On Discovering Our Infinite Nature
The chief purpose of the Yoga of Self-Knowledge is to awaken us to the truth of our essential nature. This truth is that our innermost Self is identical with the supreme reality that underlies and makes possible the universe. Our fundamental nature is infinite, imperishable, and transcends the conditions that apply to our physical and psychological being. Adhyatma Yoga is one of the paths that will enable us to realize this infinitude within ourselves.
This doctrine of the transcendence of the true Self runs like a vein of gold through the teachings of the enlightened exponents of Yoga. The supreme capacity of the human mind is for higher knowledge—jnanam. This is the wisdom that transcends the mind itself and all duality and limitation. Under its light, the infinitude at the heart of our being will be realized as the permanent and untaintable truth, the real nature of everything. ‘That which is the subtle essence, this whole universe has That as its Self. That is Reality. That is the Self. That thou art.’ (Chandogya Upanishad) To pursue this realization is to turn our endeavours to life’s supreme purpose, because this quest alone leads to ultimate fulfilment.
This realization may be compared to an awakening. These teachings have the potency to awaken recognition, because they appeal to our true identity. They are a device for waking us up from a kind of sleep in which that identity has been eclipsed by the sense of individuality limited to the body and mind. The metaphor of sleep is used to indicate our state of spiritual ignorance, whereas awakening denotes the altogether superior and real state of knowledge, when we know ourselves as we are in truth.
By using the term ‘spiritual ignorance’, it is not intended to devalue our present knowledge. It refers to that basic condition, common to all of us in our unawakened state, where we feel ourselves to be separate, individualized beings, and lack that vital realization of our deeper unity with all, which alone confers true peace and fulfilment. It is not the true nature of the soul, but a kind of delusion, and delusion is dispelled through the awakening power of higher knowledge.
If we wish to wake someone who is sleeping, we call them by their name, and very probably they will wake up—though perhaps we will need to repeat the call before it takes effect. Our own name has such power and meaning that as soon as it is recognized, the dream world is undermined and we wake up. This is the case with the teachings on self-knowledge. The message of the illumined sages makes its appeal to our true Self and not to the superstructure of the personality. It strikes the bedrock of our being. In this way, it is like the voice that calls our name to awaken us from sleep.
It is our deeper identity that is being acknowledged and affirmed when we are given such meditations texts as:
OM. I am one with the infinite power of love.
I am peace. I am light. OM.
OM. I ever was. I ever shall be.
I am Truth infinite. I am I. OM
Such statements have the power to cancel false identification.
Our true Self—our infinite nature—needs no illumination. It is ever self-illumined, being the inner light which makes all experience possible. Then what is the dream-like existence that seems to fill its place, and persuade us that we are separate, limited and vulnerable beings, the restless victims of desires and fears? What seems to veil reality and plunge us in illusion, is our mind and the habits of thought and feeling that we have developed over the years. In particular, it is the feeling that we are this mind, rather than the light and substance underlying the mind, which seemingly binds us.