Happiness and the Art of Being
The Science of Consciousness
A science is a means of acquiring valid knowledge, knowledge that can be independently verified. But what is the correct definition of valid knowledge? Is knowledge valid merely because it can be independently verified, or is there some other more strict standard by which we can measure the validity of any given knowledge?
As we saw in chapters five and six, there are two forms of valid knowledge, knowledge that is relatively valid and knowledge that is absolutely valid. Accordingly, there are also two forms of science, relative science and absolute science. Except the spiritual science, which is the science of true self-knowledge or consciousness, all forms of science are relative sciences, because the knowledge they seek to acquire is only relatively valid.
From the relative standpoint of our life as an individual in this material world, the knowledge sought and acquired by the various branches of objective science may be valid and useful, but such knowledge is not absolutely true. It is not valid and true under all circumstances and in all conditions or states. The laws of science that we experience as true in this waking state may be experienced as untrue in dream. In dream, for example, we are sometimes able to defy the law of gravity by flying. The law of gravity, which is undeniably valid according to our experience in this waking state, is not always equally valid in dream.
All our so-called scientific knowledge, though valid according to our experience in this waking state, is not valid according to our experience in sleep. In fact, our experience in sleep calls into question the validity of all our knowledge and experience in this waking state. Though we may each be able to verify independently the validity of our scientific knowledge in this waking state, in sleep none of us can verify even the existence of this world.
In this waking state we assume that this world existed while we were asleep, but we have no means by which we can independently verify the validity of this assumption. To verify it, we must depend upon the testimony of other people who claim to have been awake while we were asleep, but those other people are part of the world whose existence we wish to verify, so they cannot be independent witnesses.
Some philosophers believe that though much of our knowledge concerning this world is relative, our knowledge of the laws of mathematics is absolute. They believe that since two plus two equals four under all circumstances and in all conditions, it must be an absolute truth. However, their assumption that it is true under all circumstances and in all conditions is incorrect, because it depends upon the obvious condition of the existence of two. In sleep we do not experience the existence of two, so none of the laws of mathematics are valid in that state. Mathematics is a science of duality and multiplicity, and as such it is inherently relative. It is relative primarily to our mind and its power of imagination, because only when our mind imagines the existence of more than one do the laws of mathematics come into existence.
All our knowledge of duality is relative, and therefore though it may be relatively valid, it is not absolutely valid. The only knowledge that we can consider to be absolutely valid and true is a knowledge that is perfectly non-dual – that is, a knowledge that knows only itself and that is known only by itself.
Any knowledge that is known by a consciousness other than itself necessarily involves duality, distinction and relativity. Therefore the only science that could be absolutely true and valid is the science of consciousness, or more precisely, the science of self-consciousness.
What is consciousness? It is our power of knowing, or our power to know. Or to be more precise, it is the power within us that knows. However, since that which knows is only we ourself, our consciousness is not something other than ourself, but is our very being or essence.
Of all the things that we know, the first is our own being, which we always know as ‘I am’. All our other knowledge comes and goes, but this first and most basic knowledge ‘I am’ neither comes nor goes, but is experienced by us constantly, in all times and in all states. Thus our very nature as consciousness is to know ourself. Consciousness is always self-conscious, and it cannot but be conscious of itself – that is, of its own essential being or ‘am’-ness.
The original and primary form of our consciousness is therefore our self-consciousness ‘I am’. Whether or not our consciousness knows any other thing, it always knows itself. In every knowledge that it experiences, its basic knowledge ‘I am’ is mixed.
That is, our consciousness experiences all its knowledge of anything other than itself as ‘I am knowing this’. Whereas it knows itself only as ‘I am’, it knows other things as ‘I am knowing this’. However, though it always knows itself as ‘I am’, when it knows other things in addition to itself, it seems to ignore or overlook its own basic knowledge ‘I am’, and to give prominence instead to whatever else it is knowing.
Though our consciousness sometimes appears to be knowing things other than itself, its knowledge of those other things is only temporary, and hence that knowledge of otherness is not an essential part of its being. In sleep we know that we are, but we do not know anything else, so our knowledge of otherness is extraneous to our essential consciousness of our own being.
