BENGALURU: If you ask somebody what the self is, he would say, 'It is all my senses, my feelings, my imagination, my romantic demands, my possessions, a husband, a wife, my qualities, my struggles, my achievements, my ambitions, my aspirations, my unhappiness and my joys' - all that would be the self. You can add more words but the essence of it is the centre, the 'me', my impulses - 'I am impelled to go to India to find truth' and so on. From this centre all action takes place: All our aspirations, our ambitions, our quarrels, our disagreements, our opinions, judgements, experiences, are centred around this. This centre is not only the conscious self-acting outwardly but also the deep inner consciousness which is not open and obvious; it is all the different levels of consciousness.
Now the questioner asks: Is it possible to be free of this centre? Why does one want to be free of it? Is it because the centre is the cause of division? That 'me' is the active element that is operating all the time; it is the same 'me' with different names, with a different coloured skin, with a different job, with a different position in the hierarchical social structure - you are Lord so-and-so, somebody else is a servant - it is the same 'me' dividing itself into all these different categories - socially, economically and religiously.
Where there is this division there must be conflict - the Hindu as opposed to the Muslim, the Jew, the Arab, the American, the English, the French. That is physically obvious and it has brought about tremendous wars, great agony, brutality and violence. The self identifies with an ideal - noble or ignoble - and fights for that ideal. But it is still 'the ego trip'. People go to India trying to find spirituality; they put on different fancy dresses but they have only changed the garb, the clothes; essentially they are each the 'me' operating, all the time struggling, endeavouring, grasping, denying, being deeply attached to their experiences, ideas, opinions and longings. And as one lives one observes that this centre, this 'me', is the essence of all trouble. Also one observes that it is the essence of all pleasure, fear and sorrow. So one asks, 'How am I to get rid of this centre so as to be really free - absolutely, not relatively?' It is fairly simple to be relatively free; one can be a little unselfish, a little concerned with social welfare, with the difficulties of others, but the centre is always there biting hard, brutal.
Is it possible to be absolutely free of that centre? First of all see that the greater the effort that is made to be free of the centre, the more that very effort strengthens the centre, the self. For those who go off into meditation of various kinds, trying to impose something upon themselves, the 'me' that identifies with that effort is captured by that and says, 'I have achieved', but that 'me' is still the centre.