Again, that which can be thought of by the mind is not the Absolute Truth or Brahman. Therefore, the master said: “That which cannot be cognized by the mind but by which all mental functions are cognized, know that to be your true Self (Brahman), but not that which people worship.”
"That which cannot be perceived by the eye, but by which the eyes are made to see, know that to be the Self (the Absolute Brahman), not that which people worship." "That which cannot be heard by the ear, but by which the ear is made capable of hearing a sound, know that to be the Self (the Absolute Brahman), not that which people worship."
“That which cannot be perceived by the power of smell, but by which the organ of smell perceives odor, know that to be the Self (the Absolute Brahman) not that which people worship.” These verses show that the true Self, who is the director of the mind and senses, is not the same as the Personal God whom people worship, but it is one with Brahman, the absolute Truth.
Having heard this, the seeker after Self-knowledge went into meditation and searched for the illuminator or director of the mind, that which is beyond the reach of our thoughts, words and sense-powers. He spent some time in Samadhi or the superconscious state, and realizing the Self he returned to the ordinary plane of consciousness and said:
"I have known and realized the absolute Truth, I have known the Self." The master replied: "If you think that you know the Self, then you know very little of it." If you believe that you have known the Absolute Brahman perfectly, you have known very little of the Truth which dwells in you as well as in the universe.
Truth is one. When; you begin to think that you have known the Truth, you are using your secondary knowledge of the intellect, which cannot reveal the Absolute. If you imagine that you have known the Self or Brahman, who is the director of the mind, you have comprehended very little of it.
If you think that you have realized it as dwelling in your body, you have not understood its absolute nature. If you believe that you have cognized it as dwelling outside your body, still you have not realized the Truth.
If you have known the Self as God, the Creator of the universe, you have apprehended very little of it. Here the question rises,
“Why is it that we have known very little of the Self if we have known it as dwelling in our body?”
Because that something which is the director of the mind does not dwell in one place; it is beyond the space relation. Therefore, when we have known it as dwelling in a particular place and not anywhere else, we have not realized the Truth.
Again, if we have perceived it as dwelling outside of us and not in us, then also we have not known that this Being is all-pervading and beyond the relation of time and space; but we have known only that much of the Infinite which is limited by time and space and conditioned by their relations.
Then the disciple sat in meditation once more, and his soul, rising above the plane of thoughts, entered into the superconscious state. Having remained there for some time he came back to the plane of sense-consciousness and declared:
“I do not think I know the Self well, nor do I know that I do not know it at all. The Self is neither to be known nor is it the same as that which is absolutely unknown; he who has known this truth has realized it (the Absolute Brahman).” What he meant by this was that Self-knowledge is beyond relative knowledge and ignorance.
Whatever we know by the understanding is only possible through the light of intelligence which proceeds from the true Self; there is no other knower of the Self, who is the illuminator of mind and thoughts. The Self is in reality the eternal knower, there is nothing in the universe that can know the true Self, yet it is the source of all the true knowledge that we possess. It is always the subject of knowledge or consciousness, but never its object. Furthermore, the disciple said:
“He who thinks that the Self (Brahman) can never become an object of knowledge thinks rightly; but he who thinks ‘I have known it,’ has not realized its true nature. The Self (Brahman) is not known by those who think it is known but it is realized by those who think it is not known.”
This seems an enigma; what does it mean? If we analyze our perceptions what do we find ? When we see a color, we find that the sensation of color is produced by light which is a certain kind of vibration of the ether.
A ray of light coming in contact with the retina? causes some kind of molecular change in them; this being carried by the optic nerves into the brain cells creates certain molecular vibration in those cells.
It requires a conscious ego to translate this vibration into a sensation, which we perceive and call color. If the conscious ego be not there,
then these vibrations may be carried to the brain centers where they may produce other changes, but still we shall not see the color. For instance, when we are looking at a color, if our mind be suddenly distracted or concentrated on some other object, the color may remain before our eyes, yet we do not see it.
