In Search of the Self

Our day-to-day life is an expression of our minds and consciousness. It means that our pleasures, joys, depressions and follies belong more to our inner self than to events outside. Everybody's consciousness is constantly interacting with everything and every other person. The unbroken interaction between oneself and everything around is so consistent and constant, as though it is a combination of the two. It is important to understand that every expression and experience emerges not from the object or events outside but from one's own self. Therefore, everybody's experience, expression and reaction are not the same.

Quality of mind

As one evolves, so one reacts. The reaction of an animal is different from the reaction of an intelligent person. The reaction of an intelligent person is different from the reaction of a wise man. In the same way, the reaction of a wise man is different from the reaction of a saint. A saint's vision is guided by developed consciousness. The attitude of a wise man is guided by a higher quality of common sense. The reaction of an intelligent person is guided by a complete process of analysis. Therefore, people have always talked about the discovery of a higher quality of mind.

We have been visualizing the possibility of a higher type of reaction which occurs in the higher quality of mind. The purpose is to have a better understanding and experience of life, as well as a better attitude. A person is not happy just because everything around him is congenial. A person is happy because he has discovered a new approach to life. A person is not unhappy just because everything is heavily loaded against him, but because his approach to life is negative. Different approaches exist because the mind is not an independent instrument of experience. It is guided by divine and demonic forces.


There are three attitudes that control the actions of mind. In Samkhya, yoga and tantra, these three attitudes, gunas, are known as sattwic, rajasic and tamasic. When the mind is evolving, it undergoes these three phases. The mind is a product of nature and is subject to different grades of expression. Everything in this universe undergoes different stages of transformation and evolution. Matter, which was crude in the beginning, at the ultimate point of evolution becomes energy. In the same way, the mind at the primary and preliminary point of evolution is tamasic, and at the ultimate point is sattwic. Therefore, experience is born of the quality and nature of the mind.

For a tamasic mind, everything is the same, whether it meets a saint or a wretched person. In the same way, the rajasic mind's experience is responsible on account of its inherent nature. For a rajasic mind, whether it meets a saint or a criminal, it will consider it to be a hopeless person. For a sattwic mind everybody is good. It doesn't care whether someone is a criminal and it doesn't understand if a person is wretched.

The difference in experience is an expression of the quality of mind. Experiences are controlled by the quality of mind. If one understands this, then one can transcend the mind itself. If one has some sort of misunderstanding about people, if there is no trust and one is full of animosity for people, but if one understands that this is one's own mental experience and not necessarily the quality of outside events, objects or people, one may be able to transcend one's limitations.

Change the quality

Therefore, in your day-to-day life, the discovery of a higher quality of approach is absolutely essential if you want to change the quality of life. In Samkhya, tantra and yoga, it is defined that mind is a product of prakriti, nature. The mind is subject to the effects of the three attributes or gunas. As the mind is progressing, it is becoming free from its primitive limitations. In the course of time, the mind throws off the lethargy and procrastination of tamas. In the course of time, it completely rejects the aggressive, revengeful and devastating attitude of rajas, and attains the kind of equilibrium of sattwa.

When you attain equilibrium, life around you changes. When the mind attains equilibrium, people around you are changed. Many times you hear from friends, "Oh, I met that man after five years and he has completely changed. He was such a bad man, but now he is so sensible." However, if you happen to analyse, you will understand that it is your experience and not the quality of the other person. If you change the quality of perception, the object changes immediately. If that happens all over the world, what a bright world it will be, but this is talking idealism.

No monotony

We live in a world which is a mixture of three qualities. We can never get rid of this combination. If we ask God to withdraw these combinations, or if something happens to God and he withdraws the three combinations, life will become monotonous.

Total goodness is monotony. There has to be confrontation between different forces of nature. If there are only roses and roses all over France, one will become tired of them. There has to be a combination of colours, quality and varieties. The mind must try to understand this. If everybody becomes a yogi, sattwic and peaceful, I think everybody would go crazy. Therefore, there has to be some people who are not yogis. At least we can say that these fellows are not yogis, and they can say, "Look at these funny yogis."

