The ego which believes itself to the body-mind complex, separate
from everything else, poses as a real entity.
What is the meaning of being a real entity? A real entity is
that which is always there. If you can prove its absence even in one instance,
then you cannot call that thing as real.
First let’s understand what are the constituents of the ego?
That I am a conscious being I cannot dispute. I am a
conscious being, conscious of myself as a historical being. This historical
being is just the roles assumed by the conscious being during the process of
living life, as well as an intricate network of association of ideas, memories constituting
the sub-conscious, the unconscious, and conscious memory etc.
If you really analyse it the historical person has no
autonomous existence of its own, moreover
it is always in a state of flux changing from one personality to
another, as conditions changes and the situation demands, or as some event
triggers some memories.
Is the historical being intrinsic to the consciousness that
I basically am?
To be intrinsic to consciousness that I am, it must always
be there, exactly in the same form.
However what I find is that it not always there.
Consciousness is always there, illumining not only the changing flux that is
the historical being, but also the absence of the historical being, as in sleep,
or a moment of joy, or a quiet moment in meditation.
Historical being is there -------- > Consciousness is
Historical being is absent --------- > Consciousness is
I am the consciousness in whose ever unchanging presence,
the absence as well as the presence of the historical being is illumined, is
So in the consciousness that I am, the historical being is an
appearance only – the personality is not intrinsic to consciousness.
Consciousness is in reality totally free of the historical
person, whereas the historical person is totally dependent on consciousness to
enliven and reveal its presence.
This knowledge is very freeing, very stabilizing.
To recognize that one is indeed independent of the
historical personality at all times, is truly stabilizing and liberating.
I have a friend, a Vedanta student, who in the core of her
psyche, suffered from the extreme sense of helplessness and powerlessness. It
controlled her whole life, in an unconscious manner. She was a dependent
personality, always unconsciously looking out for support from stronger
As she began understanding Vedanta, she began sitting for
longer hours of meditation. In one of her meditation sessions, she experienced
an incredible sense of helplessness, powerlessness – a black black feeling. She
was completely identified with it and sank along with it.
For a day or two she suffered with this nameless sense of
helplessness. Finally she called me. I had to work with her at several levels.
First I explained to her it was old feelings from her troubled childhood coming
up. Instead of rejecting the feelings, could she just stay with the feelings in
loving awareness of it – holding them as it were, even as she would a helpless
child. Just compassionately stay with the feelings and it would dissipate. She
did that and reported that though they did dissipate, she had a very
uncomfortable feeling inside.
I then asked her, “Are you helpless in your life right now?”.
She had to admit that she was not. In
fact her life was going well – she had adequate support from the people in her
life on all counts. Now she was able to see, that these helpless feelings were
from the unconscious from the past – stored there and being triggered now.
Understanding this was a big relief. I pointed out to her that these
experiences of helplessness had left her with a strong conclusion centered on ‘I’
– namely ‘I am helpless, I am powerless’.
Now I asked to examine if this conclusion was true in the
present time. She had to admit it was not true. Then I gently pointed out that
in fact she did not need to hold on to this conclusion in her life anymore. She
could let it go. If again she faced difficult situations, she could always ask
for help either from Lord or people or both. She agreed.
Now since she was an advanced Vedanta student, I took it
further. I reminded her that essentially she is consciousness, the witness, in whose presence this feeling of helplessness
is being illumined. She must ascertain
for herself, if the feeling of helplessness belonged to the consciousness being
that she is.
Her years of Vedanta study helped her. She told me the
helplessness feeling is drshya (
seen) and I am the drk (the seer, the subject). The subject being
always different from the object, the feeling of helplessness cannot belong to the consciousness that she is. Again she herself pointed out that this
feeling of helplessness, was not always there – it came up very occasionally.
Again in deep-sleep it was totally absent – whereas the consciousness is there.