Since our consciousness of our own being is permanent, whereas our consciousness of otherness is temporary, there is a clear distinction between these two forms of our consciousness. The former is our essential consciousness, while the latter is a mere adjunct that is temporarily superimposed upon it. This temporary adjunct – which rises from our essential non-dual consciousness of our own being as a dualistic consciousness of otherness, and which thereby appears to be superimposed upon and intimately mixed with our essential consciousness – is the limited and relative form of consciousness that we call our ‘mind’.
In order to know things other than itself, our mind must limit itself. But how can consciousness limit itself? Only that which has a definable or measurable extent is limited. Since consciousness has no boundaries, it has no such definable extent, so it is unlimited.
A limitation of any sort requires one or more dimensions within which it can set defined boundaries. But consciousness is not confined within any dimension, and therefore it does not have any boundaries that could limit it in any way. Since all dimensions, boundaries, limits and extents are concepts or thoughts that are known only by our mind after it has risen to know otherness, they are contained only within our mind and have no existence independent of it. How then does our mind confine itself within any limit?
Our mind limits itself by imagining itself to be one of the objects that it knows. That is, it first imagines itself to be a form, and then only does it know the forms of other things. A form is anything that is contained within boundaries, and that therefore has a definable extent in one or more dimensions. Every finite thing has a form of one type or another, because without a form a thing would have no limits and would therefore be infinite. Everything that we know as other than ourself is a form. Our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions, our perceptions and all other things that are known by our mind are forms, except of course our essential consciousness of our own being, which is formless and therefore infinite.
The form that our mind imagines to be itself is our physical body, through the five senses of which it perceives a world of objects and other bodies. Our mind cannot function or know anything other than its own being without first imagining itself to be the form of a physical body. Our identification with our physical body is so strong that we imagine that even our own thoughts occur only within our body. That is, we experience the grosser forms of our thoughts, such as our perceptions, our conceptions, our visualised imaginations and our verbalised thoughts, as if they were all occurring somewhere within our head, and we experience the more subtle forms of our thoughts, such as our feelings and emotions, as if they were occurring somewhere within our chest.
Whatever body we currently imagine to be ourself, whether our present body in this waking state or some other body in one of our dreams, we always imagine that all our mental activity is occurring within it, and that the world we perceive through its five senses exists outside it. In dream we mistake ourself to be some other body, but we still feel that all our mental activity is occurring within that body, and that the world we perceive through its five senses exists outside it.
However, though we experience our thoughts as if they were occurring within the body that we currently mistake to be ourself, we still feel them to be other than ourself. Having limited our consciousness by mistaking ourself to be this finite body, we experience everything else that we know as if it were other than ourself. By our very act of limiting ourself within the confines of a particular form, we are able to know all other forms as other than ourself.
In fact, however, our body, our thoughts and all the other objects that we know are only images that appear and disappear within our consciousness, and hence they have no substantial reality other than our consciousness. That is, all the forms that we know are just modifications that occur in our consciousness, like the waves on the surface of the ocean. Just as the water of the ocean is the sole substance of which all the waves are formed, so our consciousness is the sole substance of which all things known by us are formed.
Because we mistake ourself to be this body, we imagine that both the thoughts that seem to occur inside it and the objects that seem to exist outside it are all other than ourself. However, though it is absurd for us to imagine that any of these things, all of which we know only within our own mind, are actually other than ourself, this is less absurd than the confused imagination we have regarding this body, which we mistake to be ourself. Though we experience this body as if it were ourself, and as if we were limited within the boundaries of its form, we nevertheless experience it as an object. We talk of my arms, my hands, my legs, my head and even my body, as if these were our possessions, but at the same time we mistake them to be ourself.