Need for a problem

If the whole world or three billion people become Christian, will it solve or create the problem? I think the problem would be terrible, because when there is no problem that is the greatest problem.

You have everything - food and money when you want, a house to live in, no unemployment problem, no problem with education or medical care _ everything is solved by the state. Still, you are unhappy. When you have no problems, the mind still has a problem because the mind must have problems, otherwise it will go crazy. If you have no problem, then please create a problem for yourself!

The mind is a fund of awareness. It has the capacity for analysis and research. It can never remain quiet. There are two parables which illustrate this point.

Once a swami practiced tantra and became the master of a spirit. The spirit came to him and said, "Swami, give me some work." He gave him some work. Instantaneously the spirit finished it and came again. "Give me some work." He gave him more work. Instantly it was finished. How much work could the swami give? So he said, "I don't know what to give you." He went to his guru, "Sir, I have a problem. You gave me a mantra to control a spirit and now the spirit has become a problem for me because he wants work all the time." The guru said, "Okay, I'll tell you what to do. You ask the spirit to erect a tall pillar. Then tell him to apply wax, oil and lubricants to it and climb up and come down. That will keep him busy."

In the second parable a man went to heaven. He had a nice dwelling, and whatever he wanted he received immediately - food, clothes, recreation, swimming pool, music, dancing, nightclubs. This went on day after day. One day he got fed up and asked his attendant to find some work for him. The attendant said there was no work for him. He asked, "How long can I live like this?" The attendant said, "This is the only way you can live - you desire and it will be fulfilled. But don't ask for any work." The man said, "It is better to go to hell than to live here." The attendant said, "Sir, you are in hell."

Beyond the senses and mind

This is the problem of the mind when it is free from any kind of preoccupation. Therefore, when the mind is desiring or craving sensual pleasures, its experience is completely different. In the course of time, a person develops a distaste for sensual pleasures, because he finds that on account of attachment, he has become negative in his approach to and experience of life. He tries to transcend that particular state of mind. Through yoga the negative approach to life can be transformed.

The world is not negative. Objects of pleasure have no particular quality, but it is passions, attachment, clinging and craving that give them a particular meaning. In this context, people have always been thinking about the possibility of discovering the self, not discovery of the mind, but discovery of the self.

We discovered the mind when we incarnated as human beings. Discovery of mind is over and has made us wretched. It has conditioned our experiences and approaches. In Samkhya, tantra and yoga, we conceive of a self. This self is neither a quality of mind nor a higher transformation of mind. It is an independent entity in everybody, but it is suppressed or latent. This self in everybody has not been given a chance to operate. It only comes into operation when we have been able to transcend the mind.

This is not psychological stuff. The self in philosophy is known as atma. It is the radiant principle in everyone and different from the mind. The mind can never reach the self, but the mind shines on account of the radiance of the self. The senses can never reach, understand and experience the self. The mind, prana and wisdom cannot understand the self, but they all shine, live and operate by the radiance of the self.


But how to discover the self? It is not a subject of the mind, because the mind is finite and the self or atman is infinite. How can one understand, realize or discover the infinite with the finite? This difficulty has always been felt by those trying to discover the atman. The discovery of the self has always been a puzzle to everybody throughout the ages.

The Kenopanishad is a very important book and one of the oldest books to talk about the difficulty in discovering the atman. The problem it has put forth is this: What is the instrument by which we will understand the self? Can we accomplish the discovery with the finite body, mind and interactions? After discussing the difficulties in detail, it has come to one conclusion - withdraw the mind, withdraw the prana, disconnect the sensorial channels and develop shoonyata, void, nothingness. Develop a state where there is no experience, no perception, no cognition and a state where you do not exist for a period of time. It is at that moment that the radiance becomes effulgent, and the radiant experience is the discovery of the self.

In the beginning it is just an experience, but if you have this experience again and again, it becomes a pervading force. It saturates the whole being. The senses and mind are controlled and guided by it.

Another parable will illustrate this. Once, a small motor boat on the high seas suddenly developed engine trouble. It sent out an SOS signal and a big ship picked it up. The motor launch was coupled to the big ship and brought to the shore. In the same way, the finite instruments like the mind and senses represent the motor launch. They have limited capacities and their visions and experiences are finite. This is precisely the reason why everybody in the world is unhappy and frustrated.

