What does it mean to realize the self? I know that I am male or female, Indian or American, Hindu or Muslim, Christian or Jew, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or dull. black or white, educated or illiterate, saint or sinner, atheist or believer, compassionate or cruel, generous or mean However, the tantric and vedic sages say that all of these criteria are irrelevant, immaterial and unimportant as far as the quest for the self is concerned. In this quest one’s sex. nationality, class, creed, social status, dogma and religious beliefs hold no sway. The self relates to a different dimension altogether. Exploring the self, they say, is not a social. cultural or religious affair. The emphasis of the sages was on the innate qualities of man, not the acquired ones.

They realized that the spectrum of human awareness ranges from demonic to human to divine, on account of the interplay of the three qualities, or guns, which constitute his being. These three qualities are known as sattwa, rajas and tamas. Sattwa denotes divinity. tamas the demonic quality, and rajas the human endeavour. Of course, this is a very broad classification, but it is true that all of these traits are a part and parcel of our nature. The three gunas are present in each one of us and continually direct our thoughts, actions, feelings and, in fact, the totality of our lives. They determine the temperament of each one of us as well as our inclinations in life. We make all of our choices the on basis of these gunas.

However, no matter what choices we make in life, we should not forget the purpose for which we have come into this world. That purpose is to realize the self. Human birth has been given great importance, because it is only as a human being that we can know our true essence. It is the seed of individuality that has been sown in human beings which gives us knowledge of our existence. Other forms of creation live without any knowledge of their existence. It is man alone who has knowledge of each and every act that he performs and thereby of his existence.

Man is aware of time, space and object. Although animals, plants and minerals are sentient beings, they do not have this awareness. A dog barks, but he does not know that he is barking. A tree bears fruit, but it does not have the knowledge that it does so. Life forms experience feelings, likes, dislikes, and memory, yet lack awareness of time and space. They remain oblivious to their surroundings and existence. Man is exceptional because he can have knowledge of his existence within time and space and beyond time and space as well. Voluntarily transcending the self, he enters a timeless realm, experiencing unified awareness. Integral to evolution, he manifests as the gross body and mind. (VBT sl. 97)

When desire or knowledge have not arisen in me – who am I?, in that condition. That is truly my essential Reality. By reflecting in this way, one will be absorbed into that Reality. •

(VBT sl. 97)