So she ascertained for herself very conclusively that the
conclusion ‘I am helpless, I am powerless’ was false – totally false. This was
very liberating for her. She understood the importance of immediate recognition
of consciousness being changelessly ever-present and independent of the
So in Vedanta, it is important to negate obtaining erroneous
conclusions about the self, and recognize the nature consciousness that one is
essentially, being totally independent of the body-mind complex. Logic in
keeping with what one has studied from the scriptures is very helpful for this.
Firstly intimately understand the nature of the body and
mind being mithya. Mithya means it has no autonomous
existence – this is easy to understand – you can see that the body-mind complex
is only a coming together of various interdependent constituents, which are
ever in state of flux. And eventually the entire body-mind complex is dependent
on consciousness to enliven it and reveal it. So dependence, change, and being
objects of consciousness characterize both body and mind.... so it is mithya not real. Again the presence of
body-mind is not always there – the three states of experience show us that.
The consciousness of absence of body-mind, in deep-sleep, again helps us to see
that any conclusion about oneself which has reference to the body-mind is
Thus any conclusions, centered on Consciousness-I, who is
the drk, which have the body-mind as a reference point
can only be false and they must be negated as false, at an empirical psychological
level, as well as at the level of ascertaining the true I. In the process of negation the emotional
holding onto those conclusions loosens and wears off eventually.
This body which I thought is mine, I recognize now, that I did not create this. I
simply hold it in trust. For whom? For its owner – Ishvara. I did not create
this body nor the mind-stuff. Nor did my parents .... they knew nothing of how all the systems here
work – the skeletal, muscular, endrocine, nervous, circulatory, respiratory,
digestive, excretory, reproductive systems – what a wonderfully intelligent community
of cells living in harmony to provide a grand instrument for me, to use and
experience this amazing world in which I find myself placed.
Like the body-mind-sense complex was given to me, so too is
this universe. I, a simple conscious being, endowed with this body-mind-sense
complex, did not create this universe. It is given. The intelligence that pervades
this universe through a complex network of laws of cause and effect, is the
same intelligence that pervades this body-mind-sense complex, making all of it
what it is.
This super intelligence has to rest in a conscious being –
and that conscious being who is endowed with this super intelligence is who I
call Ishvara. Ishvara is the cause of this universe which includes the
body-mind-sense complex I am endowed with. Usually we in the universe we find there are two types of causes. For example, a
watch has a watch-maker, the intelligent cause as well as the material it is
made of . So in the case of the universe the intelligent cause is Ishvara. And
where did Ishvara get the material that this universe is made of?
After all before the universe came into being, there was no
time, no space, no material . There was only Ishvara. So the material for this
universe could have come from only place – that is Ishvara. Meaning Ishvara is
both the intelligent cause as well as the material for this universe.
This truth has huge implications. It means the body-mind-sense
complex that I think of as ‘mine’ – is really not mine. It belongs to Ishvara
all the way. I am just the simple conscious being, who is aware of this body-mind
complex, who has been entrusted with it, to use as an INSTRUMENT for
participating enthusiastically, alertly and cheerfully in Ishvara’s universe.
The scriptures point out that Ishvara in reality is One,
Without A Second, ekam eva advitiyam, partless whole. Ishvara in reality has
never changed to become many, Ishvara
only appears as this manifold universe through his inscrutable and undefinable
power to do so – that power has been given a name Maya. Maya is not independent of Ishvara. Maya is not a parallel reality to Ishvara.
Maya is Ishvara’s shakti and so fully dependent on Ishvara. Ishvara can
withdraw his shakti at any time –
Ishvara is independent of Maya.
Based on this understanding, I take refuge in Ishvara.
Ishvara is my strength, my Guru, my friend, my well-wisher, my father, my
mother, my all. I look upon this universe of which this body-mind-sense complex
is a part (I say this, because it is Ishvara’s, not mine) as a grand stage in
which the drama of life is going on. Endowed with this body-mind-sense complex,
I am an ACTOR in this drama, playing various roles, whose scripts are written
by Ishvara. As far as living this life is concerned, all I have to do is follow
the scripts and play my part, even as an actor does, with enthusiasm, alertness
and cheerfulness. I do not invest a sense of reality in roles I am playing, nor
in the situations that I play them in – because I know it is a drama. I am centered
in Ishvara, not on this body-mind-sense complex. Ishvara has the script for
this body-mind-sense complex all ready – I don’t resist His script. Sometimes
it is not easy, especially when the script is unfavourable to this body-mind
complex – then I simply affirm Ishvara is my strength, my well-wisher and allow
myself to accept His script cheerfully. Om Harih Sharanam
Ishvara is my well-wisher. I accept that. Ishvara is also
the karma-phalla-daata. I used to
find this very difficult to reconcile these two aspects of Ishvara. The law of karma by itself is inert. It is
Ishvara who gives the karma-phalla. How
can my well-wisher dole out so much pain? I realize now that pain, physical or
emotional has a purpose.
The cause of pain, in the karma model, is a prior unworthy
action, an action not in keeping with the harmony of Ishvara’s universe. What
caused that unworthy action? The sense of apurnata
(incompletness). Where did the apurnata comes from? Because I took the body-mind-complex to be
both ‘I’ and ‘mine’. Why did I do that when it is not true? Because of
So the presence of pain, points out that there was ignorance
behind the pain. That ignorance must go. For that ignorance to go, one must
pursue knowledge and discover that one is free of this body-mind-sense complex.
My taking refuge in Ishvara, my surrender to Ishvara is the natural
outcome of this knowledge of my truth. This surrender means that I accept fully
that all that is here is Ishvara, and all that is here is ok, it is all meant
to be exactly how it is meant to be. I don’t have to run after anything here in
this universe, because nothing here has the capacity to give me what I wanted
all the time (before the surrender) namely security and happiness 24x7 without
a trace of sorrow. So now I can allow myself to fold up my mind and simply rest
in Ishvara, my home, my refuge, my Self.
Vedanta points out that what shine here as ‘I’ is pure
consciousness ... who is independent, timeless (indestructible) and purna
(whole) – who is ever the one who illumines, enlivens, empowers the body and
mind, who is indeed never the illumined.
There is a rule given by Vedanta – the subject ‘I’, the
conscious being who experiences life, is distinct from every object of
experience even though no object of experience is ever separate from consciousness, the one who experiences. One
can understand this in several ways. No object of experience can reveal its
presence without the presence of a conscious being who cognizes it. Again the
very being of the object of experiences, its ‘isness’ is not separate from the
‘isness’ or existence of the conscious
being who cognizes it. It is one Being-consciousness who manifests as the
conscious-experiencer as well as the experienced object.
This rule that the conscious-experiencer is distinct from,
independent of the experienced object is easy enough to understand ... I see the wall... I experience the wall
... so wall is an object of my experience of seeing ... I am different from the
wall. Easy enough.
What about I see the body,
I experience the body, I experience the mind in its various forms of
thoughts, feelings, doubts, memories, ego
.... when it comes to the body and mind that I am endowed with I am not
able to say that I am distinct from them. In my understanding the body is me,
the mind is me.
Here is where we need more knowledge. What is difference
between consciousness-I and every object of experience which includes this body
and this mind.
Vedanta points out that consciousness that shines as ‘I’ is
not the body-mind, nor is it a part of the
body-mind, not a property of the body-mind, nor is it a product of the
body-mind. It is self-existing and
self-revealing – in fact it is the only self-existing, self-revealing INDEPENDENT,
CHANGLESS REALITY (satya), ever-free of energy and matter which are its
apparent every-changing manifestations. Consciousness is oneself- so it can
never be an object of experience. Consciousness is ever the subject and never
the object. Consciousness is oneself- so it can never be an object of experience
illuminates, reveals everything else – we find that not even the brilliant sun
can reveal its presence in the absence of a conscious being to cognize it. No
object of experience can reveal itself – therefore objects of experience are considered
as basically inert as they do not have the capacity to reveal themselves. Thus
every object of experience is a DEPENDENT, CHANGING REALITY (mithya).
And consciousness, the independent
absolute reality is basis of, the content of the dependent changing reality of
energy and matter.
indestructible, free of time – it ever was, it ever is, it ever will-be.