Maybe only a few people in the world are full of inner happiness. Most people are fighting with their difficulties day in and day out and see nothing positive around them. They are tired, exhausted and depressed because they are working with the finite instruments. When one develops the inner self, it takes charge of all functions and one is under the charge of the self.

It is necessary to understand that life will continue like this and one has to face it. There is no use criticizing life or feeling disappointed and dejected. One has to completely transcend the situation, develop the experience of atman within and function in such a way that whatever happens is part of the great movement.

Closer than your breath

In order to discover the self, you have to dedicate yourself to the practices of yoga and tantra. If you dedicate or devote half an hour in the morning before you go to attend your shop, business, factory or industry, if you maintain total quietness for half an hour at least, the atman will emerge and influence the rest of your day. Then whatever situation you face in life will have perfect alignment with your personality.

When there is perfect alignment between you and your experiences, between you and your environment, between you and your friends, then the situation is absolutely different. In order to discover the self, you do not have to fight with anything because it is already within you. In fact, there is nothing else which is as close as the self. The atman is nearer, closer than your breath, closer than the mind. It is much closer than your feelings, but still something hangs in between. Even though it is very close to you, you do not experience it. It is so radiant and still you don't see it. It is so real and still you have no concept of it.

Real or unreal

Senses, mind and buddhi are not real when we compare them with the self. What a tragedy it is that we can experience the unreal but not reality! It seems that all of us are under hypnosis or some sort of delusion within. We are able to experience the clamour of the senses; we are able to experience the oscillating, vacillating and dissipating mind which has no luminosity. The senses and body have no luminosity and are not independent entities. The body is a composition, it is not homogeneous. Senses and mind are a composition. None of these are homogeneous. We do not experience them all the time. In dream and in sleep we do not experience them. It means they are not eternal.

Do you think the mind could be just an idea; that sense experience and the senses themselves are an idea? Or maybe that the mind, senses and body are a concept and not reality? I am not talking philosophy here, I am talking science. I think the mind, objects and senses are the quality of our ignorance. This is how you have to proceed with your analysis. Practice meditation for half an hour every day, remembering that whatever thoughts come to your mind and whatever experiences you become aware of, are simply a product of the mind and not a product of the self.


The visions, psychic experiences or the light you see in meditation are consequences of the mind, not consequences of the atman. When you experience the self, there is absolute oneness. This experience does not change. Once you have it, you have only that. Mental experiences change day after day, week after week and month after month. You cannot have the same mental experience even for a few days. Therefore, you must think how to transcend the relative realms of personality and experience the absolute in you.

There is something beyond matter and energy, something beyond force and light. What is it? It is nothing, and that nothing is everything. This is not to be taken in relation to, or in the context of, the world. However, when all experiences have fallen flat, when you die for a few seconds, the period of the twinkling of an eye, or maybe as briefly as lightning strikes, that experience is so important for the transformation of your whole life.

It is called reincarnation in this body, transformation or metamorphosis. The body remains the same. Height, weight, name, religion and nationality remain the same; they do not die, but your sense of identification changes.

New galaxy

You have been identifying yourself with name, form and the relativity of life for so long, but now you have disidentified yourself from them. You experience the silence of that nothingness and death. After that, you are reborn. Nobody will see you have changed. You take your car and go to the office. You do whatever you like, but a total change has taken place. Now you have discovered yourself. In the light of the discovery of yourself, you are operating in the drama of the vast creation. You realize yourself to be part of the cosmic being and everything is a matter of happiness.

Somebody criticizes you, well, that is another way of loving you. You are sick, that is another way of taking a complete rest. Everything that happens in life is a positive experience to you. That is how thousands of people have lived in the past in a particular galaxy - the galaxy of saints and swamis, the galaxy of liberated people. We wish to join that galaxy because it is so nice where everything has a positive meaning - where death is positive, where disease is necessary, where love and betrayal are necessary, where pleasure and pain are both necessities.

Tenon Hospital, Paris, September 1981