Although the vibration of light has been carried to the brain centers, the molecular changes have been formed and all the physiological conditions are fulfilled, still we have no sensation of color, because there is no one to translate the molecular vibrations of the brain cells into the sensation of color.
The ego who translates them is concentrated on something else. But when the changes are translated by the ego into sensations, then we perceive it. Now let us go a little deeper. Behind this intellectual perception there is the self-consciousness of the ego. If the ego be unconscious, if there be no sense of “I,” then these vibrations will come through the senses and pass away without producing any sensation in the mind.
Again, if the mind be separated from the source of apperception and intelligence, then the sensations will remain in the subconscious mind without affecting the conscious ego. This source of consciousness in us is the knower. It is our true Self. We know that we are sitting here; when we walk, we know that we are walking; when we perform an act, we know that we are performing it; this knower of all acts and thoughts is the director. Is that knowledge different from our true Self?
No, it is inseparable from our Self; our true Self is like a sea of intelligence. Some people say that knowledge proceeds from the Self, or in other words, that from which this knowledge proceeds is the Self. This would imply that the Self is separate from knowledge and would raise the question, “What is then the nature of the true Self?” According to monistic Vedanta the true nature of the Self or Atman or Brahman is absolute knowledge or absolute intelligence which never changes.
The functions of the intellect and mind are changeable, but Self-knowledge is unchangeable. Suppose you have a feeling; when it rises, you feel it and know that there is that feeling; when it subsides and another takes its place, then also you know that the new feeling is there. The knowledge by which you cognize each feeling cannot be known by any other knowledge, for there is only one knowledge in the universe; consequently the knower of that knowledge cannot be known by any other knowledge.
That by which you know the existence of a feeling or a sensation cannot be revealed by intellect, understanding or any other faculty. Upon it depends intellectual understanding.
Whenever we perceive any object through the senses, that knowledge is a partial expression of the Self or absolute knowledge, which directs the mind and senses to perform their functions. The nature of the Self is all-knowing; its knowledge does not depend upon the relation between the knower and the object of knowledge, but it remains unchanged even when all the objects of knowledge have ceased to exist.
The all-knowing Self may be compared to the self-effulgent sun. As the nature of the sun is to illumine himself as well as other objects, so the light of the Self illumines its own nature as also the phenomenal world. The sun himself can illumine everything as well as his own form, we do not need a candle or a torch to see him; therefore, we call him self-effulgent. Self-effulgence does not need any other light to illumine its nature. For the same reason the Atman is said to be the self-effulgent sun of knowledge.
That knowledge by which we perceive all sensations and feelings, organic functions, intellection, understanding and other activities of the mind as well as external objects, the sun, moon, stars, is the light of the self-effulgent Atman or Self which is the source of intelligence and consciousness.
This self-effulgent Atman is the knower and director of the mind and senses. The mind
and senses will not perform any function if they are separated from the self-effulgent light of knowledge. Mind, as we have already seen, is “finer matter in vibration.” Vedanta does not teach that mind is the same as the Self or spirit. There is no intelligence in the vibration of the mind substance. It is not the source of consciousness.
All the activities of the mind may stop, still we shall remain conscious of our Self. In the state of Samadhi there may not be any feeling, like fear, anger, or any other modification of the mind substance, such as volition, desire, emotion, will, determination, cognition, or understanding, but still one does not lose self-consciousness or become absolutely unconscious in that state.
This will prove that pure consciousness or pure intelligence is separate from and independent of mental functions.
All these functions and sensations can be stopped by entering into superconsciousness; in short, one can cut off all connection with he body and mind and still continue to be conscious on the higher plane.
It will be difficult for those who have not realized d Samadhi to grasp this truth. Intellectual knowledge will not reveal the Self; we must learn the method of going beyond intellect and rising above the realm of thoughts if we wish to realize the Absolute Self or Atman. Intellectual apprehension being relative and imperfect, cannot transcend the limits of phenomena and cannot reach the sphere of the Absolute.
