Self Inquiry lets you look afresh
Self inquiry gives you the opportunity to look afresh and see if that’s what you actually experience. So when you meditate on a statement like: “I am not the body,” take your time with it. You might ask questions like, “When I close my eyes do I really sense a body in a world.” For instance everyone knows that when you close your eyes the world is there but you don’t see it, right?
But what is your direct experience anyway? When you aren’t looking, is the world there but you don’t see it, or is the world gone? Go by your own experience and not by what’s supposed to be true. See, it’s not that your sense of reality disappears. That’s because reality comes from your Awareness and not from the body or the world.
Does a thought really exist?
A great Buddhist example of this type of presence comes from a student in China talking with his master, the Second Patriarch. He asked, “Master my mind is bothering me.” The master replied, “Give me your mind and I will cure it.” The student said, “But I can’t find my mind!” Good then I have cured it,” replied the Second Patriarch. At that moment the student woke up and became the Third Patriarch.
Isn’t it ironic that so many people are bothered by their mind, but so few people look to see if they actually have one? Thoughts are very illusive; when you look to see what they are, they disappear. The thing that makes the mind seem so real is Awareness and not thoughts.
When you enjoy life what are you actually enjoying?
When you enjoy good food, or making love with your wife, or walking in the mountains, aren’t you actually enjoying this sense of presence? Isn’t the enjoyment coming from something that is deeper, more immediate, and more intimate than you can put your finger on, something that you can’t quite grasp with your mind?
On the other hand if you are walking in the mountain on a beautiful day and all of the sudden you realize that you forgot a very important appointment at the office, your experience will change. As you rush back, thoughts and fears are rushing through your mind about what people will think when you don’t show up on time.
Remember you are still walking through the same beautiful mountains but now your experience is completely different. So does your experience of peace come from an object, the mountain, or is it coming from deep within you? Moreover, as you grow spiritually you will find that the experiences that are supposed to be stressful are not stressful at all. The big stress eliminator is recognizing that you are what you are looking for. Then you will see that there is nothing outside your Self-Nature that can add to your happiness, and nothing that can snatch it away. This is one of the results of the magic of spiritual practice.
Is there really a thing called an ego?
The whole time that you think you are experiencing a person with a separate ego you are actually experiencing God. In fact in reality nothing stands apart from God. The feeling of separation is just imagination, like the perceptions of separate people in a day dream.
Ramana Maharshi talked about the screen in a movie. No matter what goes on in the movie like wars, love scenes, and bustling cities, when you reach out to touch the movie, you touch only the screen.
In the same way, no matter what you experience, the thing that makes it seem so real is Awareness. In reality there is no separate person experiencing events in a world. There is only God experiencing God or the Self experiencing the Self. There is not a big self at war with a little self, or God at war with an ego, only God.
Then what is self inquiry?
When you inquire, “Who am I,” you do not bring forth a brand new self; you only discover what you were experiencing the whole time. When you look to see what the ego or ‘I’ thought really is, you find that nothing was really there. Your Self-Nature is so close that you just looked right past it and assumed that reality belonged to the objects that you see. But now you see that the eye of God is really your eye, and with the eye of God, you can return reality to its source.
The magic of this process is that since things are different than you think, your experiences become fresh and new. It is as if you are experiencing life for the first time just as it really is. That is the presence I am talking about here.