I, sometimes do a small exercise with my students, to help them recognize that the self is self-evident and simply cannot be negated.
In a cultural context of devotion, love and trust for one’s Ishta devata, the exercise begins when I ask them to quietly leave all that can objectified by them, with their Ishtha devata – who they feel safe to entrust with whatever is most precious for them. So it is in an atmosphere of relaxation that they hand at their Lord’s feet:
- · The world that they can objectify – they did not create this world – they simply hand over to their Lord who they understand to be the Creator
- · All concerns relating to the world – political issues, social issues .... everything
- · Since they have handed over the world, they can hand over all their roles in interacting with the world – whatever they may be – husband/wife, mother/father, brother/sister, other relations, friend, employee, employer, citizen etc .. and along with their roles they can hand over all their concerns and worries for the time-being to the Lord
- · Then they hand over the body ownership for the time-being, along with all their concerns regarding the body – as all of these are perceived and objectified
- · They next hand over their emotions and feelings regarding themselves and everything else- as they can be objectified too
- · They hand over whatever intellectual accomplishments they have, and all thoughts – they can be observed/objectified as well
- · They can observe their memories, so these too are handed over to the Lord
- · And of course they observe their ignorance – so they hand that over to the Lord as well.
Then I point out that you are the one who is observing – the perceiver. Now what is left .... the perceiver-I with nothing left to perceive. And of course this perceiver-I cannot be perceived – otherwise we could handover the perceiver too.
Is this perceiver present? Yes. Is the perceiver conscious?
This consciousness is self-evident is it not? It is self-revealing.
At this moment this self-evident consciousness is not identified with any aspect of a historical self-image. There is as though a temporary absence of the historical self-image.
I ask ‘Are you unhappy now?’
‘No’ they answer.
‘Are you uncomfortable?
‘No’ they answer.
In fact the freedom from self-image seems to bring on a lightness of being for them. They look radiant and happy.
Is this equivalent to self enlightenment?
Freedom is not temporary, nor is it conditional – that I am free only if the self-image is absent.
What needs to be recognized for enlightenment is that freedom is the very nature of Consciousness the Self – even when I take myself to be a historical self-image held prisoner by my mistake about my Self – even at that time, the Self – the witness of this self-image, is free.
Consciousness that shines here as self-evident I is always free.
Consciousness is ever sat – independent of all that is perceived in its presence and ever changeless. This fact, this reality has to be recognized. In the wake of this recognition alone, the sense of reality that is given to the historical self-image is destroyed.
Merely emptying oneself of one’s historical self-image, will give some temporary relief from one’s sense of bondage which will last only as long the historical self-image is absent.
The problem is the sense of reality that one gives to one’s self-image, and that sense of reality will go only in the wake of self-knowledge – not just by emptying oneself of the self-image.
Consciousness, the Self is THE independent reality and everything else is that appears to shine in its presence is DEPENDENT on it, even the self-image. There must be a recognition of the independent reality and in its wake the sting associated with the self-image is gone.
What the exercise does is give the students an understanding of the Self being self-evident, self-revealing consciousness independent of all that they believed they needed to simply be. I ask them to repeat it so that eventually they are able to confirm for themselves, that yes the self is self-evident, self-revealing and independent perceiver– if it were not independent, they will not be able to hand over anything to their Lord!
If one gets this far, enlightenment is not too far away!
Om Tat Sat