All that is known, or could ever be known, is through and by our minds. By the word ‘mind’ in this context I mean all experience of our thoughts, feelings, images and sensations, and our experience of the phenomenal world through the five sense perceptions. Thus, mind includes all thinking, imagining, remembering, feeling, sensing, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling.
Thoughts, feelings, images, memories, sensations and perceptions are known (i.e. experienced) by the mind and constitute its objective content (changing experience). But with what is all this objective content known or experienced by the mind?
We may say that the mind consists of two elements: its known content (the objective experience) and its knowing essence (capability to know or be aware of). The common name for the knowing or experiencing essence of the mind is ‘I’. Thus, ‘I’ denotes whatever it is that knows or is aware of in the midst of changing knowledge and experience.
Who or What am I?
We use the word ‘I’ many times a day. We have always identified ourselves as different individuals or persons. So this individual or person that I identify as myself is understood to be a physical body and a collection of thoughts, feelings, memories, and perceptions. However, I notice that my thoughts and perceptions are always coming and going and I am always aware of them, but I do not come and go with them. Therefore, I conclude, “I am not made of thoughts. The thoughts arise and I am aware of them, but I am not them. I am separate from them.”
Now I look at my feelings. For example, I do not always feel lonely. I just sometimes feel lonely. Whenever I feel lonely, the feeling comes and goes. The feeling just appears and I am aware of it. Then it disappears, but I remain as I am, as I have always been. I do not have the experience of a little bit of me disappearing when the feeling disappears. Similar other feelings, such as the feelings of being happy or unhappy, insecure, not being loved, being a failure or feelings of guilt all come and go. None of these feelings remain with me all the time. They all just pass by me. Thus, I realize that the essential nature of ‘I’ is not made of my feelings.
I experience my body through sensations. I rub my hands and I am aware of the sensation. If I have a headache or am hungry, I am aware of these sensations. I am always aware of them all. I am aware of the images I see, the sounds I hear, the tastes and the smells I have. They all come and go, but I don’t go with them.
Thus, I recognize that I am not a mixture of thoughts, feeling, sensations and perceptions, a bundle that is packaged inside my body. I understand that these are things that come and go. I am aware of them all, but I am separate from all of them.
I recognize that the ‘I’ that I have been referring to since I was a child has always been same ‘I’. I know that my thoughts have not always been with me, my feelings have not always been with me, my sensations have not always been with me, but I have been always present and aware. I have always been ‘I’. The only thing that has never left me, that has never parted from me or I have never ceased to be is simply this awareness presence (consciousness) that is ever present and aware of a person, the mind with its thoughts and feelings, sensations and perceptions and also aware of the phenomenal world.
Now I realize that all my life I have identified myself with my physical body and have mistaken myself to be a cluster of passing thoughts and feelings, sensations and perceptions. I have lived my entire life based upon this wrong notion of myself and interfaced with others based on this misunderstanding. Now I have discovered that my essential nature is ever present (sat) awareness (chit) with perfectly peaceful background (ananda) through which all thoughts and feelings and sensations and perceptions pass and are known. They do not affect this ever present awareness bliss, just as images appearing on the screen in a movie do not affect the screen on which the movie is cast. Thus, I am not the body-mind complex. I am ever present awareness and bliss – Chidananda roopah Shivoham Shivoham.
PAUSE FOR A FEW SECNDS
to observe the flow of your breath.
Become aware of a silent but powerful sense of presence.
How to Practice Self-inquiry?
Choose a convenient meditation posture. With eyes closed or semi-closed, hold the spine vertical, abdomen in, chest out, shoulders back, the chin parallel to the floor and the head upright. Most important is to sit very comfortably and not create any tension in the body.
Now mentally ask the question ‘Who am I?’ Pause and remain silent. Do not conceptualize the answer with your mind. Whenever thoughts arise, ask the same question again and again and observe silence
When the question ‘Who am I? is asked, the thoughts quickly vanish, the mind goes blank and you revert to the core thought ‘I am’, which is also called ego consciousness, body consciousness or consciousness. The inquiry ‘Who am I?’ turns the mind inward and makes it calm. The immediate benefit of this inquiry is peace and happiness that one slowly and slowly attains with continued practice. The ultimate goal this inquiry is Self-realization, which happens when the mind is free from thoughts, becomes pure and the Self is realized, says Ramana Maharshi.
Self-inquiry is the direct path to Self-realization or enlightenment. By study and continuous investigation into the nature of the mind, the mind itself gets transformed into that to which it owes its existence. The question ‘Who am I?’ has no answer in consciousness (mind). The fruit of Self-inquiry is the realization that the Self is all, and that there is nothing else.
The Self-awareness (capitalized) is the awareness of the Self (Consciousness) and self-awareness (uncapitalized), which has become latest management buzzward, means awareness of the mind. One byproduct of Self-inquiry is that by calming the mind it enhances self-awareness by helping to overcome mental restlessness and anxiety and augments clarity of the mind. A calm mind helps us to see ourselves clearly and we become more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively.