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On the path to Enlightenment, the method of enquiry can be divided into two distinct categories for simplicity and effectiveness: Enquiry of the Self and Enquiry of the mind. Otherwise, seekers would stray in wrong directions by misunderstanding enquiry of the Self and enquiry of the mind to be the same. There are many spiritual courses and activities in the world, through which seekers attain knowledge and experiences related to the body or the mind, but they are under the false assumption that they have attained knowledge and experience of the Self. This article discusses the enquiry of the Self.

To know who you truly are, you first ask yourself, “Who I am not?” You rule out everything else that you are not and then you will know who you are. A small story will help in understanding this point.

A woman was ill. She had a dream in which she was standing at the gates of heaven and calling out, “Let me in.” From inside the gates came a voice: “Who are you?” She replied, “I am a politician’s wife.” The voice said, “Who asked you about your husband? Tell me who you are.” She thought about it and said, “I am the mother of four children.” The voice boomed again, “Who asked you about your children? Simply state who you are.” She hesitatingly answered, “I am a teacher.” The voice said, “Who asked you about your profession? Why don’t you answer, who are you?” Unsure about what is being asked, she said, “I am a Christian.” The voice said, “Nobody asked you about your religion or caste. Who are you?” She could not give the right answer till the end, and out of fear, she woke up and her eyes opened. After her eyes opened, her life transformed.

When you look at a bicycle, exactly what do you call as the bicycle? Are the wheels the bicycle? No. Are the handles the bicycle? No. Are the pedals the bicycle? No. Is the seat the bicycle? No. Then what is the bicycle? ‘Bicycle’ is just a word that has been given for convenience. In the same way, ‘I’ is also a thought given for convenience. You have to enquire into this ‘I’.

Thus, first contemplate, “Who I am not?”

I am not this body because the moment I say this is “my body,” it is something outside of me. It is not me. I am not my car. My house cannot be me. Thus, my body cannot be me.
The name given to this body is not me.
The five elements of this physical body, i.e. earth, fire, water, air, and ether, are not me.
My astral body is not me.
The five sense organs of the body, i.e. eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin, are not me.
I am not the five senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.
I am also not the breath due to which this body-mind functions.
I am not the mind that thinks about what I should be.
I am not the intellect that is absent along with the body during deep sleep.

You are the one that remains. It is you who uses the physical and the astral body. Who-you-truly-are is the master of the intellect and the senses. It is the witnesser of the mind. And if you are not the body, mind, or intellect, then

how can you be an engineer or a doctor or a leader or a student?
how can you be a brother or a sister, a father, a mother, a husband, a wife, a friend, a son, a daughter, a disciple, or a Guru?
how can you be an American, an Indian, a British, or an Italian?
how can you be a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew?
how can you be white, black, brown, or yellow?
how can you be thin, fat, tall, short, beautiful, or ugly?
how can you be cheerful, intelligent, foolish, positive, honest, pious, active, or lazy?

Now, it is just you who remains—pure, stateless, without any name or form. Accept your true nature as it is and remain that. You have become something that you are not due to the belief that you are the body. Now it is time to get established in Consciousness, to be who you really are and abide in it.

As soon as you ask the question “Who am I?” you emerge from unconsciousness and become aware to receive the answer. This question pierces you like an arrow and drives you within to your centre. In the beginning you may not be able to recognize the deep silence or stillness within you in spite of reaching your centre (the Source or Self). However, by persisting with this question, you will gradually begin to recognize that state of consciousness which is your true self.

Thoughts are always running in the mind. You need a very powerful thought to annihilate these thoughts. You need steel to cut steel. An antidote for a poison is poison. In the same way, let one thought annihilate all other thoughts. “Who am I?” is a thought that will end every thought, notion, belief, and concept. All you need is to learn how to use this powerful weapon.

This is how “Enquiry of the Self with understanding” is practiced: Whenever a thought appears, be it of fear, greed, hatred, worry, frustration, depression, or anything else, ask yourself, “To whom has this thought occurred?” Or ask, “Who was afraid?” Or, “Who felt depressed?” The answer will arise, ‘I’. Now ask, “Who is this ‘I’? Who am I?” Attempt to locate this ‘I’. Keep your attention in the area of your heart. Do not worry about being successful in locating it. By attempting to locate the ‘I’, your mind will drop and you will reach the state of inner silence for some time. Another thought will appear after a few moments. You will again ask the question, “To whom has this thought occurred?” The reply will be, “To me.” Ask again, “Who is this me? Who am I?” Again, attempt to locate this ‘I’. In the process, the mind shall again drop. What will remain will be just your true self, the Self, the Consciousness, the experience of being, the stillness, the infinity. Thus, the answer to “Who am I?” is the state it leads to. This is the understanding that is most important in the practice of Enquiry of the Self with understanding.

You may begin by performing this enquiry every day for 20 minutes. You will close your eyes and sit in a comfortable posture, where the spine is straight but not tense. Try to keep your body completely still. Let your breathing continue normally. Then begin the process of Enquiry of the Self. It’s better to practice it right in the beginning of the day, so that you can enter your daily life as the real you. Very soon you will be able to conduct this enquiry even while working or carrying out your everyday activities, with eyes open, of course.

The idea behind “Enquiry of the Self with understanding” is that you are not supposed to give the answer merely in words, but instead to go to the source of thoughts, to go to that feeling of inner stillness or silence at your center. By attempting to locate the ‘I’, you have to let the mind drop so that you are in a no-mind state, even if it is just for a few seconds. This way, with consistent practice, you will start being on yourself, and eventually you would notice that the mind itself would like to go back to your center or source. The internal feeling is important, not the answers given by the intellect. You have to drop into the place from where thoughts originate

Christmas's picture

Inquiry of the Self

Interesting article. Self, Awareness, Consciousness, Being, that which is, Now, Eternal, timeless, child-like. By whatever name, isn't it simplicity itself? Too simple for words, no practice, simply aware, welcoming, vast, unconditioned by the past or the future. Here and now.

Christmas | Sun, 02/04/2018 - 07:54