Whereas objects of experience are all within the purview of time – they arise
to go. They manifest and again resolve back into the unmanifest again.
Consciousness is all-pervading – it is here, there and
everywhere. Whereas objects of experience have limitations in pervasiveness.
Consciousness-I is to be recognized as it is. Recognising
Consciousness-I to be as it is is to have true knowledge of ‘I’ and this
knowledge liberates one from the sorrow of taking oneself to be the mortal
A very useful sadhana
which helps us to recognize that what
shine here as “I”is self-evident, self-revealing, immediate consciousness which
is indeed distinct from whatever is experienced in its presence, is the
sadhana, the discipline of ‘witnessing’ one’s thoughts. This discipline trains
us to separate self-evident
consciousness-I from thought and recognize that I am indeed independent of
thoughts/ mind. We can extend it to witnessing actions also – which will not be
considered in this article.
Witnessing means one observes one’s thoughts without
involvement. We can also put it as ‘observing’ without attachment. So I am the
one who observes the thoughts that arise in my mind, and the thoughts are what
are observed. I am the drshta, the observer of thoughts, the self-evident
conscious being, the atma and the
thoughts are drshya, the observed, which is dependent on me for being observed.
Our Shastra gives us a thorough understanding of thoughts by
guiding us to observe our thoughts, gain more understanding about them by
labelling them, and then letting them go. So we start by observing individual thoughts
as they arise, we label them and let go of any holding onto them – or subscribing
to them by allowing them to create a story. This allows us over a period of
time, to discover, that the conscious that I am is the invariable, in whose
presence thoughts are illumined, and even though I am intimately present when
thought is there, I am unaffected by the thought.
When we observe we can find out:-
1.In which state is my mind currently – is it
b. dull/heavy (mudha)
c.Distracted, partly focussed (vikshipta)
d.One-pointed, focussed (ekagra)
e.Disciplined, mastered (niruddha)
2.Is this thought
a.coloured or afflicted (klishtha)
colored or not afflicted (aklishtha)
3.Is this thought
a.Useful to our growth
b.Not useful to growth
4.Which qualities or gunas are dominant with this
noble, knowledgeable, light
active, ambitious, moving
c.Tamas - inert, stable, stagnant
5.If the thought is coloured, which colourings are
a.Forgetting of one’s truth, veiling (avidya)
b.Claiming ‘I’-ness – (asmita)
c.Being attracted to or drawn towards (raga)
d.Having aversion for, or wanting to avoid (dvesha)
7.How strong is this colouring? You can grade it
as low, medium, high
8.How do I know this is true?
a.Through perception (pratyaksha)
b.Through reasoning /logic (Tarka)
c.Through scriptures (pramana or Agama)
labelled the thought, I can ask myself is this thought pattern who I am, or am
I the conscious being who illumines the thought, who is the one who has the
thought, who is distinct from the thought.
discover that like light, in whose all-pervading presence all things are
illumined, and yet light is untouched by what it illumines, I too am the
self-evident conscious being, in whose all-presence, different thought
arise and resolve, and yet I am
untouched by the thought.
This morning, as usual I was into certain breathing
exercises. I am fairly regular with them. They cleanse one’s energy field, fill
one with great vitality. They also are practice for the capacity for focussing
by simply staying with the breath and
letting one’s auto-nervous system relax.
Inhaling – there is awareness of in-breath
Exhaling – there is awareness of out-breath.
I simply stay with the breath. It’s wonderful. The body is
still. Yes I have the capacity to move, yet I simply suspend that capacity and
keep the body still. The mind calms down as I stay with my breath and notice
that there is awareness of in-breath and out-breath.
Soon there is awareness of body being still, the breath
being smooth and the mind being quiet.
I am a simple awareful being – a simple conscious being,
witness to the stillness in the body, the smoothness of breath and the
quietness of the mind. Now it is easy for me to acknowledge this fact that the
awareness that I am, the consciousness that I am, is whole, is peace.
