Self-Realization or Self-knowledge is all about knowing one's own self. However, this can never be known in any of the normal ways through which we gain knowledge of worldly subjects.
To find and realize the true self in the midst of this diversity, one must have intense inner longing to know and realize it. To qualify in any field of knowledge, we require the guidance of an experienced person who is already qualified in that particular field. But in pursuit of truth, it is not so, because it is pursuit of verification of facts. One has to obtain un-contradictable truth or non-dual truth on his own by knowing what is untruth. Non-dual truth cannot be contradictable, because there is no second thing exists to contradict other than consciousness. Thus, conscious alone is real and all else is mere mirage.
Seeker has to first free himself from the prison of orthodoxy, if he is really seeking truth. Only by perfect understanding of what is what one reaches the nondual destination.
Ashtavakra Gita: - Sage, Ashtavakra’s father, who was a great scholar, would recite the Vedas every day while Ashtavakra listened from the womb. One day a voice came from the womb saying: "Stop it! This is all nonsense. There is no wisdom whatsoever in this. Mere words -- just a collection of words. Is wisdom found in scriptures? Wisdom is within oneself. Is truth found in words? Truth is within oneself."
Consciousness is the Self hidden in everyone, everything and everywhere in all the three states. As seeker indulges in deeper self-search, which leads him into self-awareness.
A Gnani is fully aware of the fact that, his body and his experience of the universe are made out consciousness and he is free from the ignorance and also free from experiencing the duality as reality.
When ignorance has been eliminated, self is free from bondage and burden of the waking experience. There is no more seeking of wealth, friends, sensual pleasure, scriptural studies or any sort of knowledge.
Realizing the consciousness is the true self and the Witness of the three states, the self or consciousness is free from the illusory burden and bondage.
The one who is free of uncertainty within, and who outwardly wanders as a house holder, can only be known by someone of his the same level of understanding.
Raman Maharshi said fortunate are the one who do not lose themselves in the labyrinths of philosophy. Bhagwan says: Take Vedanta, for instance: it speaks of 15 pranas the names and functions of it which the student is asked to commit memory. Will it not be sufficient if he thought only one prana does the whole work of maintaining the body? Again the antakaran is said to think, to desire, to will, to reason etc. Why all these details? Has anyone seen antakarana, or all these pranas? Do they really exist? They are conceptual divisions invented by teachers of philosophy by their excessive analysis. Where do all these concepts end? Why should confusion created and then explained away? Fortunate is the man who does not lose himself in the labyrinths of philosophy, but goes straight to the source from which they all arise. (GURU RAMANA .By S.S Cohen -vii Danger of philosophy-Page -58-59)
Ramana Maharshi says:
Q by D:- Is not necessary to study the Vedas or at least the Prasthanatraya [the Bhagavad Gita,Dasopanishad and Brahma Sutras, all with commentaries]to ensure firm realization?
Ramana Maharshi:-No. Do you need all that to see yourself? All that is intellectual wealth, useful in explain doubts and difficulties if others rise them or if you yourself encounter them in the course of thinking. But to attain realization, all that is not necessary. You want fresh water to drink, but you do not require all the water of the river Ganges to quench your thirst. [Page 111/112 of Practical guide to know yourself c/e by A.R.N].
This surely indicates Sri, Ramana Maharshi’s path is independent path nothing to with the religion and scripters.
Gaudapada quotes from the Upanishads: "There's no plurality here"; "The Soul through its powers appears to be many"; "those who are attached to creation or production or origination go to utter darkness"; "the unborn is never reborn, for what can produce it?”
In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says:-
It is only one amongst thousands of people who strives for spiritual salvation. Even amongst such seekers, it is only the rare person who gets to know “self” correctly.’ (7.3)
This makes it clear that it is not easy to gain such knowledge. Due to our deep-rooted inherited ignorance, there is a wide gap between what one sees, knows, believes and experiences as a person of the world and what actual reality is.
Therefore, perfect understanding and assimilation is necessary and sufficient for progress on the pursuit of truth.
Intellectuals accept only their accepted truth. Their egocentric outlook bars from accepting anything other than their intellectual speculation, assumptions and logical conclusion. However intelligent a person may be, it is impossible for him to know the ultimate truth and realize it, because intellectuality is based on the physical self or ego.
Even one who mastered the scriptures should have to drop the scriptural wealth if he has interested in knowing and realizing the ultimate truth.
Sri, Sankara says in VivekaChudamani :-
56. Neither by Yoga, nor by Sankhya, nor by work, nor by learning, but by the realization of one's identity with Brahman is Liberation possible, and by no other means.
58. Loud speech consisting of a shower of words, the skill in expounding the Scriptures, and likewise erudition - these merely bring on a little personal enjoyment to the scholar, but are no good for Liberation.
59. The study of the Scriptures is useless so long as the highest Truth is unknown, and it is equally useless when the highest Truth has already been known.
60. The Scriptures consisting of many words are a dense forest which merely causes the mind to ramble. Hence men of wisdom should earnestly set about knowing the true nature of the Self.
