By Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami
In the midst of busy life, it is sometimes difficult to ponder such lofty ideals as life’s ultimate goal, but the quest for Truth comes to all eventually, and for most it awakens for a time during youth and old age. The great ones of the past have explained that our true nature is divine. We are not our body, mind or emotions. We are divine souls on a wondrous journey. We came from God, live in God and are evolving into oneness with God. We are, in truth, the Truth we seek. The name of that truth–the essence of our being–is the Self, with a capital S. In Sanskrit, it is called atman, or paramatma. Today I want to share with you an inspired talk about the Self that I gave in 1959 just before my first visit to Hawaii:
The Self: you can’t explain it. You can sense its existence through the refined state of your senses, but you cannot explain it. To know it, you have to experience it. And the best you can say about it is that it is the depth of your Being. It is the core of you. It is you.
If you visualize above you–nothing; below you–nothing; to the right of you–nothing; to the left of you–nothing; in front of you–nothing; in back of you–nothing; and dissolve yourself into that nothingness, that would be the best way you could explain the realization of the Self. And yet that nothingness would not be the absence of something, like the nothingness inside an empty box, which would be a void. That nothingness is the fullness of everything: the power, the sustaining power, of the existence of what appears to be everything.
After you realize the Self, you see the mind for what it is–a self-created principle. That is the mind ever creating itself. The mind is form ever creating form, preserving form, creating new forms and destroying old forms. That is the mind, the illusion, the great unreality, the part of you that in your thinking mind you dare to think is real. What gives the mind that power? Does the mind have power if it is unreal? What difference whether it has power or hasn’t power, or the very words that I am saying when the Self exists because of itself? You could live in the dream and become disturbed by it. Or you can seek and desire with a burning desire to cognize reality and be blissful because of it.
Man’s destiny leads him back to himself. Man’s destiny leads him into the cognition of his own Being; leads him further into the realization of his True Being. They say you must step onto the spiritual path to realize the Self. You only step on the spiritual path when you and you alone are ready. When what appears real to you loses its appearance of reality. Then and only then are you able to detach yourself enough to seek; to find a new and permanent reality.
Have you ever noticed that something you think is permanent, you and you alone give permanence to, through your protection of it? Have you ever stopped to even think and get a clear intellectual concept that the Self within you is the only permanent thing? That everything else is changing; that everything else has a direct wire connecting it to the realms of joy and sorrow? That is the mind.
After the realization of the Self, your effulgent being comes to life as you. Joy and sorrow become a study to you. You do not have to think to tell yourself that each in its own place is unreal. You know from the innermost depths of your being that form itself is not real. The subtlety of the joys that you experience as you come into your effulgent being cannot be described. They can only be projected to you if you are refined enough to pick up the subtlety of vibration. If you are in harmony enough, you can sense the great joy, the subtlety of the bliss that you will feel as you come closer and closer to your real Self.
If you strive to find the Self by using your mind, you will strive and strive in vain, because the mind cannot give you the Truth; a lie cannot give you truth. A lie can only entangle you in a web of deceit. But if you sensitize yourself, awaken your true, fine, beautiful qualities that all of you have, then you become a channel, a chalice in which your effulgent being will begin to shine. You will first think that a light is shining within you. You will seek to find that light. You will seek to hold it as you cherish and hold a beautiful gem. You will later find that the light that you found within you is in every pore, every cell of your body. You will later find that that light permeates every atom of the universe. You will later find that you are that light and what it permeates is the unreal illusion created by the mind.
How strong you must be to find this Truth. You must become very, very strong. How do you become strong? Exercise. You must exercise every muscle and sinew of your nature by obeying the dictates of the law, of the spiritual laws. It will be very difficult. A weak muscle is very difficult to make strong, but if you exercise over a period of time and do what you should do, it will respond. Your nature will respond too. But you must work at it. You must try. You must try. You must try very, very hard. Very diligently. How often? Ten minutes a day? No. Two hours a day? No. Twenty-four hours a day! Every day! You must try very, very hard.
Preparing you for the realization of the Self is like tuning up a violin, tightening up each string so it harmonizes with every other string. The more sensitive you are to tone, the better you can tune a violin, and the better the violin is tuned, the better the music. The stronger you are in your nature, the more you can bring through your real nature; the more you can enjoy the bliss of your true being. It is well worth working for. It is well worth craving for. It is well worth denying yourself many, many things for–to curb your nature. It is well worth struggling with your mind, to bring your mind under the dominion of your will.
Those of you who have experienced contemplation know the depth from which I am speaking. You have had a taste of your true Self. It has tasted like nothing that you have ever come in contact with before. It has filled and thrilled and permeated your whole being, even if you have remained in that state of contemplation only sixty seconds. Out of it you have gained a great knowing, a knowing that you could refer back to, a knowing that will bear the fruit of wisdom if you relate future life experiences to that knowing, a knowing greater than you could acquire at any university or institute of higher learning. Can you only try to gain a clear intellectual concept of realizing this Self that you felt permeating through you and through all form in your state of contemplation? That is your next step. Those of you who are wrestling with the mind in your many endeavors to try to concentrate the mind, to try to meditate, to try to become quiet, to try to relax, keep trying. Every positive effort that you make is not in vain. Every single brick added to a temple made of brick brings that temple closer to completion. So keep trying and one day, all of a sudden, you will pierce the inner realms of your mind and enter into contemplation. Then you will be able to say: “Yes, I know, I have seen. Now I know fully the path that I am on.” Keep trying. You have to start somewhere.
The Self you cannot speak of. You can only try to think about it, if you care to, in one way: feel your mind, body, and emotions, and know that you are the effulgent Being permeating through mind, which is all form; body, which you inhabit; and emotions that you either control or are controlled by. Think on that, ponder on that, and you will find you are the light within your eyes. You are the feel within your fingers. You are more radiant than the sun, purer than the snow, more subtle than the ether. Keep trying. Each time you try you are one step closer to your true effulgent Being.
Subtlest of the subtle, greatest of the great, the atman is hidden in the cave of the heart of all beings. He who, free from all urges, beholds Him overcomes sorrow, seeing, by grace of the Creator, the Lord and His glory.
Just as a light shines, dispelling darkness, so also the Supreme Self shines, dispelling ignorance. Just as a lamp spontaneously goes out if not fed with oil, so also the ego becomes extinct if one meditates unceasingly and becomes merged in the Self. There is no higher gain than the Self.