Therefore, it is said,
“He who thinks he knows the Self knows it not. “Self-knowledge precedes even the conception of God. If the thought about God, which is in our mind, be separated from self-consciousness it instantly vanishes and becomes non-existent. We know God because there is knowledge in us, because the light of the Self reveals the existence of God. If this be so, we ask:
Which is higher, the Personal God or the Self? The Self is higher, because it illumines the existence of God. This source of all knowledge, which is the absolute Truth,
is higher than a Personal God, since the Personal God, who can be described by words and thought of by the mind, becomes subject to the mind and speech, consequently to the Self or Atman, which is the director of the mind and speech, and that which is subject to a thing must be lower or less than that which governs it.
So when we try to know our true Self, we do not attempt to know it as we know the existence of a book or a tree, because that kind of knowledge will never reveal it. We must not try to see any form, because there is no form in the Self. We must not make the objects of the senses, like sound, color, odor, touch, the starting point of our search after Self, for these are on the relative plane, while the Self is the Absolute Being.
Thus we can understand the difference between the relative plane and the absolute. So long as we are on the relative plane, we cannot reach the Absolute, because the absolute knowledge, by which we know the existence
of things which are related to one another, is beyond all relations and infinite. All relative phenomena exist in and through the Absolute, but the Absolute Atman is independent and self-existent. If we were unintelligent beings and did not possess Self-knowledge, then these sensations and perceptions would have no relation to us. The pure knowledge of the Absolute Self may be compared to the thread which goes through the pearls of percepts, ideas and thoughts that rise in our minds, and strings them together into one harmonious whole, forming a garland of our daily experiences.
This pure knowledge must not be confounded with the relative knowledge which is finite and and related to ignorance, or non-knowledge. The Self, being the knower of ignorance, is higher and greater and its light of absolute knowledge is that by which we realize that we know this or do not know that.
In Vedanta it is said: “The Self is the knower of that which sees, hears, thinks or
perceives. It is the knower of the body, senses, mind, intellect, and heart with which we identify our Self.” Through this identification, when the Self appears as the ego, then we say that we are the hearer, seer, perceiver and thinker; but the ego sees, hears, thinks and perceives, being dependent upon the pure knowledge of the Self. In fact the ego cannot exist without Self-knowledge. Self-knowledge and existence are one and the same.
We know that we are here; if for a moment we forget that we are in this place or if we become unconscious of our surroundings, we shall remain non-existent, as it were, in relation to our environments. Thus although we may try to separate our Self-knowledge from our existence, we can never do it; for pure knowledge or consciousness and existence are inseparable. When we have realized Self-knowledge, we have understood our existence and discovered that the director of the mind is all-knowledge and all-existence. We say the sun exists; why? Because we are
conscious of him; when we are not conscious of him, as in trance, he does not exist in relation to us. Self-consciousness, therefore, is the standard of all relative knowledge and relative existence. Herein lies the beginning and end of the existence of all objects which we can think of or perceive.
The moment that we are unconscious of our body and everything of this world, they will cease to exist in relation to us. We all experience this truth during our sound sleep, when our conscious connection with the body being cut off, it ceases to exist and consequently we do not claim anything of the material world as belonging to us.
But as our consciousness returns to the body, instantly the body together with everything related to It appears as belonging to us. Therefore, it is said that knowledge and existence are one.
Vedanta gives these two attributes to the Absolute Self, who is the director of the mind. The first is absolute existence, in Sanskrit “Sat”; and the second is absolute knowledge or intelligence, “Chit” in Sanskrit. These two, as we have already seen, are one and inseparable. A third attribute, however, is also given in Vedanta. It is called in Sanskrit “Ananda,” meaning pure happiness or blissfulness.
Where absolute knowledge and absolute existence prevail, there is also absolute happiness or blissfulness. It is different from changeable pleasure or relative happiness. Unchangeable blissfulness again is always attended with absolute peace.