61. For one who has been bitten by the serpent of Ignorance, the only remedy is the knowledge of Brahman. Of what avail are the Vedas and (other) Scriptures, Mantras (sacred formulae) and medicines to such a one?
62. A disease does not leave off if one simply utter the name of the medicine, without taking it; (similarly) without direct realisation one cannot be liberated by the mere utterance of the word Brahman.
63. Without causing the objective universe to vanish and without knowing the truth of the Self, how is one to achieve Liberation by the mere utterance of the word Brahman ? — It would result merely in an effort of speech.
64. Without killing one’s enemies, and possessing oneself of the splendour of the entire surrounding region, one cannot claim to be an emperor by merely saying, ‘I am an emperor’.
65. As a treasure hidden underground requires (for its extraction) competent instruction, excavation, the removal of stones and other such things lying above it and (finally) grasping, but never comes out by being (merely) called out by name, so the transparent Truth of the self, which is hidden by Maya and its effects, is to be attained through the instructions of a knower of Brahman, followed by reflection, meditation and so forth, but not through perverted arguments.
66. Therefore the wise should, as in the case of disease and the like, personally strive by all the means in their power to be free from the bondage of repeated births and deaths.
This Ataman cannot be attained by the study of the Vedas, or by intelligence, or by much hearing of sacred books. It is attained by him alone whom It chooses. To such a one Ataman reveals Its own form. [Katha Upanishad Ch-II -23-P-20]
Mundaka Upanishad :-
This Ataman cannot be attained through study of the Vedas, nor through intelligence, nor through much learning. He who chooses Ataman—by him alone is Ataman attained. It is Ataman that reveals to the seeker Its true nature. [ 3 –page-70 Mundaka Upanishad Upanishads by Nikilanada]
When the Upanishads say:-
It is attained by him alone whom It chooses. To such a one Ataman reveals its own form. Then what is the use of indulging through our intelligence or our accumulated knowledge, when one is not chosen by the self, which is the soul, which is in the form of consciousness.
There is no need for any philosophy in pursuit of truth because they take the seeker nearer to truth but they create more doubts and confusions.
The scriptures and theories and teaching based on the ego are not the yardstick. Using them as yardstick to understand and assimilate the truth will lead one towards pursuit of arguments. Seeker of truth has to discover on his own, the truth of his true existence by inquiring “what is mind?” and “what is substance of the mind?” and move forward.
The ultimate truth is one without the second, the one is not in the sense half or two, but the one that remain forever One, without the second. The consciousness is all pervading. There is no place where consciousness is not.
When the Vedas and Upanishad declare that Consciousness or Atman is actually nothing but Brahman, then why go round and round, by various tortuous paths, like the blind led by the blind. One has to realize the fact that, the mind is in form of universe. Trace the source of mind and realize that source is consciousness. The mind rises from consciousness as waking or dream and subsides as deep sleep.
In Mandukya Upanishad Brahman and Atman are defined as same:
Mandukya Upanishad, verse-2:-
All indeed is this Brahman; This Atman is Brahman; He, this Atman has four steps/quarters.
While Brahman lies behind the sum total of the objective universe, some human minds boggle at any attempt to explain it with only the tools provided by reason. Brahman is beyond the senses, beyond the mind, beyond intelligence, beyond imagination. Indeed, the highest idea is that Brahman is beyond both existence and non-existence, transcending and including time, causation and space, and thus can never be known in the same material sense as one traditionally 'understands' a given concept or object.
Imagine a person who is blind from birth and has not seen anything. Is it possible for us to explain to him the meaning of the colour red. Is any amount of thinking or reasoning on his part ever going to make him understand the sensation of the colour red? In a similar fashion the idea of Brahman cannot be explained or understood through material reasoning or any form of human communication. Brahman is like the colour red; those who can sense it cannot explain or argue with those who have never sensed it.
Brahman is considered the all-pervading consciousness which is the basis of all the animate and inanimate entities and material. (brahmano hi pratisthaham, Bhagavad Gita 14.27)
In Advaita Vedanta: - Brahman is without attributes and strictly impersonal. It can be best described as infinite Being, infinite Consciousness and infinite Bliss. It is pure knowledge itself, similar to a source of infinite radiance. Since the Advaitins regard Brahman to be the Ultimate Truth, so in comparison to Brahman, every other thing, including the material world, its distinctness, the individuality of the living creatures and even Ishvara (the Supreme Lord) itself are all untrue. Brahman is the effulgent cause of everything that exists and can possibly exist. Since it is beyond human comprehension, it is without any attributes, for assigning attributes to it would be distorting the true nature of Brahman. Advaitins believe in the existence of both Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman; however they consider Nirguna Brahman to be the absolute supreme truth.
Chandogya Upanishad:- One who meditates upon and realizes the self discovers that everything in the cosmos-- energy and space, fire and water, name and form, birth and death, mind and will, word and deed, mantram and meditation--all come from the Self.
