Self-Realisation, Its Meaning and Method
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 2

We had occasion to consider some of the difficulties in even conceiving what Self-Realisation could be. The difficulties are poignant enough and must have been clear to our minds to some extent by now. The difficulty is simple. It is simple because it concerns our own selves. It is terrific for the same reason. The nearer we come to ourselves, the more intricate does life appear, and the more formidable in its variegated presentations, so that the most frightening element in the world is our own Self. But we call this fear of ourselves a joy that we try to import from that which we are not. Imported goods come from a foreign land to which we do not belong, the world of nature, space, time and objects. These goods which do not belong to us are appropriated by us as supports, when we are drowned in the sea of an inexplicable position that we seem to be occupying in this mysterious atmosphere we call the world. There are countless things in the world which attract our attention, and no one can easily gainsay that the objects of the world are given a greater pre-eminence, prominence and importance than one’s own self. The weaker and the lesser the status occupied by one’s own self, the greater is the value that one sees in the outer world, so that when you have lost yourself completely, you seek nothing but the world outside. This is total materialism, a matter-of-fact merging of oneself in that which one is not, a negation of the Self in the not-Self. When it is total, literally one-hundred-percent, it becomes the doctrine of the supremacy of matter, so that there is nobody even to think that matter is, because that one who thinks that matter is, has become part of matter. This is the worst that can happen to anyone, and we people in the world do not seem to be very far from this terrible predicament. The value that human understanding attaches to the world of objects is the touchstone by which we can assess the value of the self of man. To what extent is the world of objects valuable to you? To that extent your value is negated, denied and suppressed. The larger the world before you, the smaller you are; and the grander the world of objects before you, the more ugly you look and meaningless is your existence, because all meaning has been transferred to the world of objects. When all the meaning of life is only in the outer world, there is no meaning in one’s own self. The attribution of value and meaning to the world of objects is a simultaneous negation of value to the self. It is utter slavery to matter, and matter is that which consciousness is not. If this is the world in which we are living and this is the life with which we can be satisfied, no one can educate us, because there is, then, no need for an enlightenment called education.

We were broadly discussing the various facets of the problem of the concept of the Self, inasmuch as it has vital relationship with what many a man in the world calls Self-Realisation. “I want Self-Realisation.” This is the honest feeling of several seekers who seem to tread the path of what they consider as Truth. We have seen how hard this issue is, this subject is, how easily we can misconstrue the meaning of the Self, and how quickly the erroneous meaning attached to it can be abused for purposes for which it is not intended, because there are no means available in the world to know what the Self is. We have instruments, but all the instruments belong to the world of Nature, and if the world is not the Self but that which is known by the self, it cannot be organically related to the Self. Hence, the seekers of Self-Realisation or the searchers of the ‘Self’ are placed in a very difficult position. ‘By what means can I apprehend the Self?’ ‘With my eyes I can see things, with my sense-organs I can contact the things of the world, but with what means can I know the Self?’ All the means we can conceive belong to the world external to the Self, and therefore there seems to be nothing which can be of real assistance in one’s search for what the Self is, or, rather, where the Self is. We bordered finally upon the difficulty in relying entirely on one’s own intellectual capacity, since the intellect is mostly playing second fiddle to the tune of the senses, and it is not always a guide, especially along the further reaches in the adventure of the Spirit. It has a tentative assisting capacity but it halts at a particular border-point, and that border where the intellect will cease functioning, rationality will stop working, is that hair’s breadth of distance differentiating consciousness from matter. No one can know how these are differentiated, while one has to accept that the one cannot be the other. Where lies the difference? Where is this borderline between consciousness and matter? There the intellect halts, because the intellect is an equipment which is externally manoeuvred by the operations of space, time, cause, relation, and, therefore, it is a property of the world of Nature, though in a highly rarefied form. Hence, even the intellect and the reason cannot be regarded as final means in the knowledge of the Self or as equipments for the purpose of Self-Realisation. They have a negative value in telling us what things are not, but what things are, they cannot say. We may say that anything with which we identify ourselves is also our self. It becomes my love when it stands inseparable from my existence. In some mysterious, unknown way, a thing, an object, a person or a condition gets identified with a person, and that is certainly a type of self. One loves as one’s own self that with which one has identified oneself—my country, my nation, my people, my community, my husband, my wife, my property, my building, my this, my that. People get worked up into emotions of great intensity oftentimes when they behold interferences in the way of that with which they have identified themselves. The father cannot tolerate interference with his children, and an owner of a property cannot tolerate interference with his property. An interference cannot be tolerated because it is an interference with one’s own self. It is ‘me’ that is present in ‘my’ land, in ‘my’ house, in ‘my’ money, in ‘my’ friend, in anything which is inseparable from ‘me’. I live by it and it lives by me, I swear by it and it swears by me.

