Self-inquiry for busy people

Ava: If I don’t know the self, how can I become established in its point of view?  

Vishnu: By being taught scripture. It tells you about the nature of self (which is just your true nature), it tells you the self’s ‘point of view’ (which is really just your true point of view) and then shows you how to think from that point of view until you directly realize that it’s already your own point of view (and always has been).  

The scripture tells you that you, the self, are the limitless, non-dual, ever-present, eternal, unchanging ‘witness’ of everything. You lack nothing and aren’t affected by anything. In other words, you are completely okay at all times and in all circumstances.

Taking into account what the scripture says about your true nature, examine your fears and desires. If you lacking nothing, are your unnecessary desires warranted? If you are unchanging is there any reason to hang on to unreasonable fears? This is one way to take the ‘point of view’ of the self.

Another way is to remember the scripture’s assertion that you are the unchanging, ever-present reality in which all objects appear, objects being any aspect of external experience (people, places, things) or internal experience (thoughts, emotions, memories). Since you are that in which the objects appear, like a movie screen in which images appear, you cannot be the objects that appear in you, the same way that a movie screen is never the images projected onto it. 

Since you are unchanging, you cannot be an ever-changing object. Since you are ever-present, you cannot be a transient object. Applying this logic to your everyday experience on a moment-to-moment basis is another way of taking the ‘point of view’ of the self. It is called the discrimination (viveka) between the self (atma) and the ‘not-self’ (anatma), or atma anatma viveka. It is continuously distinguishing oneself—unchanging ‘witnessing’ consciousness—from objects. 

Ava: How can I be in the self when I’m surrounded by friends, family, work etc. and not just when I’m by myself?  

Vishnu: It just takes practice. It’s like learning to ride a bike. First you have to have a strong desire.  Otherwise you won’t have the will to get back on the bike when you fall off. Then you simply get on the bike, fall off, get back on and fall off again and again until you develop the ability remain perfectly balanced and ride. After a while, it becomes so second nature to ride the bike that it doesn’t require as much effort. You may even be able to take your hands off of the handlebars!

With Vedanta, you also need a strong desire, specifically the unyielding desire (mumukshutva) for liberation (moksha). Without this, it’s difficult to muster up the effort required to bring the mind back to the point of view of the self when it gets distracted. You simply have to try, get distracted, try and get distracted again and again until the mind remains firmly established in the point of view of the self.

Although thinking from this point of view starts to become second nature, unlike the bike example, don’t be tempted to take your hands off the handlebars of inquiry, so to speak. Self-ignorance is persistent and tricky so if you stop paying attention to it before it’s fully rooted out, it will come right back.

Finally, looking at your initial question from the point of view of the self, ask yourself this: If I am already the self, how you can I ever not be in the self?

Ava: This isn’t coming naturally for me.  It takes effort and concentration which hard to do when I’m busy non-stop and don’t have time to reflect on it.

V: Again, it takes no effort to be in the self because you are the self. It is the most natural thing there is. The hard part is to see that this is true.  When it’s not clear that you already are the self, a lot of effort is required to conduct dedicated self-inquiry, and no, this does not come naturally. It just takes hard work, plain and simple.

Still, it helps to take an objective look at your life and find out if there are people or activities that are needlessly taking up your time (and thus distracting you from inquiry). You might be surprised. Keep only what is essential, get rid of the rest. Whatever is essential, do with a positive attitude.  And do it for it’s own sake, not getting overly concerned with the result.  

Ava: Can people really get self-knowledge when they don’t have a peaceful environment to do self-inquiry?  

V: Absolutely, assuming you are properly qualified—meaning mentally prepared—because self-inquiry is meant to go on at all times and in all situations. It is equally important in times of quiet contemplation as it is in times of stress. In the scriptures there are many examples of enlightened people who had families and busy lives.

So, in no uncertain terms, let me repeat that moksha is possible for any qualified person irrespective of their life circumstances.

And not to put too fine a point on it, saying “I’m too busy for self-inquiry” only means, “I’m not serious about self-inquiry.”  Why?  Because people always make time for what is most important to them.  


Have a Question?

The Practical Application of Vedanta

Q: What is the practical application of Advaita Vedanta in everyday life?

A:  The conclusion of Advaita Vedanta is: Brahman alone is real; the individual person you think you are is illusory; the essence (true nature) of the illusory person is brahman; therefore, you are brahman.

What is brahman?  Immortal, unchanging, limitless, self-existent consciousness. As such, it does not suffer when the body and mind suffer.

So what is the practical application of knowing that you’re brahman?  Well, when you’ve realized the truth of Vedanta for yourself (that you are brahman), the illusory world doesn’t suddenly disappear. It continues on just as before.

But the difference is that instead of going about your life riddled with the anxiety caused by believing that you’re the body-mind, you can live your life knowing that no matter what happens to the body-mind, you are always completely okay (because you are really brahman, not the body-mind). When this is clear, you no longer have to rely on the state of the body-mind (or it’s external circumstances) for security and peace of mind. You understand that as brahman, security and peace are your very nature (insofar as you are ever-present, unchanging and undisturbed by the world).  Bringing this knowledge to the forefront of your mind when you’re presented with life’s difficulties is the practical “application” of the self-knowledge gained from Advaita Vedanta.

All my best – Vishnudeva


Steady Wisdom: Day 51

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 51

I am infinite and pure, free from attachment and desire.  I am at peace.  Objects are illusory and they do not limit me in any way. 
-Ashtavakra Samhita 7:4

Do the objects I experience limit me, pure consciousness, in any way?  No.  I am consciousness in the presence or absence of objects.  They come and go but I remain as the very light which reveals their coming and going. 

Do the objects I experience limit me, pure existence, in any way?  No.  I exist (and I am existence itself) before, during and after the appearance of an object.  Otherwise, how could I even say that an object appeared and subsequently disappeared?  Further, as existence itself, I am the intrinsic nature of all objects, just as gold is the intrinsic nature of all gold rings.  Just as the appearance of a ring does not limit the nature of gold, so the appearance of objects does not limit me. OM.  

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Steady Wisdom: Day 35

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 35

I am the limitless ocean of consciousness.  In me the wind of the mind produces the diverse waves of the world.  I remain unaffected. 
-Ashtavakra Samhita 2:23

The world appears as thought-waves in the ocean of the mind.  But the mind appears as a wave in me, the limitless ocean of consciousness.  The mind comes, goes and changes but I, consciousness, remain unchanged.  Therefore I am unaffected by the world. 

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Steady Wisdom: Day 28

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 28

The fact is that I am not conscious of anything either within or outside myself, either one at a time or simultaneously.  Nor am I non-consciousness.  Therefore I am neither a hearer nor a thinker, nor a knower of anything; I am the eternal, inmost witnessing consciousness.
– Sarva Vedanta Siddhanta Sara Sangraha V.840

I am consciousness—I alone exist.  Because there is only me, there is nothing within myself or outside of myself to be known, either one at a time as a series of thoughts or all at the same time as a group of thoughts. But how can I not be a knower if I am not non-consciousness?  It is because knowing is a function of the mind, the same as hearing and thinking.  As eternal witnessing consciousness I do not actively know the functions of the mind.  Rather, I passively reveal the mind, similar to the way the sun passively illuminates the comings and goings of the world.  Since anything revealed is none other than myself, nothing is ever truly revealed.  OM. 

Read Series Introduction