[Advaita-l] How to know myself?

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sat Aug 10 15:36:03 CDT 2013

How to know myself?
Any knowledge involves subject, the knower (pramaata) and the object to be known (prameyam) and that which connects the two is the means of knowledge (pramaaNa).  In this knowledge myself, I am the knower who wants to know, and the object to be known is again myself only. What kind of pramaaNa I need, for me to know myself.
I went into the pitch dark room and someone from outside asked me. Sir, can you tell me if there is pot there in that room? I can only say – I do not know if pot is there or not – it is pitch dark here. I cannot see anything. Pot may be there may not be there. In essence, what I am saying is, unless I see or thus know the existence of the pot there, I cannot establish its existence. Existence of the pot is established by the knowledge its existence. Otherwise its existence is indeterminate. This is true for the all the objects or the world of objects in the space that I am in. True for the whole universe, since it is just assemblage of all inert entities at least from my point. 
For me to establish the existence of the pot or even any other person in that room it is obvious that I should be there or existent and I should be a conscious entity and conscious of not only myself but also the surroundings. Thus existent-conscious entity that I am only can establish the existence of all inert objects in the world by having the knowledge of their existence via a means of knowledge.  In the above example, I need my eyes fully operating without any defects, the mind behind the eyes with non-defective faculty of seeing, and enough light to see for the perception as  a means of knowledge to operate. All these factors are implied when I say – yes there is a pot in the room or there is a world of objects that I see. 
Interestingly, there are two things that I see (know) that exist even in the pitch dark room. Can you guess? One is the darkness itself. I said it is too dark here that I cannot see anything. If someone asks how do you know that it is too dark? I have to say – I can see. What? I can see darkness because of which I cannot see anything else. What light do I need to see that darkness? Should I turn on the light switch on for me to see the darkness? External darkness is that because of which I cannot see things in the room.  Similarly ignorance is that because of which I do not have the knowledge of the existence of what I am looking for. If I have a torch light I can shed light on the objects, one at a time, for me to know its existence. Suppose I see a pot there but it is upside down as though covering something. To see that pot, I had to use the torch light. I go there out of curiosity to see what is hidden inside the pot. When I remove the pot, I find
 that there is candle light burning there. Now do I need to use the torch light to see the candle light that is burning? It is self-luminous and in its light now I can see others things too. In essence I do not need another light to see a light. Yet to recognize the existence of self-luminous candle which is coved by the pot, I still have to use the torch light first to see the pot and then I have to a process to lift that pot to uncover the burning candle. Till then appropriate effort is required from my part once uncovered, the burning candle reveals itself. (For those who want to know, this example is from Naishkarmya Siddhi of Sureswaracharya, direct disciple of Shankara).
Continuing with our example, in the pitch dark room, someone outside asked – Are you there? Should I say, I do not see anything here – it is too dark – I do not know if I am there or not? Am I like any object whose existence cannot be independently established without some pramaaNa operating.  I do not need to see myself to know that I exist. I do not need to establish that I am a luminous (or conscious) entity. Like the relative example of candle light above, I am self luminous and I do not need any other means of knowledge, pramaaNa to establish that I exist and I am conscious entity. Actually even to establish that burning candle light is there, I have to be there first and I have to keep my eyes open, with the mind behind to recognize the existence of the candle and its light. If I am (or some conscious entity) is not there to establish its existence, its existence remains as indeterminate, like any other inert object ( may be there or may not
 be there). In essence, I do not need any means of knowledge or pramaaNa to know that I exist and I am conscious. In fact I have to be there to validate any pramaNa for it to operate to have the knowledge of existence of all other inert objects (including the burning candle or bright sunlight). Yet I need a pramaana (eyes to see and the mind to cognize) for me to establish the existence of both candle as well as its light.
Then what I am looking in this life, since I am not looking for my existence or my consciousness. Nobody is looking for existence or consciousness. Because they exist and they are conscious entities they are looking something else. Everyone is only looking for happiness, and not for existence nor for consciousness. Interestingly, everyone is looking for happiness outside, sometimes even after knowing it is not there outside and it is not there in any object also. There is actually another great wonder of all wonders. YudhishTara in Mahabhaarat answered to the question of what is the greatest wonder in life- he said – everyone sees beings are continuously born and also see those who are born die; yet everyone behaves as though they are going to live here forever, struggling hard to gain things that they cannot even enjoy while living. The whole life they struggle hard to enjoy life in future and ultimately die without living.  We are all working hard
 to gain happiness in future without realizing that future never comes and die without gaining what we want. 
Then how to gain absolute happiness that everyone is longing for? For that knowledge only Vedanta acts like a pramaana to reveal that what I am looking for I am already that- tat tvam asi – you are that what you are looking for.  Essentially it acts like a mirror to see myself in all my full glory. If I want to see my face, I need a mirror. When I see my face I see my reflection only. The reflection depends on the reflecting medium or condition of the mirror. For the mirror, depending on how strongly the dust is adhering to the mirror I have to use the appropriate cleansing process such as soap etc and in the end get rid of the dust and the soap too, leaving the mirror to its maximum reflecting capacity. When I see my reflection as the image in the mirror, I should also know that is the reflection of my own self. If I am a dog standing in front of a mirror looking at that image I may start barking thinking that it is another dog that is trying to
 occupy my place. Vedanta acts like a pramaana to make me realize that what I am looking in the pure reflecting mirror is my own self. It helps us to recognize that the mind and the world that is seen through the mind are all my own reflection – since both the subject, knower and the object known are known via the mind only. How to see myself in the mind and also in the world which is seen only via the mind using Vedanta as pramaana we will discuss next. 

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