It is a misconception to think that the process of Self-inquiry “leads” the seeker to the “Self.” It is not a positive process of movement like travel – starting from a station ‘A’ and arriving at the destination ‘B,’ keeping me, myself and my luggage intact safe and secure. One cannot look for novel experiences enroute like on a train journey nor does one hope to devour the scenic beauty along the path. Nor “I,” the inquirer, will find the Self at the end to shake hands or get a hug.
Self-inquiry is actually a process of becoming totally naked. Yes, Absolutely naked – not even retaining the modest covering that we dearly call as our body. It’s a negative process, a process of being disembodied. One has to lose not only whatever one thinks that s/he possesses (the entire bundle that can be put under ‘mine’ including objects, people, relationships etc.), but also whatever s/he thinks s/he is (all that defines what a ‘me’ is).
The two keywords that play a role in the process of Self-inquiry are:
i) Discrimination; and
The seeker first has to learn to discriminate between that which is changeable and that which does not change at all. This is, relatively speaking, a very easy process in the initial stages. Everything that we observe, see, learn, experience or come across in life in general ‘changes.’ Somethings may change from moment to moment – like the cells in our body or thoughts or our experiences. Somethings may take several years or even eons of time – like the mountains and stars. The ability to discern between what changes and what remains ‘eternally’ unchanging is “Discrimination.”
The first rule is that which changes cannot be the Truth. Once we identify each of such changeable entity, we should end our attachment or any type of relationship or identity with it. This second step is “Detachment.”
Continuing this 2-step process of Discrimination and Detachment, we find ourselves slowly getting detached from our own body, mind, accumulated knowledge and memory, intellect, and everything that we thought what we were. When nothing else is left to be stripped, the stripping process too ends – much like a fire gets extinguished when no more fuel is left to be burnt.
Mentally one may surmise that ‘nothing’ or ‘no-thing’ will remain at the end. But those who actually do this process find that an inexplicable, inexpressible, indescribable and immutable “Residuum” remains. It is not ‘nothingness.’ That Residuum is the Self. That is the unchanging Truth.
A spark of That Truth shines and illuminates each of our minds. We mistakenly take ourselves to be and identify ourselves with the ‘combo’ of tiny mind plus the illumination from the Residuum associated with the mind. But the scriptures tell us that we are not the finite changeable body or mind along with the glitter of the illumination, but the unlimited unbounded “Residuum” Itself. It is the Pure and Pristine Consciousness, the Knowing principle, left after every bit of what I used to take myself to be when I was a seeker has fallen.
To identify with and abide as That Infinite Residuum is Self-realization.
Very well said Ramesam.
THIS is true button up of the entire Vedanta in practical simple English!!!
This resonates with what Yajnavalka summarized for his wife Maitreyi in BU 4.5.15.
“In spite of truth being presented in a hundred ways, the Self is the last word of it all arrived at by process of NOT THIS, NOT THIS and nothing else is perceived either thru reasoning or thru scriptural statement, therefore the knowledge of this Self by the process of Not this, Not this and the renunciation of everything are only means of attaining immortality.”
BU 4.5 15 SB By Madhavananda page 544, 545.
Thank you, Vijay.
Very appropriate quote from BUB.
Just prior to reading Ramesam’s lucid words on Self-inquiry I came across this remarkable passage from a sermon by the 14th century German Christian mystic and theologian, Meister Eckhart, the tenor of which I think readers here (perhaps unlike the congregation who first heard them) can fully appreciate:
“When I preach it is my wont to speak about detachment (Abegescheidenheit), and of how man should rid himself of himself and all things. So what is he to do? He should first relinquish his own self: then he has relinquished everything. It is true: if a person relinquishes a kingdom or the entire world, but retains his own self, he has given up nothing. This is the nub of it. Get to know yourself, and, wherever you find yourself, leave yourself there. This is the best way.
Your soul should be unspiritual and stripped of all spirituality, for so long as your soul has a spirit’s form, it has images, and so long as it has images, it has a medium, and so long as it has a medium, it is not unity or simplicity. Therefore your soul must be unspiritual, free of all spirit, and must remain spiritless; for if you love God as he is God, as he is spirit, as he is person and as he is image – all this must go! If I say God is a being, it is not true. He is Being transcending beings and a transcending nothingness. ‘Then how should I love him?’ You should love him as he is nonGod, a nonspirit, a nonperson, a nonimage, but as he is pure, unmixed, bright ‘One’, separated from all duality; and in that One we should eternally sink down, out of ‘something’ into ‘nothing’, for which there is no name.”
Very clearly expressed, Ramesam!
“Fundamental to Advaita is the message that ultimately there is no other shore, no bridge, and no path. The reality is not to be attained for it is already attained and present, here and now. To realize this is to be liberated. Thus silence is the best conceivable means to convey this wisdom. All else will only increase one’s illusion and delusion. Silence – not because there is no answer, but because there is no question. SIlence is eloquent because it exactly characterizes the Reality’.” – John Grimes – https://www.advaita.org.uk/reading/read_general.htm#PerspectiveLanguage