So, it clearly says the one who meditate upon the self [consciousness] discovers that everything in the cosmos-- energy and space, fire and water, name and form, birth and death, mind and will, word and deed, mantram and meditation--all come from the Self. Therefore , there is a need to know the fact that ,the true self is not physical but the soul in order to realize the fact that : the cosmos-- energy and space, fire and water, name and form, birth and death, mind and will, word and deed, mantram and meditation--all come from the Self, which is in the form of consciousness.
Ataman is Brahman. Brahman the Absolute is alone real; this waking is unreal; and the three states are non-different from Brahman.
Whatever is, is Brahman. Brahman itself is absolutely homogeneous. All difference and plurality are illusory." Brahman is not a person, as the Absolute is not this. But if one wants to call it God/Paramataman, then fine. But it is not a person. Personifying it can make it easier to understand.
All the scriptures indicate that Ataman is Brahman, and Brahman is ultimate truth. Therefore the consciousness, which is in the form of consciousness, is ultimate truth. Thus to realize the ultimate truth is the prime goal. A well-directed inquiry, analysis and reasoning will lead one to his nondual destination.
Pundits teach that all is your-self, but none of them can show that this is so, none has analyzed it scientifically, and none can prove it. Rational proof is needed, so that one arrive at knowing truth i.e. wisdom; punditry is mere dogma, parrotism, repetition of what they read in scripture. Scripters are not yardstick and scriptural truth is not proof. Pundits take scripters as authority. Authoritarianism merely assumes as true what another says, but what has yet to be proved.
Pundits have to test truth in this world not in the next world. There is no proof other than blind belief based on the scriptures, belief is not truth. So, doctrines are not the means to realize the ultimate truth. There is no need to follow them.
Doubts and Confusions arise when seeker finds the Scriptures and yoga are inadequate or useless to quench his spiritual thirst. Disappointments in religion or yoga or even science imply error or ignorance.
When serious seeker reaches a stage with all his baggage of accumulate knowledge, then uncertainty haunts him. Whether he is right?" Where is the certainty that he is proceeding on right lines?" Thus doubts arise and the inquiring spirit comes and impels to search elsewhere for truth where it will not be possible even to have doubt. The test is therefore in experience. And only in non-duality, where there are no two to argue about views or to have difference of opinion can such doubtlessness be possible. Belief depends upon unstable bases whereas certainty depends on proof.
Seeker of truth has to get rid of his doubts through deeper inquiry, analysis and reasoning on his own, to realize the fact that, the self is not the form but self is formless. Thus his analysis and reasoning has to be based on the formless not on the form. By simply go on believing and accepting whatever said by the punditry will not lead one towards path of wisdom. All the doubt has to be got rid of "by the sword of Self - Knowledge." The scriptures, yoga are not necessary if one follows the inner [formless] path. Religion and yoga are not the means to path of wisdom.
They alone in this world are endowed with the highest wisdom who are firm in their conviction of the sameness and birthlessness of Ataman. The ordinary man does not understand their way. [Chapter IV — Alatasanti Prakarana 95-P-188 in Upanishads by Nikilanada]
This passage indicates the fact that everything is Atman/spirit. The one who views and judges the world-view on the base of his birth /body will not realize the fact that, the man including the world is created sustained and finally dissolves as Atman. Thus Atman alone is, and all else is mirage.
Thus self-knowledge is the aim of every human being. Since everyone thinks the physical body is the self, their aim is misdirected and they focus their attention on materiality which makes one feel the duality [waking] as reality.
When Upanishad itself declares:- sarvam khalvidam brahma - all this (universe) is verily Brahman. By following back all of the relative appearances in the world, we eventually return to that from which it is all manifest – the non-dual reality [ Chandogya Upanishad].
Then it is no use going roundabout way, trace the Brahman which is the formless substance and witness of the universe, which is in the form of mind. By tracing the source of the mind or universe one will be able to realize the Brahman.
The ultimate truth has nothing to do with Scriptures and it is independent of scriptures. The point is: though it is taught by the Vedas, it does not require any belief in the infallibility of Vedas; in other words even if an individual or some other religion were to propose the same thing, a person with an open mind would come to the same conclusion that there is a formless witness [Atman], that it is Brahman - and that it is the same as the self ,which is not an individual but it pervades in everything and everywhere in three states as their formless substance and witness.
When Sri,Sankara says: world is unreal . He never said body is unreal. He would have said only birth and death is unreal but he did not say that, he said the world is unreal. He meant the world including the body, because the body and world appear together and disappear together [waking/dream]. Then we have to think, what remain without the body and the world as reality. How can the birth, life, death, rebirth, and reincarnation, which take place in unreal world [waking/dream], can be true. The one, which is aware of the birth, life death, rebirth and reincarnation [illusion/unreal], is formless reality, which is the true self/true identity. The formless self is your true identity, which is birthless and deathless but it is the witness of the birth, life and death and rebirth [illusion/unreal].
Only the knowledge received from deeper self-search leads one to the goal. The one who has gone deeper in his self-search will know the truth.