Wherever there is true happiness, there must be absolute peace, and the mind will not seek anything else, but will enjoy it and will try to possess it and never be separated from it. The ordinary pleasures, which we mistake for true happiness, may be agreeable for the time being, but in the next moment we dislike them and try to get away from them. Think how transitory are the pleasures that can be derived through the senses, they last only for a short time and in the reaction make us miserable. True happiness, however, is un-
changeable. It brings no reaction and is everlasting. In the state of absolute existence and pure knowledge alone can be found absolute peace and true happiness. Such is the realm of our true Self, which is above all relativity and beyond all conditions of this earth. This indivisible Sat-chit-ananda, absolute Existence-intelligence-bliss, the disciple realized in Samadhi as the director of the mind and the source of all the phenomena of the universe.
He then said: “Whosoever realizes that which manifests within us as the conscious Self, attains to immortality.” Death means a change of the body. The body may die, the mind may die, the senses may die, but pure knowledge can never die.
When we know that something is dying and if we do not identify ourselves with it, but become conscious of our absolute Self, then we are sure to attain to immortality. If we once grasp the idea that we are the Absolute Being, how can we ever be changed by death into a non-being?
As being cannot come out of non-being, so it cannot go back to non-being. Pure existence can never become non-existence; this is the proof of immortality. The Absolute Self or Atman is the immortal Being. It is also Brahman, the beginning and the end of the universe. The same eternal Being is worshipped as God under various names and forms. He is the Being who dwells in us and is inseparable from our true Self. The Absolute Being is not many but one. If there were many Absolute Beings they would be limited by each other and consequently not absolute.
That one Absolute Being alone is immortal and deathless, and by knowing it we become immortal. No Divine Incarnation can give us immortality, if we do not possess it already. The Christian belief that immortality can be obtained only through the grace of Jesus the Christ, is not founded upon the knowledge of the immortal nature of our true Self. The students of Vedanta are not deluded by such statements; they try first to know the real
Self and then they realize that immortality is their birthright. ”
Since the true Self is the source of all strength, the disciple said: "We gain strength and immortality by Self-knowledge." Real strength comes to us when we have known that which is changeless and immortal. The spiritual strength which is gained through Self-knowledge is greater than material, physical, mental, and moral strength together.
All other powers, except spiritual strength, are subject to change and death. Few people understand the meaning of “spiritual strength.” By the word “spirit” is not meant a disembodied spirit, but the Absolute Spirit or Self or Atman or Brahman. Spirit is that Self which is the source of absolute intelligence and which is the Absolute Being.
Knowing it, one attains to spiritual strength, which is higher than physical or psychic strength. With physical strength a man can kill a tiger or destroy thousands of mortals, but it will not protect him from death. He may possess material strength, but it will not save his life at the last moment. He may gain psychic power and do wonderful things, but that will not stop the changes of body and mind.
Spiritual strength, however, which Self-knowledge brings, makes one free from birth and death. He who has gained physical and psychic powers will remain subject to birth and death, but if he can know that immortal Being, he becomes a master of the universe. The gigantic forces of nature serve and obey the command of him who has acquired Self-knowledge. “If a man know this Self here, he has gained the Truth.”
In this world of imperfection he who has known the Self has realized the Absolute Truth and has fulfilled the highest purpose of life. He has attained absolute freedom, perfect peace and true happiness in this life. But “if he does not know this here, for him there is great suffering.” He who does not realize the Self comes back to this earth again and again, and, remaining in ignorance, seeks sense-pleasures and suffers great sorrow and misery. He does not escape the law of Karma and reincarnation.
“The wise ones, who have realized the all-pervading absolute Self (Brahman) in all animate and inanimate objects, become immortal after departing from this world.” The knower of the Absolute and Immortal Self becomes one with it and remains as the immortal and perfect Spirit forever and ever.
“That which is the Infinite is Bliss. In the finite there is no bliss. Infinity alone is bliss. This infinity is to be realized. “The Self (Atman) is the Infinite. Self is below, above, behind, before, right and left; Self is all this.
“He who sees, perceives,understands and loves the self, delight in the self, revels in the Self, rejoices in the Self, becomes the lord and master in all the worlds.”
Self Knowledge by Swami Abhendanada published 1905