The first step in the Quest of the real Self is to understand that Self is not the body — physical or mental. The reason for this is two-fold. On the one hand the body is unconscious and hence cannot be the self, finite or otherwise. On the other hand we are sure that the Self — whatever it may be — can exist without a body. We know that this is so in sleep. Few people can even imagine the possibility of the Self ceasing to exist during sleep. Those that do so are the over sophisticated ones; their perplexity on this point is dealt with in a long talk given by the Sage to a doubter, which will be given later. Thus the ego itself is a proof that we exist. We are not the ego; we are That from which the ego takes its rise. That must be found by seeking the Source of the ego. Revelation tells us that if and when we find that Source, we shall find not only the Self, but also the Reality that underlies the world-appearance; and this will be the case, because the Self and the Reality are one and the same.
The ego is thus seen to be the arch-deceiver, the true Satan or Ahriman. He is the only enemy of God and man. He is the enemy of right knowledge. He is the inventor of murder and lying. He is the cosmic Macbeth, who is constantly murdering Peace, which is true Happiness. He is the impostor who has usurped the seat of the real Self. Therefore he is debarred from entrance into the State of Deliverance, the Kingdom of Heaven that is in us, taught by Jesus.
The Sage has told us that the ego is all the evil there is, while egolessness is all the good there is. From the ego, which is ignorance, proceed all the evils that beset life. All that is good and worthy of reverent cultivation belongs to egolessness.
Apart from the ego there is neither death nor rebirth. This vicious circle of deaths and rebirths is sustained only by the primary ignorance which is the ego. The ego itself is death, because he is the negation of the Truth, which is Life. He must not only be dethroned, but must be put to death. For there is no safety so long as he survives.
The ego must become considerably attenuated for the teaching of the Sages to be understood. This is clear from the following utterance of the Sage. He was explaining the true inwardness of the current notion that a disciple must, after finding a Guru, remain with him for a long time, serving him faithfully, and surrender himself utterly to the Guru, and that the latter would then teach him the great secret, ‘Thou art That.’ The Sage explained it as follows: “The true meaning of what is here called surrender is the complete wearing away of the ego-sense, which is individuality. And this is a necessary condition for the disciple being able to receive the teaching; for if there be no surrender in this sense, the teaching is sure to be misunderstood. Even with the limited egoism that now exists, man is liable to outbreaks of fury, to be tyrannical, fanatical and so on. What will he not do, if he be told that he himself is that Great Being? He would not understand that teaching in its true sense, but would take it to mean that his individual soul, the ego, is that Great Being. This is not at all the true sense of the teaching, because the ego is simply non-existent.”
The true meaning of the teaching is that though the soul as such is a non-entity, there is in it an element of reality, namely the light of consciousness proceeding from the real Self, and experienced by us as ‘I am’. This light of consciousness does not belong to the soul; it belongs to the Self, the Reality, It must therefore be surrendered to Him. When that surrender is complete, then that Self alone will remain. And if individuality be thus lost, it is well lost. For this loss of individuality is not a loss. It is the loss of the greatest of all losses, the loss of the self; it is therefore the highest of all possible gains, the gain of the real Self. The effect of this surrender is thus described in the ancient lore: “As the rivers flowing into the ocean, and therein losing name and form, become one with the ocean, so does the Sage, losing name and form, become one with the Supreme Being, who is the transcendental Reality.”
Even leaving aside the truth that the ego is unreal, it has to be said that what the Sage has lost is just a mathematical zero, while what he has gained is the Infinite Reality. This is expressed by the Sage as follows — in one of his hymns to Arunachala: “What profit hast thou got, O Arunachala, taking me — of no worth here and hereafter — in exchange for Thyself, the greatest of all gains?”
This surrender to the real Self, to become final and perfect, needs to be effected by the Quest of the real Self in the manner taught in a later chapter. And since surrender is the culmination of devotion, the seeker of Deliverance needs to cherish devotion to the real Self. When this devotion becomes perfect, then it will be possible to enter on and persist in the Quest till success is won — till the real Self reveals Himself.
By “WHO” (Lakshmana Sarma)
Excerpted from Maha Yoga, Chapter Six, The Soul
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