At this moment of understanding there is total fulfilment in
my self - there is nothing to gain. I am not looking for anything new to
happen. There is no resistance to anything whatsoever – I simply am. This ‘am-ness’
is purna. There is no need for words – yes the capacity to form words and understand
is there – yet I do not have to form any words. This is a wordless being ....
and the Being is whole.
Am I going to lose this wholeness when the mind come’s back,
when resistance to facts comes back?
No – I cannot lose this wholeness that is the Self, ever –
even when there loss of peace of mind.
Why? Because what shine’s here as Self is the Being who is independent of the mind, the breath, the body. Certainly the mind,
the breath, the body are not independent of me, the self-evident,
self-revealing consciousness – yet I am independent of the mind, the breath,
In ignorance, I totally
identify with the body, the breath, the mind and in ignorance and ignorance
alone, my wholeness seems to depend on the quietness of the mind, the
smoothness of the breath and the stillness of the body. Oh what a miserable wholeness
I must be then, totally dependent on the condition of the mind, the breath and
When I recognize the self to be independent of the body,
breath and mind, the wholeness of the self is not dependent on their condition.
This is real freedom.
In wholeness there is no ‘becoming’. One does not ‘become’
whole because of certain conditions. If that were so, one’s wholeness could not
be whole – because it will be lost when the conditions change. The truth must
be that what shines here as self-revealing, self-evident Consciousness-I is whole – here and now, no matter what the
condition of the body, the breath or the mind.
Dear Lord, may we all revel in that knowledge of wholeness,
which apparently manifests as all that is here. I am whole, You are Whole. All
That Is is Whole.
Radiant Divinities! Blessed sadhaks and seekers! Spiritual aspirants aspiring to follow the spiritual life, aspiring to progress upon the spiritual path, aspiring to attain success in your spiritual sadhana and aspiring to achieve the great, glorious, spiritual goal of divine perfection and liberation! To all of you I recommend the awareness of the spiritual presence of Gurudev.
During the day everything is illumined by the sun. When the sun sets the darkness may be illumined by the moon. If there is no moon the darkness will still be illumined by the stars in the sky. And if it is a cloudy night in the middle of the rainy season, and even the light of the stars are denied to us, then it is fire that illumines—like that akhanda dipam (oil lamp burning silently there behind the glass door.
The current may be cut off, that lamp may go out, and we may be in dense darkness—you cannot see your hand in front of your face—yet, you know that you are there. By what light is your presence known? You are aware of yourself and the presence of people and things around you, even though they are not visible. What is it that knows their invisible presence? That is the Light of Consciousness. And that Light of Consciousness is the presence of God within.
Silently that Light is observing everything that is going on here. It not only observes our physical bodies, but what is going on in our hearts and minds. It also knows what we do not know. It knows what is lying in our subconscious minds, to which even our conscious active minds have no access (except only occasionally during dream). And it is this silent Light of Consciousness that observes all the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep.
For the individual consciousness as well as the universal consciousness, the innermost self-essence is consciousness, awareness, knowledge that I am.Philosophy uses the same identical term for both—atma-tattva.The universal consciousness they call paramatma or visvatma and the individual they call jivatma.Atma is the same to both because it means self-awareness. And this self-awareness is both in the aspect of the universal source of all being and the source of your own present limited, separatist self-consciousness. It is the source of both, and the relationship between the two is of the utmost importance.
Eko devah sarvabhuteshu gudhah sarvavyapi sarvabhutantaratma, karmadhyakshah sarvabhutadhivasah (God, Who is one only, is hidden in all beings. He pervades all and He is the inner soul of all beings. He presides over all actions and He dwells in all beings). Three times the indwelling presence of God has been brought out in this single verse—sarvabhuteshu gudhah (hidden in all beings), sarvabhutantaratma (inner self of all beings), sarvabhutadhivasah (immanent in all beings). Sarvavyapi (all-pervading) only once, but the indwelling presence thrice within a single verse. Here also: saman sarveshu bhuteshu tishthantam paramesvaram (the Supreme Lord is equally present in all beings). Again, twice that I am within all creatures: ahamatma gudakesa sarvabhutasayasthitah, aham adischa madhyam cha bhutanam anta eva cha (I am the Self, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all beings; I am the beginning, the middle and also the end of all beings).
