You are the universal Self appearing as a limited human self. “That Thou Art” proclaim the spiritual masters of Vedanta.
Your true Self is changeless, infinite existence and complete bliss, but identified with your small ego-self, you experience constant change, mortality and a little joy every now and then.
When you shift your identification to your true Self, you experience inner peace and equanimity.
To be able to do this, it’s important to first understand what happens in identification and then turn your attention to your true Self.
According to spiritual teacher, Swami Aparajitananda, identification happens when there are two entities. “When entity “A” identifies with entity “B”, the properties of “B” appear to be the properties of “A”.
For example, while watching a suspense movie, you (entity “A”), get totally absorbed in the drama and identify with the main character (entity “B”). Soon, his emotions become your emotions. When he feels anxious, you feel anxious; when he suffers a loss or gain, you feel sad or elated.
To regain your inner poise, you have to remind yourself that it’s just a movie and the character you see on the screen is only an actor playing a temporary part. Shifting your identification to your real self ends the stress you were feeling
Similarly, in life, you forget who you really are and get caught up with your everyday identity and its concerns. To regain your inner peace, you have to remind yourself of your true spiritual nature.
Below are 5 pointers to connect to your true Self. I was inspired by Swami Aparajitananda’s talk wherein he enumerates 15 pointers to the Self.
These pointers indicate where to turn your mind’s attention and are best applied during your meditation practice. This is when the mind is relatively calm and more receptive to imbibing spiritual ideas.
Pointers to your True Self
1. Eternal Existence
Your Self is unlimited, eternal Existence. It is an eternal being that can never become non-existent.
When you identify with your body and mind, you experience a limited existence and mortality. You think you came into being when your body was born and hence think that when the body dies, you will die.
You can never die. Only the body dies. You, the pure Self, are immortal. You are that existence that can never be negated in the past, present or future.
The Self is Consciousness that is always aware. This Consciousness is the very core of your existence.
It is this awareness in you that enables you to be aware of the outer world of things, beings and circumstances and your inner world of physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and ideas.
We normally equate consciousness with the mind. But a conscious mind is not the Consciousness that is mentioned here. It is that Consciousness because of which the mind is conscious and able to know things.
The mind on its own cannot know anything. It is enlivened by the Self, the Consciousness.
When you identify with the mind, the moods and conditions of the mind appear to be yours. They are not. You are aware of them and hence they cannot be who you are. Therefore, they belong to the personality you and have no power over the real you.
Consciousness can be experienced as a vibrant knowing. The best time to practice knowing is in meditation.
When thoughts come up, identify with being the Consciousness that knows them. Turn your attention away from the thoughts to you, the Consciousness in which the thoughts appear, remain and die away.
When you are able to practice this in meditation, it will help you remain calm while meeting the ups and downs of your everyday life.
3. Infinite Bliss
Your true nature is infinite Bliss. It is perfect happiness, a completeness and fullness that never increases or wanes.
When you identify with your ego small-self, you experience degrees in your happiness—sometimes more, sometimes less.
What’s more, the happiness that you experience is conditional. It comes as a result of gaining something that you like, want or need. When you don’t get it, your happy feelings disappear and you begin to experience opposing states of mind such as agitations, sadness, and stress.
But Bliss is your true nature. It is only because of identification with the mind that you suffer its vacillating moods and conditions.
You perform actions to gain happiness from the world. But you are looking for it in the wrong place.
You are craving to be that which you already are.
The infinite, complete happiness that you are searching for is to be rediscovered within as your own blissful Self.
4. Inner Witness
Your true Self is the unattached inner witness that is conscious of your thoughts, words, and actions.
It remains uninvolved and never does any actions. But because you identify with your body and mind, it appears that you are thinking, speaking and doing.
The body, senses, feelings and thoughts have no ability to function on their own. They are all animated by Consciousness.
You, the inner witness are the non-doer since pure being and knowing are your real nature.
We can compare the Self to the sun. The sun doesn’t do anything. We may say it is giving off light and heat. But the fact is, light and heat are not actions performed by the sun. They are its nature just as being and knowing are the nature of your true Self.
The Self always remains as the indifferent inner witness that is untouched by the actions of the body, the senses and the mind.
The fifth pointer used to indicate the Self is “changeless”. Vedanta sometimes calls it kutastha—the anvil.
The anvil is a heavy iron block on which a blacksmith beats metals into shapes. The metals change their forms, but the anvil remains changeless.
Similarly, the body, emotions, and thoughts continuously change, but the Self remains the changeless witnessing consciousness that never undergoes any modifications at any time.
How can you prove that the real you, the Self is changeless?
Over the years your body has undergone many changes from childhood, youth to adulthood. Your emotions change throughout the day and your thoughts change every few seconds.
The real you must be the changeless inner witness that is conscious of all the changes. To be aware of the changes, you cannot be changing.
To explain, think about the different roles you play every day. For example, you are a parent at home, a motorist on the road, an employer or employee at work, a shopper at the grocery store and so on.
While playing each of these roles, you have different experiences. You are able to remember them all only because the real you doesn’t change.
If you also change along with every role and experience, the now “you” would be different from the previous “you”. If the two “you’s” are indeed different from each other, one wouldn’t be able to recollect the experiences of the other. After all, only the one who has an experience can remember it.
And so, there must be a separate, unchanging you that is conscious of all the experiences that your personality goes through. That changeless inner witness is your true Self.
Identification with the Self ends all sorrow
Identification with the ego-self, made of the constantly changing and aging body, senses and mind is the root cause for the sorrow we experience in our life.
Coming back to the example of identifying with the main character while watching a suspenseful movie—no amount of prayer, anxious actions or wishing will change anything. Only remembering that you are the spectator experiencing a drama unfold in front of you will calm you down. Then, no tragedy, death or destruction in the movie can ever touch you.
In the same way, the best remedy for sorrow is to connect to your blissful true Self that is the unchanging, eternal presence that is pure being and knowing. Only then will you experience permanent peace and happiness.
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