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spiritual essayEssay 11/2010

 

Why should I ask myself, who or what am?

 

Why should I do that? What’s in it for me? Is it not enough that I am?

In fact it is enough. Whoever is at peace with simply being – without desiring to attain anything, need not ask who he is. He or she has arrived.

Most, however, are not at peace, because they have not arrived. Even though one’s self is nearest of all, and should be the easiest thing in the world to be at home with, we are inclined to constantly seek for ourselves somewhere outside. Strangely, the self, the simple “I am”, is extremely difficult to catch hold of.

Why is that? We are not used to it. We are much more used to experiencing the world as objects of thought or sense perception. Ordinarily that works well – except in this one case. Because what we actually are cannot possibly be the object of our thoughts and feelings. Why not? Because we ARE that. It is not something that we have, it is the only thing that we are.

I have a body, I have energy, I have thoughts, I have feelings – and while I have them, I am (I exist). Sometimes I have a lot of energy, sometimes little, sometimes I am healthy, sometimes ill, sometimes I feel love, sometimes I am indifferent, sometimes I think, sometimes I am free from thoughts in deep sleep. All these states happen to this “me”. But who or what is this “me”, to whom they happen, I know not. Only one thing is undeniable: even if I do not know who or what I am, I know that I am.

Logic tells me that I must be something other than these states – namely a certain ungraspable existence, which always remains the same. Still, even my logical insight does not automatically convince me that I am neither the body, nor energy, neither actions nor thoughts, or feelings. Apart from body, energy, actions, thoughts or feelings – what else would there indeed remain?

All great souls, all mystics, all the enlightened testify to fact that there remains something. They never tire of stressing that this realization is possible not only for them, but for everyone. But how does it help if I know clearly that this ungraspable “I” is the only thing that I am? Is it not mere intellectual acrobatics?

No, it is not. Only when I have discovered my actual Self, I do attain peace. As long as I define myself as what I have, that is, as body, energy, thoughts or feelings, I will always notice that I lack something. I will never have everything. So something is always pushing me forward. That may be entertaining and exciting for some time but at some point I get tired of it. I finally want peace.

Why should peace be the result of the search for my self? The sages and the scriptures of Advaita Vedanta and of Buddhism, as well as the mystics of all religions say the self is complete, it lacks nothing. Once we have discovered it is our nature, we can lean back and watch the course of the world with ease. We have nothing more to attain, we are complete and can take part in the play of life freely.

The texts on this page will deal with how one can approach this discovery, this realization.

Doing versus knowing

We spent seeking this kind of peace our entire life, in fact all our past lives. There is no peace in being human, man is restless. That is due to the fact that he does not know his own nature.

Not only does he not know his own nature, he does not know that he does not know it and he does not know that with the knowledge of it, all his problems would be solved. Instead of suffering from his ignorance he suffers from his supposed imperfection and wants to remedy it. Therefore he tries to reach goals from which he expects perfection and along with that, the feeling of peace.

He builds a house for himself and hopes that it will bring him peace. He gets a university degree and hopes that it will bring him peace. He seeks love and hopes that it will bring him peace. He creates a work of art and hopes that it will bring him peace. He takes care of his health and hopes that it will bring him peace. He wants to improve the world and hopes that this will bring peace to himself and the world.

All this makes sense. All the same, the hoped for satisfaction will last only for a while. As soon as the attained peace disappears, one takes up a new peace-promising project, even if it means turning on the television. But every state of peace brought about by action is temporary.

The good news is: Everlasting peace can be found.

But not through action. Everlasting peace can only be found through understanding, which is realization. The discovery of what I actually am brings about permanent peace. I am already that which I seek, there is no need to produce it. The problem is: I do not know it – not really, not always, or not at all.

So what I lack is the deep inner certainty of who I am, which cannot be driven away by anything or any one – as deep in me as the certainty that I am. The goal of spiritual seeking is to acquire this inner certainty. All other goals may be good and right, but they always take me back onto the path, keeping me stuck in the state of seeking.

How do I acquire this inner certainty? That will be the topic of discussion in these pages, as Advaita Vedanta offers many methods, which can help me to realize my own nature.

 

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