We take ourselves to be individuals separate from one another and the world. Is this true or is it a false belief? If it is true then I am always an affected being – affected by the world around –sometimes favourably and many times unfavourably. I become whatever my conditioning allows me to be – nothing more – nothing less.
As an individual, I take myself to be limited in every which way and so I become a person with endless set of needs which beg to be fulfilled as a means to seeing myself as complete. Of course there are many unfulfilled needs and these make me live life with the endless pursuit of needs fulfilment. When needs are fulfilled legitimately there are consequent feelings of satisfaction and when they cannot be fulfilled for any reason whatsoever, or they are fulfilled without heed to the universal code of values, there is conflict, anger, hurt, anxiety, frustration, guilt etc.
This is my lot as an individual. Then I am like a fish imprisoned in a submarine!!! There is no freedom – there is only living being controlled helplessly by my conditioning and believing that to be my truth.
Vedanta asks us to make an inquiry into whether I am an individual and gives us a simple logical method that helps us question our belief that I am this personality that I believe myself to be. Thus it helps us to first see even the possibility that we could be wrong in our estimate of ourselves.
It points out a rule which is - that whatever you can objectify, whatever you can know or experience is not you for the simple reason that you are the subject who knows – you are never an object that is known.
For example you know the building you are staying in – and you also know that you are not the building that you objectify. Similarly, you know the clothes you are wearing and you also know that you are not the clothes that you objectify. When it come to physical things external to the body, we have no problem in understanding this. But the minute we come to our body – to the skin of the body – we look upon it as ‘I’ – even though it is clearly something we objectify and know. So too, even though we know our feelings and our thoughts – even though they are clearly objects of our knowledge, our experience –still we take them to be ‘me’.
This is THE error that causes all the sorrow in our lives.
Vedanta says strip away from your belief of yourself all that you have added through ignorance of your real self – so for the time being strip away in your understanding – the body, its physiological functions, the mind with all of its ways of thinking, beliefs, feelings, needs, memories and ignorance from your sense of ‘I’. Strip them all away from your sense of ‘I’, which is direct and immediate and see what is there. Stay with that ... stay with that ... stay with that ... again and again stay with that – ... you may say I feel sacred ... hey fear is an object of your knowledge – you are not fear – remove fear also from your understanding of yourself ... You may say I feel a void, a great discomfort ... hey void is also something you are objectifying .... you are not what you objectify ... use that assimilated rule again and again ... and stay with what remains without identifying with anything – be it thought, feeling, memory, sensation - that comes up as an object of your knowledge and experience.
As you stay through understanding, with the sense of I, from which all ideas of objects has been taken away, you begin to recognize that you are irrefutably a basic conscious being, a conscious presence – basic self-existent self-revealing consciousness that is present at all times, illumining every experience of objectification, in reality untouched by the experience. Just as sunlight is untouched by all that is illumined in its presence.
Vedanta examines the nature of reality. Whatever you experience is a changing reality - and it depends on YOU, the unchanging reality. You are the unchanging truth, the unchanging reality of the personality that you experience, independent of the personality that you experience yourself as.
Not identifying with anything that may come up you experience yourself as vast spaciousness -you recognize that the words of Vedanta, which reveal the truth of yourself as limitless, timeless consciousness is true. You are That. You are the limitless timeless consciousness that Vedanta, the means of knowledge in the form of words, is revealing. This understanding is sometimes experienced as a sense of vast spaciousness in which every experience seemingly takes place, inseparate from you.
It is only when there is identification due to ignorance with the object of experience, be it the body-mind or anything external to the body, that one assumes that one is a personality limited by the conditioning of the body-mind or the experiences in the external world.
So to dispute your belief that you are a personality, a limited individual, first you need to see the possibility of your being something else. For that use the rule given by Vedanta – again and again and again and again see what you are not – and stay with what remains – which is the sense of ‘I’. Stay with that I-sense which has been divested of the sense of reality in all that is added on to it in ignorance. If you can do that, stay with the sense of I, which has nothing added to it – which is just ‘I am’ – just Being – that very staying will help stabilize your understanding of I to be independent of the personality. You also assimilate that the personality is not independent of you, the consciousness in whose presence it manifests and is enlivened and empowered.
And once you assimilate that you are independent of the personality whereas the personality is not independent of you, the words used by Vedanta that reveal your true nature, reveal their meaning to you and you recognize that YOU are the meaning – limitless timeless absolute consciousness from whom nothing is separate.
Om Tat Sat