The strong belief that “I am this body,” is a binding thought by itself. This thought cannot be removed by any weapon or fire. Actions like washing, sweeping or wiping cannot clean away this, even if done crores of times. The only way to remove it is by discriminative intellect—knowing to tell the difference between what is real and what is unreal. The purified mind and bright intellect shining with the realisation of the self can alone cut this thought asunder.
The Vivekachoodamani of Sri Adi Sankaracharya outlines the steps to achieve this. A one-pointed concentration on what the Vedas have to say on this subject of the Self, a focus on doing one’s duty as an offering to the divine. These will lead to purification of the intellect. With this one-pointed intellect, when the supreme self is known, through that alone the roots of change and transmigration from birth to death to birth again are destroyed.
Just as moss, which is generated from the water in a lake, covers the water completely, the five layers of our existence—the food sheath, the vital air layer, the mind sheath, the intellect covering and the innermost core where we experience feelings—are generated by the power of the Self, and they do not reveal the presence of the Self as the attention is on the physical, mental, emotional and intellectual existence only.
When this mossy layer is removed, the pure water that can quench our thirst is visible. In the same way, when the five layers are negated with the help of right thinking, the pure, eternal essence and supreme light that shines by itself are experienced.
So what should the devotee who is learned in the scriptures do? They have to constantly discriminate between what is the Self and what is not. Only this will lead to liberation. It is only then that one experiences bliss as that wealth within.
When the seeker learns to separate the true self from all objects of sense perceptions, thoughts and feelings just as one separates the central pith from the Munja grass, the Self is realised. When all the objects that are not self are negated, then only the experience of the Self remains.
The Acharya now points out the process of contemplation towards self-realisation step by step, uncovering layer after layer, until the core is reached.
The writer is Sevika, Chinmaya Mission, Coimbatore (www.chinmayamission.com); email: firstname.lastname@example.org