The Self is an intriguing something. It is intriguing because it can deceive us into conditions of belief which are totally opposed to fact and reality. This is exactly what is happening to us in the mundane world. The ferocious attachments frantically manifested by people, whether in the cause of a nation, or in the cause of a religion, should be considered as demonstrations of this folly before man, the great wiseacre, in this world. In a very homely prosaic and visible practical matter-of-fact sense, we may say that the Self is anything from which one cannot be separated and with which one is emotionally bound. When a person is emotionally tied up to a particular object, one does not believe that it is merely an emotional relation. It is not considered at that time as an operation of the psyche within. The consciousness which is the root of one’s being jets forth with a tremendous velocity through the operation of the psyche called emotion or feeling and envelops that object which becomes that thing from which one cannot be separated. As sunlight envelops an object and makes it an object of perception, it becomes visible to the eyes. Emotions envelop objects of affection and hatred: positive envelopments are called love, negative forms of the same are called hatred. This is a difficult thing to conceive in our minds because we are no more cognisers of this psychic activity. We stand outside the objects of cognition and perception when we scientifically encounter things in the world, or act as spectators or witnesses of phenomena. But emotional activity is not a phenomenon outside which we can stand as umpires, spectators or witnesses. We ourselves melt into the liquid of emotion and pour ourselves on the object with which we identify ourselves. And as we ourselves have become liquid melted into the form of the enveloping power that has covered the object, we are no more there to see what is happening. We are no more there because we have become liquid. We have poured ourselves on that object of affection, and inasmuch as we have poured ourselves on that object we have become that object, so that the object is the only thing valuable in the world, and the Self is destroyed completely. The greater the love for an object, the deeper is the cut that you deal to the Self, so that the person who is merged in unprecedented affection for any object does not anymore exist as a human being. That person has ceased to be, the Self has become the object, the Atman has become the un-Atman, to repeat again, consciousness has become matter. Life has become death. It is not for nothing that we say that this is the world of death, mrityuloka. This is called the world of destruction, transiency, death and oblivion and darkness, and what not, as mystics and theologians tell us tirelessly. This is not the world of life, this is the world of death. Why is this the world of death, because the Self has to die first, in order that it may live in the object. And if any of us continues living in the object outside, to that extent we are dead. So we are not wholly alive, partially we may seem to be breathing as vegetables, but entire life does not seem to be bequeathed to us, since part of our life has gone to the object which we consider as inseparable from ourselves. Is there anything in the world which is inseparable from you, with which you have wholly identified yourself, or at least in a large percentage, or even in some small percentage? To that extent you are not the Self. The element of the non-Self has entered you, and that element of the not-Self has robbed you of the joy of the Self, and appropriated the Self to itself. The Self has become the not-Self.

