A journey into the ‘Self’

By Mrinalini Gudimella. Mrinalini lives in Hyderabad, India. Please read her article and leave thoughts and comments below.

Man’s intellect seeks nothing but what he perceives as the highest state. But what is the highest state? The quest for the answer to this question lies in our own life’s journey.

As a child, I wished to excel in studies. Whenever I ranked first in class, I was on cloud nine. But, even if I missed the top position by only a few marks, I was disappointed. I achieved a gold medal in my University due to this very ambitious nature of mine.

Eventually, I landed in a good job, got married and am now the mother of two children. Motherhood brought great changes in my life. I stood at crossroads where I had to choose between giving complete time and attention to my kids, or performing my job duties to perfection. I could only do complete justice to one of these.

So, the choice was evident. I quit my job.

I felt very depressed and as if my role had paled into insignificance: from being someone important and completely occupied, to being nothing. The struggle to accept the change pricked me day and night.

A memorable quote reads: “Realisation comes only when mind is open or heart is broken.” All suffering opens gates to spiritual wisdom sooner or later. Suffering, I feel is the only path for self realisation. As Keats says: “When it is moving on luxurious wings, The soul is lost in pleasant smotherings.”

I read Adi Shankaracharya’s Advaita philosophy; Emerson’s poem, “The Over-Soul”; Ramana Maharishi’s and Vivekananda’s teachings; and others.

I pondered over the highest state of happiness that man could ever achieve. I observed that, everything materialistic that mankind considers as great pleasure, eventually becomes the cause of great pain in life. The ultimate state of happiness is beyond all pain and pleasure. This is the teaching of all great philosophers of the world, put concisely. Such happiness can be achieved only when our mind is merged with our soul. By ‘our soul’ here, I mean what the Hindu philosophers call the ‘Atman’, or our true ‘Self’. It is the manifestation of God in every human being. It is eternal and transcends all the conventional barriers of time and space.

Ramana Maharshi says: “Realization is not acquisition of anything new nor is it a new faculty. It is only removal of all camouflage.”

I have started observing my thoughts, positive or negative. Where are they stemming from? Once this observation started, the amount of thoughts were reduced to a huge extent. The mind became calmer and calmer. I am still trying to focus my mind completely on that God who resides within me, and not in any place of worship. Certainly, I have not become a holy being, but now I am much more courageous and peaceful than when I was hankering after ephemeral success.

I negate the first point in Michel Foucault’s statement which reads, “I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am.” Now, I feel knowing what ‘I’ really am, is the ultimate goal of this human life. Am I really this body, this mind, or the Self that is always in equipoise; the Self, which need not be freed as it is never bound at all, as envisaged by all great Yogis.

As Vivekananda says, “If there is a God, we must see Him. If there is a soul, we must perceive it.”

But yes, I do support the second point in Michel Foucault’s statement which reads, “The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.” The main interest in my life and work is to invite pains and pleasures that greet me in the path with equanimity and to give my best without expectations. But for this optimistic difference to materialize, I feel, it is necessary to know exactly what I am.

Confucius says, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” I feel there is only one way to disentangle the deep mystery of life – and that is, to tread on the path of Self-realisation. For this, the paths, the religions, the names may be infinite, but the ultimate goal is ‘One’ for everyone in the Universe. As Shelley says in Adonais, “The One Remains, the many change and pass.”

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