Our knowledge about our exact identity is confused and unclear because, though we mistake the form of this body to be ourself, we still know ourself to be consciousness. Since this body and our mind, which mistakes it to be ‘I’, are actually experienced by us as two different things, we are unsure which is really ourself. When we say ‘my body’, we are identifying ourself with our mind, which cognises this body as an object. But we also sometimes say ‘my mind’, as if our mind were something distinct from ourself.
Because we know ourself to be consciousness, which is in fact infinite, but at the same time imagine ourself to be a body, which is finite, we are perpetually confused about our true identity. However, as a result of this confusion we feel ourself to be something limited, and hence we are able to know things as other than ourself.
Our mind is in reality nothing other than our essential consciousness ‘I am’, which is formless and therefore infinite, undivided and non-dual. Hence, since it is infinite, there is truly nothing other than it for it to know. However by imagining itself to be a finite form, it is able to know other forms as if they were truly other than itself.
Therefore our mind is able to know things other than itself only by deluding itself into experiencing itself as something that it is not – something that is actually just a product of its own powerful and self-deceptive imagination. Nothing that we experience in a dream is actually other than ourself, but by imagining ourself to be one of the imaginary forms that we experience in that dream, we experience all the other forms in that dream as if they were other than ourself.
All the duality or multiplicity that our mind seems to experience is therefore just a product of its self-deluding power of imagination, and it experiences all the manifold products of its imagination only by imagining that it is one among them. Therefore, though our mind is real as our essential and non-dual consciousness of being, as a consciousness that knows otherness it is merely a figment of its own imagination, and is therefore unreal.
We use the term ‘mind’ to refer to our consciousness only when it seems to know otherness. When it ceases to know any otherness, it ceases to be a separate finite entity, and therefore it remains as our infinite consciousness ‘I am’, which in reality it always is. As our true infinite consciousness, it knows only itself, but as our ‘mind’ it imagines that it knows other things and is thereby deluded.
As our mind we can never attain true self-knowledge, because as our mind we can only know our consciousness ‘I am’ mixed with the imaginary knowledge of otherness. That is, as our mind our power of attention, which is another name for our power of knowing or consciousness, is constantly directed towards other things, and is thereby diverted away from ourself – from our own essential being, ‘I am’.
Therefore, if we are to attain true knowledge, we cannot do so through the medium of our mind. We must turn our power of attention, which we have till now been constantly directing outwards through the media of our mind and its five senses, away from our mind and all its thoughts, back on itself, towards our real consciousness ‘I am’.
However, when we do so we are likely to find that initially we are unable to focus our attention wholly and exclusively upon our extremely subtle consciousness of being, ‘I am’, because our power of attention has become gross and unrefined due to our constant habit of attending only to our thoughts. Only by repeatedly attempting to focus our attention wholly and exclusively upon our essential consciousness ‘I am’ will we gradually gain the skill required to do so.
Only practice can make perfect. By repeated and persistent practice of turning our attention back on itself to discover what this consciousness ‘I am’ really is, we will gradually refine our power of attention, making it more subtle, clear and penetrating, and thus we will gain a steadily increasing clarity of knowledge of the real infinite and non-dual nature of our consciousness ‘I am’. Finally, when our power of attention has been perfectly refined or purified – that is, when it has become freed from its present strong attachment to attend only to thoughts and objects – we will be able to know with perfect clarity our essential consciousness ‘I am’ as it really is, devoid of even the least superimposition of any limitation or identification with any other thing.
This empirical practice of self-attention, self-scrutiny, self-examination or self-investigation is the experimental method of the science of consciousness. The only practical means by which we can discover the true nature of consciousness is by turning our attention towards it. Since consciousness cannot be known as an object but only as our own knowing self, scientific research upon consciousness must therefore consist in our scrutinising our own consciousness with a keen, focused and one-pointed power of attention. Except by such self-attention or self-scrutiny, we can never attain direct knowledge or experience of our real consciousness ‘I am’ as it really is, devoid of any imaginary superimposition or limitation.
The consciousness ‘I am’ is not some unknown thing that we are yet to discover, because even now we all clearly know ‘I am’. However, though we know ‘I am’, we do not know it as it really is. We know it in a limited and distorted form due to the false adjuncts that we superimpose upon it by our power of imagination. We know it wrongly as ‘I am this body, I am a person named so-and-so, I am sitting here, I am reading this book, I am thinking about the ideas discussed in it’ and so on and so forth.
All these adjuncts that we are constantly superimposing upon our consciousness ‘I am’ prevent us from knowing it as it really is. Therefore to know it as it is, we must look beyond all these adjuncts to the one basic consciousness that underlies them all. When we scrutinise our basic consciousness ‘I am’ with a keen and penetrating power of attention, all these false adjuncts will dissolve or drop off it, and thus we will know it as it really is.
Though we speak of our real consciousness ‘I am’ and our unreal consciousness ‘I am this body’, these are in fact not two different consciousnesses, but are merely two forms of the same consciousness, the one and only consciousness that exists. The true form of consciousness is only our pure non-dual consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’. Our mind, the mixed or impure consciousness ‘I am this body’, by which all duality is known, is merely a false, distorted and illusory form of our one real consciousness ‘I am’.
When it knows only itself, our one real consciousness shines as it is, devoid of all false adjuncts, but when by its power of imagination it seemingly knows things other than itself, this same one real consciousness appears as our mind. This one real consciousness ‘I am’ is our true self. Therefore, when we remain as we really are, knowing only ourself, we are the real non-dual consciousness ‘I am’, but when we direct our consciousness or power of attention away from ourself towards the imaginary world of thoughts, we seemingly become this mind.
Thus in reality our mind is nothing other than our non-dual real consciousness ‘I am’, just as the snake that is superimposed by our imagination upon a rope is in reality nothing other than that rope. Its seemingly separate and limited existence as ‘mind’ is merely an illusion caused by our lack of clear self-knowledge, just as the snake is merely an illusion caused by the lack of clear daylight. When we once shine a clear light upon the rope and thereby distinctly see it for what it is, we will never thereafter mistake it to be a snake. Similarly, when we once shine the clear light of our keenly focused attention upon our consciousness ‘I am’ and thereby know it distinctly as it is, we will never thereafter mistake it to be what it is not – any of the alien adjuncts by which we formerly defined it.
Since our mind is thus nothing other than our non-dual real consciousness ‘I am’, all it need do to know that consciousness is to turn its attention back on itself, away from all other things. However, when it does so, it ceases to be the limited individual consciousness that we call ‘mind’, and becomes instead the unlimited real consciousness ‘I am’, which in reality it always has been and always will be. Therefore that which knows our real consciousness ‘I am’ is not our mind but only that consciousness itself.
In recent years a renewed interest in consciousness has arisen among a still quite small group of scientists and academic philosophers. The ‘science of consciousness’, as it is sometimes known, is now a recognised even if still quite minor branch of modern science. However it is more commonly referred to as ‘consciousness studies’, because it is considered to be an interdisciplinary field of study involving contributions made by philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and other related disciplines.
Though these modern ‘consciousness studies’ sometimes describe themselves as the ‘science of consciousness’, or at least say that they are an attempt to move towards a ‘science of consciousness’, they should not be confused with the true science of consciousness that we are discussing here, because their understanding about consciousness and their methods of research are fundamentally different to the clear understanding and simple method of research taught by Sri Ramana and other sages. The radical difference between these two approaches lies in the fact that these ‘consciousness studies’ attempt to study consciousness objectively, as if it were an objective phenomenon, whereas sages teach us that consciousness can never become an object of knowledge, but can only be known truly as the essential reality underlying our mind, which is the subject that knows all objects.
In conformity with the fundamental demand made by all modern objective sciences, namely that scientists should seek to acquire ‘objective knowledge’ (knowledge that can be demonstrated and verified objectively) about any field of study in which they undertake research, modern ‘consciousness studies’ attempt to take an objective approach to the study of consciousness. Therefore, since in the limited view of our body-bound mind our consciousness appears to be centred in our brain, ‘consciousness studies’ place great weight upon the efforts of modern science to understand the relationship between the electrochemical activity in our brain and consciousness, which they imagine results from such activity. Moreover, since we generally take consciousness to mean consciousness of something, ‘consciousness studies’ are also very much concerned with understanding cognition and our subjective experience of the sensory stimuli that we seem to receive from the outside world.
