Litmus Tests for Self-realization – 1:

The deceptively simple looking Advaitic message “tat tvaM asi” (You are That) hides behind its elegance an enormous depth and profundity of philosophical contemplation. Either being unaware of or grossly ignoring the rigorous bodily and mental discipline that goes into prior preparation before one can appreciate fully the meaning of these significant Vedantic sentences (mahA vAkya-s) in this Internet age, one may believe that by mere hearing of that inimitable statement one is entitled to claim “ahaM brahma asmi” (I am brahman). S/he may even buttress that claim saying that “Nothing needs to be done and after Self-realization also it is all business as usual” because Shankara said that “I am already by my very nature forever blissful That” (nitya suddha buddha mukta svabhAvaH).

Fortunately for us, our ancient Advaita scriptures shine with ever-shimmering bright nuggets of ‘indicators’ sprinkled all over them. These nuggets are like the twinkling stars in the vast depths of space which help a seeker to test for himself/herself whether we truly grokked or not the message of the jIva-brahma ekatva (Oneness of the individual ‘me’ and the eternal, immutable, infinite Self).

One can find the simplest of the Litmus Tests in Bhagavad-Gita. For example, we have from Chapter 6, verse number 22:

यं लब्ध्वा चापरं लाभं मन्यते नाधिकं ततः 
यस्मिन्स्थितो दुःखेन गुरुणापि विचाल्यते

Having obtained [which] Self-knowledge,

(i) One does not think of any other acquisition to be superior to that. In other words, there is nothing more one searches for or desires. One would be totally and absolutely free of any “lack.”

(ii)  Being established in which Self-knowledge, one is not perturbed even by the greatest sorrow. In other words, one transcends sorrow, and is not affected by the visitations of – be they worst of calamities or equally joyful blessings.

The seeker may ask himself/herself: “Am I free of any likes and dislikes (wanting one and not wanting the other) and am I free from being affected by praise and insult?”

How does a Self-realized one behave and act?

With regard to any question that one may have regarding how such a Self-realized man will live and work in the world, the very first verse in the same Chapter informs us:

Ch 6, verse 1:

अनाश्रितः कर्मफलं कार्यं कर्म करोति यः 
स संन्यासी च योगी च न निरग्निर्न चाक्रियः ॥ 

Such a man would act and behave in the apparent world without a motive and having no expectations of a specific result. He would not be bothered by external symbolical renouncement nor would s/he be actionless.

(To Continue  … Part 2).

2 thoughts on “Litmus Tests for Self-realization – 1:

  1. Dear Ramesam

    From Shankara’s comments on this verse 6.1 and elsewhere, I’d suggest that it would be a mistaken interpretation to definitively conclude that a self-realised man would not sit doing nothing. Rather it is the intention, the motive (or lack of it) behind his actionless-ness.

    As Krishna says elsewhere, he sees action in inaction, and inaction in action.

    Best wishes,

  2. Dear Venkat,

    Thank you for pointing out the inappropriate words “sit doing nothing” chosen by me in my free translation of the verse 6.1 to expand on the intended meaning. I corrected the words and hope it reads okay now.


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