by Hari Prasad Shastri

All our activities from the time we see the light to the day we cease to breathe are directed towards one aim—to be happy. We perform our duties so that our conscience may be light and we may be happy. The wise in pursuit of their happiness do not want it at the expense of the happiness of others, but the ignorant do not mind if they have to build their happiness on the sighs and tears of others; they will find such happiness is as short-lived as a flash of lightning. The whole of history bears this out very well.

Happiness and freedom are our very nature, and unless we return to this natural state, there is no happiness for us at all. Real happiness comes only through one means: the return of the soul to its true nature. An actor may be young, yet on the stage he appears as old. Similarly, the spirit of man is innately good, but under the impulse of ignorance, we appear in many forms or states, and we are unhappy. We pass our time in useless struggle, carrying fear and disappointment with us. The only way to happiness is knowledge—knowledge of the nature of the Self.

Aristotle has said that the highest value in life is unbroken happiness. He places happiness, not in the active struggle but in tranquillity and the contemplation of truth. Similarly, in the Yoga of Self-knowledge, happiness lies in the return of the spirit from the realm of limitation to its own pristine nature.

This knowledge can come only to a heart that is purified and tranquil, and in order to become tranquil, the soul must practise devotion, charity, study and the service of mankind. Purify the heart by prayer, by living a life of non-violence and devotion to the truth. Virtue is not the goal of life but it is an essential instrument. The life of devotion, benevolence, charity and forgiveness paves the way for the knowledge which brings happiness.

Knowledge of truth, knowledge of the nature of being, the soul and existence is essential for the return of the soul to the light of the true Self. Existence is the ultimate reality. Existence is being, it is God and the soul of man. To discover the source of happiness within, we must meditate on the nature of existence with our heart purified. Existence is that which never contradicts itself and exists in all divisions of time undergoing no change. We need to know the nature of existence, and when we meditate on it, inner illumination takes place. Existence and consciousness are synonymous terms.

You can negate anything except that one fact of consciousness that you know. It is like a lamp by which you know all other objects, even light itself. Through consciousness you know everything in the world. Consciousness is the most positive fact which makes possible all other experiences. In the state of deep sleep, are you conscious of this book? No. Consciousness is then withdrawn from the outer court of the senses, but there is no sense experience without consciousness. It is God—the light of lights.

When consciousness sprouts forth in you, everything is revealed by that light, which is much greater than the sun. By means of consciousness you know the sun rises and sets. Consciousness is your own Self. It is good to know this well and forever. Meditate on it daily, and this maturity is called freedom, salvation, enlightenment.

Consciousness must be undivided. It is impossible to divide space, what to say of the reality—consciousness—that is beyond space. As it says in the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord—the supreme reality—abides in all beings. ‘This reality appears to be divided, but in fact I am undivided.’ All is fundamentally one consciousness. ‘O Arjuna, every being exists in Me as beads on the thread.’
The divine principle that unites all things is Chit, Consciousness. That same principle is the enquiring entity in man. The one who asks these questions—it is he who is God. Existence or consciousness is God.

We are mistaken when we think of the body as the Self. It is the spiritual principle in us, existence-consciousness, that is the ultimate reality beyond time. Everything in time changes—mountains crumble, kings die. But consciousness is above time. Hence consciousness is eternal—God is eternal. We postulate the immortality of the spirit of man because it is consciousness. God is not conscious but consciousness, and so too is the spirit of man.

What is that of which we are spontaneously aware? We can doubt the existence of the sun and the earth. But now appeal to the inner fact of your being. Of this you are aware without proof or instrument. Is there anything I know without the senses? Yes, my own being—I am. This is the innermost experience of all and requires no proof. It is consciousness.

Outer objects are not known directly. The rays of light issuing from the object register the picture on the retina of the eye, which is then conveyed to the mind. We see the objects of the world, not directly, but through the mind and the senses. All you know is what the philosopher Kant called the ‘phenomenon’—that is, the image projected by your mind. The ‘thing-in-itself’—the noumenon—is not known. The noumenon cannot be known by the senses. To know the thing-in-itself, different means are devised.

Is there anything we can know directly? Yes. Our own consciousness. We are spontaneously aware of our own Self. We cannot go to the world for an answer as to the nature of existence. What do we know immediately? I am existence. I am consciousness. I am more—that is all we know immediately.

If someone asks me: ‘What is God?’ I reply with a question: ‘Are you, or are you not?’ In the end the questioner will discover: ‘I am consciousness, unchangeable.’ Knowledge is experience and cannot be explained on the basis of materialism. Who is the knower of matter? If matter is all, what is consciousness? We can explain the content of consciousness, but not consciousness itself.

What the candle is to the sunlight, so is the sunlight to the light of consciousness. Consciousness is the light of the sun. It is the sun of suns. When you have known yourself you have known God.
Being is consciousness, all-pervasive and eternally transcending the limits of time, space and causality. Realise it, and be at peace.


This article is from the Autumn 2018 issue of Self-Knowledge Journal.