41. From Self-Awareness to Self-Realization

Bhagavata, A True devotee of God

by Jayaram V

Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V


In its simple sense, self-realization is but the realization that you are the Self. Your quest to know who you are begins with that knowledge. You may call that the stage of self-realization, but only in a limited sense. It is like waking up from a dream, and becoming aware of your true identity.

Such knowledge makes you a wise person (jnani) but not a seer. In ancient times that knowledge would not come easily until or unless one served a spiritual master and studied the scriptures. It was a tedious process because the masters had their own criteria to choose their students, and they would not easily admit anyone. Therefore, chance or luck played an important role in molding the spiritual life of an aspirant.

In today's world you can easily get that information from any scripture. Since people tend to devalue what comes easily, most of them pass by that knowledge, without even knowing its importance to their lives and spiritual destiny. Knowing that you are not the body and the mind is the first and most important step in your spiritual life. Until you firmly establish that truth in your mind, you cannot fathom your own consciousness to know who you really are.

For example, in the second chapter of the Bhagavadgita in the very beginning of the discourse, Krishna affirms that truth. He wants Arjuna to know who he really is before he can lead him further to more serious subjects such as karmayoga or jnanayoga. All that knowledge is useless until that knowledge of Self is firmly established.

He states (2.16) that the unreal (asat), which is the body, has no existence and the real, which is the Self, never ceases to exist. The bodies of the Self are destructible, but the Self remains indestructible and unknowable. The actions that are performed with the body therefore do not touch the soul but will bind the beings.

The reality is that you are the all pervading imperishable soul. Reaching this stage of self-awareness is important. When it dawns upon you on its own it will be a profound and life-changing experience, but if you get it through reading a book or listening to a discourse, you will not be influenced by it as much. You may be moved by it, but you will not be transformed by it until you have spent a lot of time to stabilize your mind in that belief, and assume the soul-centric view of things.

The deeper awareness of the Self, or the awareness of the Seer as witness consciousness, comes later, after a long and arduous spiritual practice and self-purification. Even then it will not happen with booms and flashes of light as they show you in movies and literature. It is a completely noiseless experience, which arises from the silence of your mind.

Until then you will think that the mind is an abstract notion, or a concept which you know but cannot exactly say what it is. However, in the deeper state of self-realization, when all the modifications of your mind are at rest, you will realize that the mind is an entity in itself, like any other organ in the body. You will be able to see its movements with crystal clarity. This is the beginning of the state of Samadhi (absorption). In that state there will be many stages of awareness and duality, and you will progress according to your past karmas and inner purity. In the ultimate state, the mind and all notions of it simply disappear, and you alone remain.

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