In other words, the basic assumption made by philosophers and scientists who are involved in these modern ‘consciousness studies’ is that we can understand consciousness by attempting to study it as an objective phenomenon. However, anything that is known as an objective phenomenon is merely an object of consciousness, and is not consciousness itself. Since consciousness is the subject that knows all objective phenomenon, it can never itself become an object of knowledge.
Consciousness can be known or experienced directly only by itself, and not by any other thing. Therefore if we try to study consciousness as an objective phenomenon, we will only succeed in studying something that is not consciousness itself, but is merely an apparent effect of consciousness. If we truly wish to study consciousness and to understand what it really is, we must study it within ourself, as ourself, because we ourself are consciousness, and anything other than ourself is not consciousness but is only an object known by us.
So long as we experience any form of dualistic knowledge, that is, any knowledge involving a distinction between subject and object, consciousness will always be the knowing subject and never a known object. Therefore since time immemorial one of the fundamental principles of advaita vēdānta has always been that in order to know consciousness as it really is we must distinguish that which knows from that which is known.
This process, which in Sanskrit is often known as dṛg dṛśya vivēka or ‘discrimination between the seer and the seen’, is a fundamental prerequisite for us to be able to practise effective self-investigation. Until we understand this basic distinction between consciousness and even the subtlest object known by it, we will not be able to focus our attention wholly and exclusively upon our essential consciousness, and thus we will not be able to experience it as it really is – that is, as our pure and unadulterated consciousness of our own being, which is devoid of even the slightest trace of duality or otherness.
Unless modern scientists are willing to accept this fundamental but very simple principle, all their efforts to understand consciousness will be misdirected. Any scientist who imagines that they can understand consciousness by studying our physical brain, its electrochemical activity or its cognitive function, has failed to understand that all these things are merely objects that are known by consciousness as other than itself.
Our body, its brain, the many biochemical and electrochemical processes that occur within it, and the functioning of its cognitive processes, are all thoughts or mental images that arise in our mind due to our power of imagination, as also is the illusion that our consciousness is centred in our brain. In the actual experience of each one of us, our consciousness is always present and is clearly known by us as ‘I am’ even when we are not conscious of our present body or any other body, and though the rising and functioning of our mind is only a temporary phenomenon, no other phenomenon such as a body or brain can ever appear unless our mind rises to know it. Therefore, since we experience our mind whenever we experience our physical body or any other thing in this material world, we have no valid reason to believe or even to suppose that the existence of this world preceded the existence of our mind, or that our mind is a phenomenon that arises due to the functioning of our brain.
Since we experience our mind even when we do not experience our present body, as in dream, and even when we have no idea about the brain in this body, our mind is something that is clearly distinct from both our body and our brain. Moreover, since we experience our consciousness even when we do not experience our mind, our present body or any other body, as in sleep, our consciousness is something that is clearly distinct from both our mind and our body, and consequently from the brain in this body.
Since all that we know about our brain is just a collection of thoughts that arise in our mind, we can never discover the true nature either of our mind or of the basic consciousness that underlies it by studying the functioning of our brain. In fact by thinking in any way about our brain or any other such objective phenomenon, we are only diverting our attention away from ourself – that is, away from the consciousness that we seek to know.
Even if we knew nothing about our brain, we would still know ‘I am’, so if we truly wish to know the true nature of this basic consciousness that we experience as ‘I am’, we need not attempt to know anything about our brain. All we need do is to turn our attention away from everything that is known by us as other than our essential consciousness, and to focus it instead only upon our consciousness that knows all those other things.
