WHO AM I

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CHAPTER I

WHO  AM  I ?

enquiry:In this chapter is given clearly the path of enquiry into the Self, or ‘Who Am I?’ Is not the sense of ‘I’ natural to all beings, expressed in all their feelings as ‘I came’, ‘I went’, ‘I did’, or ‘I was’? On questioning what this is, we find that the body is identified with ‘I’ because movements and similar functions pertain to the body. Can the body then be this ‘I-consciousness’? It was not there 1 before birth, it is composed of the five elements, it is absent  in sleep, and it (eventually) becomes a corpse. No, it cannot be. This sense of ‘I’, which arises in the body for the time being, is otherwise called the ego, ignorance, illusion, impurity, or individual self. The purpose of all the scriptures is this enquiry (into the Self ). It is declared in them that the annihilation of the ego-sense is Liberation. How then can one remain indifferent to this teaching? Can the body, which is insentient as a piece of wood, shine and function as ‘I’? No. Therefore, lay aside this insentient body as though it were truly a corpse. Do 1  i.e. from our awareness. 18 Words of Grace not even murmur ‘I’, but enquire keenly within what it is that now shines within the heart as ‘I’. Underlying the unceasing flow of varied thoughts, there arises the continuous, unbroken awareness, silent and spontaneous, as ‘I-I’ in the Heart. If one catches hold of it and remains still, it will completely annihilate the sense of ‘I’ in the body, and will itself disappear as a fire of burning camphor. Sages and scriptures proclaim this to be Liberation. The veil of ignorance can never completely hide the self. How can it? Even the ignorant do not fail to speak of the ‘I’. It only hides the Reality, ‘I-am-the-Self’, or ‘I-am-pure- Consciousness’, and confounds the ‘I’ with the body. The Self is self-effulgent. One need give it no mental picture, anyway. The thought that imagines it is itself bondage, because the Self is the Effulgence transcending darkness and light; one should not think of it with the mind. Such imagination will end in bondage, whereas the Self spontaneously shines as the Absolute. This enquiry into the Self in devotional meditation evolves into the state of absorption of the mind into the Self and leads to Liberation and unqualified Bliss. The great sages have declared that only by the help of this devotional enquiry into the Self can Liberation be attained. Because the ego in the form of the ‘I-thought’ is the root of the tree of illusion, its destruction fells illusion, even as a tree is felled by the cutting of its roots. This easy method of annihilating the ego is alone worthy to be called bhakti (devotion), jnana (knowledge), yoga (union), or dhyana (meditation). 2 In the ‘I-am-the-body’ consciousness, the three bodies 3 composed of the five sheaths  are contained. If that mode of 2 i.e., the physical, subtle and causal — of the waking, dream and sleep states respectively. 3 i.e. the gross, sensory, mental, intellectual and blissful. Self-Enquiry 19 consciousness is removed all else drops off of its own accord; all other bodies depend on it. There is no need to eliminate them separately because the scriptures declare that thought alone is bondage. It is their final injunction that the best method is to surrender the mind in the form of the ‘I’-thought to Him (the Self ), and, keeping quite still, not forget Him.

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