What is the Self then? It is anything with which you have identified yourself. In technical language, we call this kind of self, gaunatman, a secondary and foisted self. An ‘object’ cannot ‘become’ you. The great Acharya, Sankara, commences his exposition of the Brahma-Sutras with a tremendous statement, an immortal proclamation, that the subject and the object are like light and darkness; they can never be in the same place, and the one cannot be identified with the other. Yet, we do nothing but that. We identify light with darkness, darkness with light, the subject must become the object in order that it may be an object of love. Love is nothing but the subject becoming the object. And Acharya Sankara says this cannot be, and we are saying that this has to be. So, here, we are in this world of terrific difficulties,—created by whom, no one knows. This gaunatman, this secondary self, is the object of affection and aversion, which are two sides of the same coin. What is the self that you are seeking, when you say, ‘I am after Self-Realisation?’ Let each one ponder deeply in one’s heart. What sort of ‘Self’ is it that you are asking for in your Self-Realisation? The ‘Self’, in one way, as I pointed out, is that with which you have identified yourself. Well, let it be there, and that is one aspect of the matter. Now, what do you mean by identification? Can you become something else? Can A become B? In the language of logic, A is supposed to be A, and A can never be B. This is the law of contradiction. If A cannot be B, you cannot be somebody else. How has it happened, then, that man has become other than what he is in his affections? How is it that he has found it necessary to seek his own Self in what is outside him? Where was the necessity? If the necessity is not there, affections cannot be in this world. Nobody can love anything, no contact of one with the other is possible. But such a thing is seen, and it is very much there. How does identification of the subject with the object take place? And how does A become B? How does light become darkness? Very intriguing indeed! Such things cannot happen, but they must happen in order that the present type of life in this world may assume any meaning at all. If this is the meaning of our life in this world, you can imagine well what sort of meaning it should be. Is there any meaning in the way in which we are living in the world? It is not for nothing that Milton had to write such a long poem on the fall of the angel to describe this condition, and he has described only ourselves, not somebody else about whom we are reading. This gaunatman, this self that is outside, that which identifies itself, is actually incapable of identification. I cannot be anything other than myself. How can I be non-I? But I have to be non-I in order that I may have an affection for anything. So, the loves of the world are the transference of the Self to that which is not the Self, in a very artificially contrived manner. It cannot be a natural action. It cannot be natural because A cannot become B. And any attempt to convert the A that it is, into the B that it is not, would be an artificial whitewash and this artificing of A with B which it is not, is the whole business of life. All our adjustments and adaptations in life are the dovetailing of A with B, while such a thing can never be. Hence, this is not the Self that you are seeking in Self-Realisation, when you say, “I want Self-Realisation.” How would you be satisfied with a contrived Self-Realisation, connived condition in an artificial projection on a screen, a shadow of a substance? The Self that you see in the object of your affection and love and attachment and identification is the shadow that is cast on the screen of the Self, and no one can be satisfied with the possession of a shadow. Hence, loves and hatreds are meaningless propositions of the mind in being happy in this world. This is one part of the story, this drama of life in this world-search for the Self.

Everyone is made up of the Self only in this world, nobody wants anything else. When you ‘want’ something, you are asking for your ‘Self,’ and nobody else. It is nobody else because it is identified with you and thereby it has ‘become’ you. The intensity and the percentage with which it has become you is also the percentage of the Self which is there. So, this is a kind of Self-Realisation, indeed. But when a seeker, a sadhaka, a searcher of Truth, says that he is after Self-Realisation, is this the kind of Self that he is seeking, the mortal self of artificial identification with that which one is not? Naturally, no sensible person will say that this is the Self that he is asking for. So, it is not the gaunatman, the secondary, foisted self that we are in need of. It is not anything in this world that you are referring to when you want the ‘Self.’ It cannot be anything that is in the world because everything that is in the world is outside the perceiving consciousness. It is in space, in time, it is located somewhere and therefore it is an object and it cannot be a subject. Thus, when you say, “I want Self-Realisation,” you are definitely not asking for anything in this world; it becomes clear from this analysis. It is not something in this world that you are asking for; what else are you asking? There is nothing else that you can conceive in your mind. If this is not the world that I want, and when I say, “I want Self-Realisation,” I am not asking for anything in this world, what on earth am I asking for? Well, you may say, like a child, “I am asking for my own Self.” This is a child’s answer. Why is it a child’s answer? Because it is involved in a great difficulty about which we have made some reference previously. When you say “my own self,” what do you mean? Here we come to another concept of Self, in philosophical parlance called the mithyatman, or the false self. Whatever I have been telling you, all this is concerning the secondary self, the gaunatman, the objective self, the foisted, shadowed self in the world as things loved or not liked. Now there is another difficulty before us. While it is sensible to believe that most seekers are honest enough to realise that they are not asking for anything in this world when they want Self-Realisation, they may not be clear as to what else they are asking for. They have always something simple to say—’it is my ‘within’ that I am seeking for.’ We easily say that the Self is within, and if the Self is not anything that is outside in the world, it has naturally to be that which is ‘within me.’ I have tried to explain to you last time how this idea of ‘within’ is very eluding; because we cannot easily know what we mean by this notion of the within. I repeat again what I told you last time. It is a ‘within’ every blessed thing, within me, within you, within X, Y, Z and A, B, C, D. So, inasmuch as it is within the sun and the stars and the moon and the earth and the human beings and this and that, we may say that it is a ‘withinness’ without a ‘withoutness.’ It is a kind of within, no doubt, because it is inside everything; accepted. But the fact of its being within everything precludes there being anything without it. Hence, the word ‘within’ also is not wholly applicable to the concept or the notion of the Self. Therefore, it becomes necessary for us to be a little cautious when we say that we want the Self which is ‘within.’ What sort of ‘within’ are you thinking of, should be clear. You may ask me, why is this need felt for a clarification of this kind? The necessity arises because it is easy to slip into the trap of what psychoanalysts call an ‘introversion’ of the mind or, sometimes they even use a worse word, ‘narcissistic introversion,’ a purely western psychoanalytic term which has its own morbid implications, a locked-up psychic personality, limited to purely subjective psychic operations within the skull of one’s own self, limiting the notion of the self to the operations within the physical body only. Carl Jung, the great psychoanalyst of Zurich, made a discovery indeed when he classified human beings into the extroverts and the introverts. This classification is not unknown to Indian psychologists. Patanjali has said this before Jung was born. However, we know this only when it became pronounced and announced to public knowledge by psychoanalysts of this kind, who belong to the circle called ‘analytic psychology’.

While we may be austerely and religiously guarded from identifying our objective in life with anything that is in the world, we may get into the cocoon of a self-centred limited notion of the self, and we may become introverts as opposed to what they call extroversion. This difficulty of a possible or apparent contradiction—in reality there is no contradiction—between the introverted and the extroverted attitude in life, this difficulty has also been the cause of the war between what people call jnana and karma, knowledge and action. There are people fanatically clinging to the doctrine of anti-action, only knowledge, knowledge opposed to action. There are others who are extroverts, who believe not in any kind of ideational concept of knowledge, but believe in work, action, doing something materially, practically. We have the controversy between knowledge and action, jnana and karma, from ancient times, in India, and this is seen among mystical circles in Europe, also. Contemplation and action are the two sides of the proposition in spiritual outlook. Now, the Bhagavadgita, particularly, has been a great breakthrough in solving this problem of the apparent antagonism between knowledge and action. The Isavasya Upanishad has already mentioned it—it was earlier than the Bhagavadgita—when it said that avidya and vidya, two terms which it uses in one place, seem to be opposed to each other. While you are a great success and an achievement in your abrogation of attachment to outside things by renunciation, living the life of an ascetic or a monk, you may be caught by the introversion-complex where you may be a hater of things, a despiser of the world and a condemner of creation itself as an evil, and religious outlooks are not unknown in this world where the world is dubbed as Satan’s realm so that you cannot look at anything in the world, you have to close your eyes to everything. This is one extreme. The other extreme is already mentioned—a total absorption in matter and destroying one’s self thereby. Either way mistakes can be comntitted. While the gaunatman, or the externally motivated objective self, is to be guarded against, we have also to guard ourselves against identifying ourselves with any kind of psychoanalytic, or, rather, psychopathological condition of introversion in the sense of pure physical subjectivity, because the ‘Self’ is not locked up in the body. So, you cannot say, I want the ‘Self,’ and I care a hoot for anybody else. This kind of statement loses sense in the light of the fact that the Self is not within one person only. The extrovert and the introvert conditions are ruled out completely in the true concept of the Self, because in this withinness of the Self, the withoutness is rooted out totally. It is not a going within as opposed to reaching without. When you go within yourself, it does not mean that you are going further from the world,—it is not. Both extremes meet finally. There is no distance in the Self. Moving within and moving away are words which have to be taken with a pinch of salt. They lose sense here, in this realm of distanceless existence.

