Why do we want Self-Realisation

From our e-book “Filling our Life with Celebration”

The most commonly asked question is what is self-realisation or how do I know when I achieve self-realisation? Perhaps the more appropriate question is why do I want to achieve self-realisation?

Before we buy a product, we seek to understand the benefits that the product will bring. Before we visit another country, we seek to understand the beautiful places we want to see. Before we learn a new skill, we want to know what benefits we will derive from the new skill. The same applies to self-realisation. If we want to invest our time and money into self-realisation, we need to understand the benefits that self-realisation bring.

The beauty about self-realisation is that as we proceed on the path towards self-realisation, we begin to enjoy its benefits even before we become self-realised. We get glimpses of the ultimate rewards. In the following story, we will discuss the benefits that will come from self-realisation. The benefits discussed can be observed based on our own experiences as we progress along the path of spirituality. Some of us may have already experienced them.

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A master and group of his students were seated around a camp fire, enjoying the warmth. It was a cool night and the full moon shone brightly in the star-filled sky. The fragrance of sandalwood incense added to the peacefulness of the night. It was silent except for the crackle of the fire and sound of crickets in the background. The master was in his 70’s but he looked much younger than his age despite his hair and beard which was white as snow. Peace radiated from his entire being and his students felt it.

The silence of the night was broken by a student. He posed a question to the master, “How do I know when I become self-realised.”

The master smiled compassionately. He was amused. He had perhaps been asked this question a thousand times but he never gets bored answering it. He knew that it is an important question because many students have strayed from the path because they do not comprehend its meaning. Again, he closed his eyes to allow his consciousness to envelop his students. He wanted to ensure that they do not only hear his words, but also understand them. He looked around. In addition to the local Indians, some of his students have traveled from faraway lands to India to meet him. There were Americans, Europeans and Asians.

With a strong deep and clear voice, he touched on the subject of death.

“The greatest fear of a being who has not achieved self-realisation is the fear of death. Death is the cessation of the Ego; the Self that we have mistakenly taken to be our true Being. However, when we begin to observe the ego, we can begin to see that the ego or the Self is merely a concept; a mere accumulation of memories, perceptions, beliefs and thoughts. Is summary, the ego is made up of thoughts. Thoughts cannot die but are passed on to everyone that we have touched in our life. Even for the Ego, there appears to be no death.

Neither does the body die. When a leaf falls from a tree, it decomposes and gets absorbed back into the tree. It becomes part of the tree again. The same applies to our body. When it dies, it returns to nature”.

He then remained silent for a moment to allow the students to grasp what he had just said.

Another student who was a medical doctor volunteered, “Scientific research has shown that death is not something dreadful but is something beautiful instead. Dr Raymond Moody, the Best-Selling Author of ‘Life after Life’ wrote about his research into Near Death Experiences (“NDE”). He noticed some common features in the experiences of people who had NDE, that is, they were clinically dead but revived by the doctors. Many experienced floating out of their bodies and looking down on their own bodies and on the doctors working on them. They could hear what the doctors said and later surprise them by recounting what was said to the doctors. The most common experience reported by them is the feeling of indescribable peace and bliss and being enveloped in a white light which is very bright but does not hurt the eyes. Dr Brian Weiss  who applied past life regression on his patients discovered that when the patients recall their death experiences, they felt blissful. Research into children who were able to recall their past lives also talked about similar feelings of blissfulness after leaving their bodies upon death”

The master thanked the student for the contribution. He added, “Knowledge is different from experience. The knowledge that you just shared, even if you believe it a hundred percent, can reduce the fear of death but you will not be able to transcend that fear unless you recognise that you are not your body and mind. That is why, spiritual practices is equally important. There must be a balance between seeking knowledge and applying the practices and knowledge gained”.

The master shifted his gaze to the student who asked the earlier question. “How do you know when you are self-realised? The answer is simple; your mind will shift from being a master to being a tool”.

He gazed about at his students. He knows that every student will interpret his statement differently. Few will understand its true meaning.

