What is Self Realization?

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Self realization is the goal of religion and spirituality. We are beset by two worlds - the external and internal. The scriptures say three - jagrat, swapna and susupti - or awake, dream and deep sleep. There is a fourth state called Turiya that transcends all. That state is the state of pure consciousness that alone exists.

The individual ego and other states disappear when this state is reached. We become free of fear and anxieties, our pain and suffering, and of the constant struggle to survive when we reach and realize this. We become everything, infinite and without the sense of space and time.

How do we reach that state? The first step is intent or the intention to reach that state. That intent comes only when we undergo wants and tremendous suffering and seek a way out of the quagmire called life. This is why Sages say that suffering is but the blessing of the Self.

The second is seeking. You start by approaching people who are on the path, or by reading books. The third step is when you approach a knowledgeable Guru and serve him, listen to him, and sincerely request him for initiation into the path. That initiation can be a touch, a look, a Mantra or an elaborate ritual.

The Guru then teaches you about the Sadhana Chatustaya, or the four modes of preparation. They are Viveka, Vairagya, Shat Sampat (the six noble virtues), and the Sadhana Traya or the three stages of practice. You then sincerely and to the extent possible immerse yourself in the sadhana while doing and performing your secular duties.

The path is not easy and the progress not easily evident. Divine Mother Sarada Devi had said, "Sadhana is like sleeping in a train. You seem to do nothing or achieve nothing, but the train is moving and you will ultimately reach your destination." Why is sadhana so difficult? We are not products of one single birth. We have travelled through innumerable births and have collected many tendencies and karma. They are always standing like a wall before us. When you start your spiritual life the base of the Kundalini where these past tendencies and karma is stored is stirred. They then become active as they have to dissipate themselves.

You have to burn out your past karma by experiencing the bad and good that comes out of it but without getting attached or experiencing revulsion. Thus difficulties surge after you begin your practice. You do stupid things and repent. You stumble and fall and you rise again. Swami Vivekananda says, "It is not a problem if you stumble, just remember you have to rise and walk again."

The other obstacle is that the owner of the visible world, or the Devi, call her Mother Kali or whatsoever always wants her children to be in the world and play. She therefore becomes displeased if anyone wishes to escape the cycle of birth and death. So you have to fall at her feet and beg her mercy.

The deliverer Lord Siva is a strange creature. He is a completely disinterested witness. He does not like to become the Guru. He appears least bothered about your fate as from his exalted viewpoint everything is perfect and the way it should be. So you have to fall at his feet too without expecting anything in return.

In the process you develop all; devotion, knowledge and active sadhana called Raja Yoga. You have to persist. In North India there is a saying popular among practitioners, "Guru ke dwar mein kutte ke mafiq pade raho". Surrender at the door of the Guru like a pet dog. That is the best attitude. Continue following the instructions to the best of your ability without undue expectations.

In India we always say, "Everything happens in due course and when the time comes." The world is a programmed entity. You have to wait till the programme leads you to the goal. When that happens something from within you will rise and automatically pull you in. Till that time be in the world but never allow the world to be in you.

Be a witness to whatever happens. Know that you are beyond death and indestructible and the world you know to be real is a dream phase that your mind is conjuring up. It has no basis. Your essence or the Self is the only reality and it is always there with you. The truth is you are already a realized soul but you do not know it.