However, when we actually turn our attention back towards ourself, whom we now feel to be a consciousness that knows things other than ourself, we will discover that our real self or essential consciousness is not actually a consciousness that knows any other thing, but is only the pure consciousness of being, which knows nothing other than itself. This pure non-dual consciousness of our own being is the real and fundamental consciousness that underlies and supports the illusory appearance of our mind, which is the consciousness that knows otherness, just as a rope is the reality that underlies and supports the illusory appearance of a snake.
Though the object-knowing form in which we now experience our consciousness is not its true form, we must nevertheless investigate it very minutely in order to discover the true consciousness that underlies it. Just as in order to see the rope as it really is we must look very carefully at the snake that it appears to be, so in order to know our true consciousness as it really is we must very carefully inspect the object-knowing consciousness that it now appears to be.
If instead of looking carefully at the seeming snake we were to look however carefully at any other thing, we would not be able to see the rope as it really is. Similarly, if instead of carefully inspecting our present consciousness, which now appears to know things other than itself, we make research however carefully on any of those other things that it appears to know, we will not be able to experience and know our true consciousness as it really is.
As we saw at the beginning of this chapter, all science is an attempt made by our human mind to acquire knowledge that is true and valid. Therefore the most important research that any scientist can undertake is to test the truth and validity of his or her own mind, since that is the consciousness by which he or she knows all other things.
If we are not able to verify the reality of our own knowing consciousness, which is what we call our ‘mind’, we will never be able to verify the reality of any other thing, because all those other things are known only by our mind. Therefore before considering undertaking any other research, every true scientist should first undertake research upon his or her own consciousness.
If we do not know the colour of the glasses we are wearing, we will be unable to judge correctly the colour of any of the objects we see. Similarly, if we do not know the reality of our own mind, which is the medium through which we know all other things, we will be unable to judge correctly the reality of any of those other things that we now appear to know.
As we have been observing throughout this book, our mind or knowing consciousness is a confused and unreliable form of consciousness. As a finite object-knowing consciousness, our mind functions basically as a power of imagination. Except our fundamental consciousness of our own being, ‘I am’, everything that we know through the medium of our mind is a product of our power of imagination. Even if we choose to believe that the world that we seem to perceive through our five senses is truly something that exists outside us and that it is therefore separate from ourself, a belief which is in fact entirely ungrounded, we cannot deny the fact that this world as we experience it in our own mind is nothing but a series of thoughts or mental images that we have formed by our power of imagination.
Moreover, on careful analysis, not only do we find that all the things that we know through the medium of our mind are mere products of our imagination, but we also find that our mind itself is merely a product of our imagination. Our mind does not exist in our sleep, but it rises as an image in our consciousness as soon as we start to experience a state of waking or dream. When it rises thus, we experience our mind as if it were ourself. That is, through our power of imagination we seem to become our mind, which is a knowing consciousness, that is, a consciousness that appears to know things other than itself.
Since our mind is not only a transitory phenomenon but also a mere figment of our imagination, whatever we may know through it is also both a transitory phenomenon and a figment of our imagination. Therefore any knowledge that we may acquire by making research on anything known by our mind is imaginary, and is no more real than any knowledge that we could acquire by making research on anything that we experience in a dream. Hence, though the knowledge that we acquire by making objective research in our present waking state may appear to be quite valid and true so long as we experience this waking state, it is in fact nothing but a figment of our imagination, and it therefore cannot help us to know and experience the absolute reality that underlies and transcends all imagination.
In order to experience that absolute reality, we must penetrate beneath our mind and all its imaginary creations by seeking to know the true consciousness that underlies it. Since we are the consciousness in which our mind and all its imaginations appear and disappear, we are that which underlies and therefore transcends it. Hence to penetrate beneath our mind we must know ourself – our real self or essential consciousness, which we always experience as ‘I am’ – and we can do so only by focusing our attention wholly and exclusively upon ourself, thereby withdrawing it from all the products of our imagination.
Only when we thus know our essential consciousness ‘I am’, which is the absolute reality underlying the transient appearance of our mind, will we be able to judge correctly the reality of all the other things that we know. Until then, we should not waste our time making research upon any other thing, but should concentrate all our efforts in making research upon our essential consciousness by persistently trying to centre our entire attention upon it.