This is something very, very important. Sarvabhutahridayastha (present in the heart of all beings) has been raised to that supreme height because of this fact—He indwells all creatures. Vasanat vasudevasya vasitam bhuvanatrayam, sarvabhutanivaso’si vasudeva namo’stu te—Thou indwellest all beings, O Lord. Therefore I bow to you in all. And Gurudev said: “Let us behold Thee in all these names and forms. Let us serve Thee in all these names and forms.” He did not say in all these men. Rather, he said in all these names and forms, whatever the name might be, whatever the form might be—not necessarily a human name and form, but whatever living beings God has created.
These are all powerful inducements to the three cardinal virtues that lead to liberation: ahimsa, satyam and brahmacharya (non-injury, truth and purity). If you are aware of the indwelling presence of God in all creatures, ahimsa is inevitable. If you are aware that He dwells within you, and He is satyasvarupa (essence of truth), asatya (untruth) to you is impossible and satya becomes imperative. If you are aware that He is within all creatures and within yourself, then our relationships have to be of the same quality as the indwelling presence in both us and in others—that is divine. And God is supreme purity—nitya suddha, amala, vimala, niranjana.Therefore man’s relationship to all fellow beings will also become pervaded by a supreme divine quality of purity. And samyama (self-control) and brahmacharya will become automatically realised if man keeps himself in the awareness of the presence of the silent Light of God within himself and all creatures.
Therefore, the relationship of each being to that indwelling Light of God is of the very essence. If that relationship is always borne in mind and kept in our heart, then our relationship with all other things automatically becomes right, proper, ideal and as it ought to be. Even the good that we do we will do because the Spirit of God indwells all creatures.
To be aware of this and therefore not to harm or do anything bad to any creature is a very essential part of our sadhana and spiritual life; otherwise, you will be offending God Whom you are trying to realise. If you are hostile towards nature, you are hostile to God, because God is immanent in nature and indwells all. And to be hostile and thus relate yourself destructively to any creature would be to destroy the sensitive ecological balance that has been created by the Master Mind, the Great Intelligence, which is no other than God Himself. Everything will be upset if any species of creature is harmed beyond limit. Our relationship with the environment, nature, with all creatures, with all other fellow human beings and ultimately our relationship with ourselves will become perfect if the relationship of ourselves and all beings to that indwelling Light of God is ever borne in mind.
Thus you see the four-fold relationship of awareness of man: awareness of the immanence of God in nature, awareness of the presence of God in all creatures, awareness of the presence of the Light of God in all fellow human beings and awareness of the ideal way to relate oneself to oneself—make oneself an instrument of God, make oneself a channel for the manifestation and expression of God’s divinity and God’s purity. This becomes sahaja (natural) to one who lives in the awareness of God’s indwelling presence in the form of the inner Light of lights beyond all darkness, which is in all hearts. And to be in awareness of this is to set right immediately your relationship to yourself. You can never stoop to harbour anything that is undivine or unspiritual either in your feelings or sentiments, nor in the thoughts of your mind or intellectual process.
Thus it is that immanence is key to divinity. Awareness of God’s presence within and without, in all beings, in all creatures, in all nature becomes the key, the secret of living in the awareness of the Yoga of the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga of the first verse of the Isopanishad. What more can I say? Be aware, be aware of God, aware of your relationship to Him, and make your life sublime and divine and attain the supreme, grand goal of all spiritual aspiration, of all spiritual life, of all spiritual sadhana,of all spiritual living, the grand goal of God-consciousness and divine perfection and liberation.
May God help you in your sincere endeavour to attain this supreme state here and now in this very body, in this very life! This is my prayer at the feet of Gurudev’s presence, at the Feet of God Who is within and without. Gurudev’s grace and God’s grace be upon you always and give you sure victory in this great quest!
(This article has been reproduced from the book, "Ponder These Truths" by Swami Chidananda)