What do you want, when you say, “I want Self-Realisation?” You will be finding yourself in a maze of difficulty, psychologically. I cannot complete this discussion today, because there is something else which I would like to say as an interim explanation of a difficulty which is the cause of our not being able to concentrate on the true notion of the Self. This interim difficulty , is our unpreparedness for this practice. We have been too very enthusiastic but unbaked pots, as people generally say, which cannot contain much water. The unpreparedness of ourselves for this task ahead consists in our subtle longing for empirical values in life, in the heart of our hearts. We are, at the recesses of our hearts, not free from a little liking or interest in that which the Self is not. This little lurking, a feeling of ‘why not have it,’’let us have it if it comes,’ this little root of the longing for that which the Self is not, the possibility of the rise of that, is the barrier before us. A complete conviction that the Realisation of the Self includes every blessed thing we call the joys of life is not easy to obtain. We have a subtle difficulty created by our own selves. What is this subtlety, you may ask me. Even the best of people cannot escape from this ‘strait gate,’ because somehow, some voice, whose voice we do not know, will tell us that we are losing something when we are gaining the Self. That is enough for us, and we do not want to hear anything further. I am losing something simultaneously when I gain the Self. And who would like to lose a penny, as it is a valuable something? Now, is there any penny-worth value in this world? We find not merely pennies but heaps of Pounds, and who can dare say that these values are not seen in life? No use merely saying, ‘I see not,’ for you see, and the heart has to say whether it sees or not. To what extent are you able to convince yourself that the values of the world are contained in the Self, and your asking for the Self is not an asking for that which is outside the world, thereby losing something of the world, but that which occupies everything in the world, contains everything that is in the world in a transmuted and highly rarefied form, so that the gaining of the Self is not a loss of the world, but a gaining of that which is more than the world? Who can become convinced to such an extent? Intellectually, rationally, philosophically we are convinced, but the heart is a terrible friend and it is not going to listen to things so easily. Because fear grips us when we are encountered with the possibility of leaving this world of sensory experience. Death is a fright. Who would like to die? Why are we afraid of dying? Here is an example before us. To what extent we attach value to things here, to this body, and to everything connected with the body? Death is fearful. It is fearful because we lose a value, the greatest value, this body and everything that is related to this body, also. Where comes the Self here? Why cry for the Self? These are impediments on the way meanwhile, which they call the dross of the mind. Vairagya, which is always considered as a necessary prerequisite for Self-Realisation, is not to become a monk in the ordinary sense, or to become a nun. It is not a social change that you have to bring about in your outward conduct. Rather, it is a transvaluation of values within and the conviction of the reason that it has grappled actually the substance of the whole world in grappling with the Self is essential. When you grasp the Self, you have grasped the universe. Therefore, you do not lose anything that is worthwhile. Life and death lose meaning, neither life nor death has any sense, in this great universal adventure of the grappling of the spirit by the spirit, but this is a terror. Therefore, Arjuna cried: “Come down, come down, enough, enough, I do not want this any more. Whatever be this grand Form here, I had enough of it. I shall have the old thing only; please come down, O Lord!” Whatever be the majesty and the beauty and the grandeur of this goal before us, for a long time we cannot sustain it. We say ‘okay,’ but sufficient for the time being,—let us have a little smaller thing also. These are the little calls of the smaller self within us. They may be little. But the finger which is not even half of an inch in breadth can, when it is placed before the eyes, obstruct the vision of the large orb of the sun himself. You will not be able to see the huge sun which is some thousand times bigger than the earth, merely because a little petty finger has been placed on the eyes. We should not be under the impression that these are small matters and little difficulties, and that we are above. We are not so easily above indeed. They are difficulties so annoying as a little sand particle on the retina of the eye. The unpreparedness of ourselves is due to the impurity of the psychic operations.