One objection that philosophers and scientists often raise about this true science of consciousness is that its findings cannot be demonstrated objectively, and therefore cannot be independently verified. However, while it is true that we can never demonstrate the absolute reality of consciousness objectively, it is not true to say that it cannot be independently verified. Since consciousness is the basic and essential experience of each one of us, we can each independently verify its reality for ourself.
The real reason why most people, including many philosophers and scientists, and even people with exceptionally brilliant minds, tend to shy away from this science of consciousness or true self-knowledge, and also in most cases from the entire simple and rational philosophy that underlies it, is that they are too strongly attached to their own individuality, and to all the things that they enjoy experiencing through the medium of their minds. Unlike other philosophies and sciences, which allow us to retain our individual self and all our personal interests, desires, attachments, likes and dislikes, this philosophy and science require us to relinquish everything, including our own mind or individual self.
Until and unless we are ready to surrender our individual self and everything that comes with it, we will be unable to know and remain as the infinite and non-dual consciousness, which is our own real self. We cannot eat our cake and still have it. We have to choose either to keep it intact or to eat it. Likewise, we have to choose either to retain our mind or individual consciousness and all that it experiences, or to annihilate it by surrendering it in the all-consuming fire of true self-knowledge.
In the case of a cake, we do at least have a third option, which is to eat a part of it and to keep the rest of it intact, but in the case of self-knowledge we have no such intermediate option. We must choose either to imagine ourself to be this finite consciousness that we call ‘mind’, or to experience ourself as the infinite consciousness that we really are.
Some philosophers are fascinated by the profundity and power of this simple philosophy of absolute non-duality, but are nevertheless not willing to make the personal sacrifice that is required to experience the non-dual reality that it expounds, and therefore they enjoy giving lectures and writing books about it, but avoid actually practising true self-investigation, which is the empirical means by which true non-dual self-knowledge is attained. Such philosophers are like a person who enjoys looking at a cake and reading about how tasty and enjoyable it is, but who never ventures to taste it himself.
Their failure to put into practice what they think they have understood clearly indicates that they have not truly understood the philosophy that they seek to explain to others. If we have really understood this philosophy, we will certainly try our utmost to put it into practice, because we will understand that such practice is the only means by which we can attain true and lasting happiness.
Each one of us can independently verify the absolute reality of our essential consciousness ‘I am’, but to do so we must pay the necessary price, which unfortunately most of us are not yet willing to do. The reason why we are not willing to do so is that we are too strongly attached to our individuality, and are therefore not ready to surrender it even in exchange for the perfect happiness of true self-knowledge.
However, our clinging thus to our individuality is the height of foolishness, because this individuality to which we cling with so much attachment is in fact the cause of all our unhappiness, and the only obstacle preventing us from enjoying the perfect happiness that is our own true nature. As Sri Ramana used to say, our unwillingness to surrender our finite individual consciousness together with all the petty pleasures and pains that it is constantly experiencing, when in exchange for it we can become the true infinite consciousness, which is the fullness of perfect happiness, is like being unwilling to give a copper coin in exchange for a gold one.
However, even if we are not yet entirely willing to surrender our individuality here and now, if we have at least understood that this is something that we must do in order to be able to experience true self-knowledge, which is the state of supreme and absolute happiness, we should not be disheartened but should persist in our attempts to focus our attention upon our basic consciousness of being.
Since our consciousness of being is the ultimate ‘light’, the light by which all other lights are illumined or known, it is the source of perfect clarity. Therefore the more we focus our attention upon it, the more it will enkindle a deep inner clarity in our mind, and this clarity of self-consciousness will enable us to discriminate and truly understand that real happiness can be experienced only in the state of ‘just being’, that is, the state in which we remain merely as the simple non-dual essence or ‘am’-ness that we always really are.
When we discriminate and understand this truth with profound clarity of self-consciousness, we will be consumed by absolute love to know and to be the reality that we always are, and thereby we will effortlessly surrender our false individual self and merge forever in the infinite consciousness that is our own real self.