As one journeys through life, it may happen that questions arise as to what is the nature of the world around me, what is the purpose of life, how should one live, how / why do some experiences (good or bad) happen to me and not to anyone else. And for some, that may lead to a quest to find answers to such questions.
It may be that through science, through philosophy, or through religion one finds a path. The questions may initially be outwardly focused. But as one investigates the external world, the inevitable question must arise – what is the nature of ‘me’ that is trying to investigate the world?
So the ultimate quest has to be self-investigation; for without this self, there is no world that can be investigated. And in investigating the nature of one-self, one gradually realises that the body, mind and feelings are not really me, leaving only that which is the witness of all this. But this is elusive.
Vedanta is a set of beautiful pointers to help your buddhi gradually see the transiency of the world, and turn to the one constant that is conscious of the world. It is a pointer, because once the direction of travel is understood, it is no longer necessary to keep looking at the map. For understanding the vedantic scriptures is not the goal; understanding what is it that I am is the goal.
And to do that, it must be insufficient to simply accept some authority saying that ‘you are Brahman’. Liberation, freedom, can only mean absolute freedom from everything – including any and all authority. It means being able to stand alone, without any supports or crutches, and find out what it is you really are.
And so many of the sages of the 20th Century – Sri Ramana, Sri Atmananda, J Krishnamurti and Sri Nisargadatta advised just this.
Sri Atmananda commented (in Notes on Spiritual Discourses):
144: The basic error is the false identification of the ‘I’-principle with the body, senses or mind – each at a different time. This is the pivot round which our worldly life revolves.
151: Exactly in the way that the ego would examine other persons or activities outside you, standing separate from and unattached to the person or thing examined. Here you should stand separate from the body, senses and mind; and dispassionately examine them.