fulfillment. Scriptures say, it is because of our attachments born out of our desires. Due to attachment, we are pained when separated from the objects of our desire.
Here we become aware of our individual ego, which has its own free will and therefore desires.
Buddha explained that the root cause of suffering is the desire. Leave the desire and results of desire and suffering shall not be there.
Gita says; detach yourself from the desires and actions (GYAN YOG),
Perform all actions detaching yourself from the results (KARAM YOG) or
Offer all your desires and actions to me (The Lord), and you get absolved of the sufferings. (Bhakti)
Hanuman performed every act for Ram as a Sewak.
Many of us connect ourselves to an external Guru and abide by the instructions of the Guru and thus are disciples. Guru is the embodiment of God.
We can as well be a self disciple and pursue independent Bhakati of me (SELF). This is independent of any External guru. Here Guru is the SHABAD within. One stays connected within, with the Shabad and inculcates the SAJAN BHAV in day today life for own self and for all others. SAJAN-means good and beneficial persona- the same unbounded field pervading in me and in all others and in entire creation.
What so ever may be the path, the real quest has to begin with, who am I, and then finding my relationship with the entire creation around me. Understanding my ego and shedding it.
Since there is one creator and this creation is being shared by one and all, we have no option but to have Sajan Bhav for ourselves and all others. No body is superior or inferior .No body is big or small. The Creator and the creation equally belong to all. Nothing as such is inferior or superior in this universe. Things gain importance due to requirements of Kal Chakra(TIME).
This is Sam bhav-Sam drishti.
Any path not leading to the Truth of oneness, that is, Sajan-bhav for one and all ( Sambhav -Sam-drishti), is not worth pursuing. Getting your awareness established in Sam-Bhav, Sam-Drishti will be finding your True Self
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The point of Jnana Marg is to still the mind permanently, so that you will be enabled to receive inner Guru’s upasa or Sravana. Unless the mind is permanently silenced, anything you might perceive is mindstuff, even sounds or visions.
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