The Biggest Misconception about Self-Realisation

 By Desmond Yeoh

Ceramic Products Manufacturer in Malaysia

Ceramic Products

What is self-realisation? To answer this question, one must first ask the question; what is the ego. The ego comprise of everything that is taught to us as we grew up. All our knowledge, beliefs, habits and perceptions are put there by others. Very little of it is gained through our own experience[1].

We react to circumstances based on our knowledge, beliefs, habits and perceptions…our ego. As long as we react based on these, our ego is the master. For example, if one is a Christian and one believes that God will be angry if one walks into a Hindu temple, one will not be able to visit a Hindu temple, even if it is the most beautiful temple in the world and one greatly desires to visit it. Our belief system is our master that limits our choices.

Here is the list of common beliefs shared by society today;

  • A swami is wiser than any householder.
  • The wealthy are happier than the poor.
  •  The wealthy deserves more respect than the poor.
  • A Spiritual Head with a rank recognised by society is more spiritually advanced that an ordinary swami or monk.
  • Siddhis or physic powers are measures of a person’s spiritual progress.
  • A Master is a person who can demonstrate miracles.
  • Spiritual people cannot succeed in this dog eat dog world.
  • A true spiritual being cannot be rich.
  • Success means triumph over others.
  • A teacher whose teachings are consistent with our current beliefs is wise. If not, he is confused and should be rejected.
  • Karma can be washed away. (Swami Rama’s master instructed him not to drink from or bathe in the water of Ganges with any idea that by doing so, his sins would be washed off. He said, “One has to reap the fruits of his karma. The law of karma is inevitable and is accepted by all the great philosophies of the world: ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’. Learn to perform your duties skilfully without aversion and do not believe that anything can wash off your bad karma. Taking a bath in a river and making pilgrimages from one shrine to another will not free you from the bondage of karma. Such belief is only superstition and has no logic”).

And the mother of them all…..

Self-realisation can be explained and understood.

Swami Rama’s master once said to him, “What have you learned and who taught you? Explain it to me! Our mother is our first teacher, then our father, then our brothers and sisters. Later we learn from the children with whom we play, from teachers at school, and from the writers of books. No matter what you have learned, you have not learnt a single thing independently of others. So far all that you learned is a contribution from others. And from whom have they learned? They have also learned from others….Your ideas are the ideas of others.”

Now can you see what the mind and the ego is? Do you see how you act and think the way you do?

If we understand what the mind comprises of, we will clearly see that the mind can never understand what self-realisation is. The mind is made up of knowledge and thoughts put into it by others. The mind contains only concepts and can never understand anything that it does not already contain for example, one can never understand French if one has never learnt it. Similarly, self-realisation is not a concept but an experience. It is just like how the taste of some exotic fruit can never be explained but needs to be experienced. Therefore, the mind can never understand what self-realisation is. Maya laughs at all of us when we seek high and low to understand what self-realisation is. Maya laughs even more when we ask a Master what self-realisation is because it can never be explained in words; just like how the colour purple cannot be described in words. We need only to see it to understand what the colour purple is.

The list is long but I am just giving some examples of the beliefs we may have in common. Can you see how these beliefs can determine how we react to our external circumstances? Can you see how the mind can be one’s master if one does not make the effort to understand and train it? If we recognise these beliefs and perceptions as merely concepts, they are less likely to imprison us and we will be able to act with clarity and wisdom. Transcending our beliefs, perceptions and habits is a long and tedious process but is highly rewarding. With every belief, perception and habit that we remove from the ego, we become freer and lighter. If we persevere, we will finally reach the door steps of self-realisation.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna said, “A man is wise if he maintains mastery over himself. If one ponders on an object, attraction will arise and from it, grows desire. Desire flames fierce passion which in turn breeds recklessness. He then forgets about what is right or wrong and act heedlessly. But if he deals with the object with equanimity and let it serve its free soul, then he will be tranquil. The soul of the ungoverned is not his. He does not know himself. In such a case, how can he have serenity and hope for happiness? Only with one who is not swayed by his senses; only he who holds mastery over himself displays perfect wisdom”.

See List of Articles

[1] Read more about this in the chapter ‘Going back to the Divine’ in the e-book ‘Candles of Celebration (

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. koh s.pen
    Oct 16, 2011 @ 10:32:47

    This is an awesome article. When I’m mindful, then it’s easier to leave my ego behind me. But on and off the ego will appear in front of me. I will need alot of mental training and practise humility. Thanks for the inspiring message.

    In appreciation and I bow to the divinity within you.
    Koh S. Pen


  2. Anonymous
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 20:53:15

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  3. Rosenber
    Jul 17, 2012 @ 22:19:01

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