Anand was one of the students in his fifties, seated near the Master. He felt a stir within him when he heard the words of his Master. He has been thrown around by external circumstances that he truly felt that he is not the master of his ship. He felt so out of control and confused, and this is the reason why he was seating there with the Master, hoping to find a solution to his problem. Anand spoke softly, “Master, please elaborate on what you just said. I had a glimpse of something but I cannot put my finger on it”.

The Master was pleased. He continued, “The mind is the master when you react based on your past conditioning”. He shifted his gaze to a white American and asked him, “John, tell me honestly, if two strangers walk up to you; one a Caucasian and the other a negro; who would you trust more”.

“The Caucasian”, John responded honestly although a little embarrassed by his show of racism.

“I don’t blame you. That perception has been conditioned into you by your parents or elders. Society has more influence over your perception than you are aware of; for instance, one society may see slender women as beautiful while another society may prefer the opposite. A child raised by impatient parents may see anger as a natural response and thus be prone to getting angry. In fact, he may see the expression of anger as show of courage. Everyone has their own conditioning and habits and everyone must make his/her own effort to transcend them”.

Anand contemplated what the Master just said. He has a problem with anger. A problem he inherited from his father. He frequently gets into arguments despite his effort to remain patient. His habit of getting angry just takes over whenever he encounters some obstacle. He now sees the habit of anger as his master but he is hopeful of making a change. He is confident that his Master can help him.

As if reading Anand’s thoughts, the Master continued, “If you have a problem with anger, observe your angry thoughts and observe the anger. Understand them. When you observe your angry thoughts, you break the train of thought that fuels your anger. You begin to see how silly those thoughts are. Your friend says something which offends you. You start to think that he said it purposely to hurt your feelings when he may actually be referring to something else. Why spoil a pleasant conversation with your friend by reacting to what he just said. Instead, watch your breath and observe your emotions. Refrain from reacting. His next sentence may point out your misunderstanding. A lot of arguments are not worth the effort. They disturb your peace unnecessary. You just get into fights because it is habitual. It destroys your health and in the end, you have to spend all your savings on medical bills”.

Anand felt a release in his heart. He is not offended by his Master’s statement. He now has a tool to overcome his habitual tendencies and he promised himself to use it. He had a heart attack once and it is an experience he does not want to encounter again.

Sujata started to wonder if fear and worry was also a habitual tendency. Last week, the group meditated near a cemetery and she was petrified with fear. She was not able to meditate due to her wild imagination of ghosts. She then realised that it was her mind that created the fear. The mind was the master. She also realised that she can use the same method of awareness of overcoming anger to overcome her own fear.

The Master picked up on Sujata’s thoughts and saw it fit to talk about fear. “When your mind ceases to be the master, you will have the courage to go after your dreams and do what is right instead of what is easy. You are afraid to go after your dreams because your
mind paralyses you with imaginary obstacles, most of which are unlikely to happen. You are afraid of the embarrassment and disappointments which comes from your imaginary failure. You do not realise that the thought of the embarrassment and disappointment is far worse than the actual feelings themselves. If you just observe your feelings, you will see that they are fleeting and weak. Your mind gives them unnecessary strength. Observe your feelings and you will see that they quickly fade away. Do not give
them more importance than they deserve. If your mind is a tool, you will easily let go of the paralysing thoughts and use it as a tool instead to plan your actions to ensure success”.

The fire was starting to die down and it was getting late. The Master had one last message, “When you are self-realised you will truly know how to relax and rest. When your mind is the master, you may be sitting comfortably by the beach with a warm breeze blowing gently at you but your mind will not allow you to relax. It will torment you with your past and future. You will be tossed around like a small boat in a middle of a stormy sea. A self-realised being is able to observe his thoughts and let them go. He will not be tossed around by his thoughts and emotions. The waves may be trashing wildly but he will be sitting on an Island. He will not be disturbed by the waves. The Buddha said that an enlightened being is like a pole planted deeply into the ground and will not be shaken by the wild wind. No matter how hard the wind blows, he will remain at peace”.

The Master concluded, “Now, let us take a moment to meditate and enjoy this beautiful night together”.

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