The subject today is ‘self-realisation‘. It is a very loaded word that is often misunderstood. In this context, I will bring the Upanishads into the picture since they are among the most important and authoritative teachings concerning the knowledge of the self. All the great teachers, from the beginning of time, and this includes the written record in the Vedas, have talked about self-realisation.
Man, know thyself!
Socrates said: “Know thyself”. The Upanishads also say the same. So do all great spiritual teachings. Among the sufis, there is a saying attributed to Prophet Mohammed: Man arafa nafsahu faqad arafa rabbahu. This means, he who knoweth his self, knoweth his lord. We are also familiar with the vedantic teachings, which use the word self-realisation instead of God-realisation.
To know the self is to know ‘that’. Whatever you call ‘that’–be it God or brahman or paramatma or even shunya. To know oneself is the most important thing. In the inquiry into spiritual matters, to find the truth, we have to first know the one who is searching for the truth and that is indeed one’s self.
In this self-enquiry, it is important to take stock of one’s self–one’s capacities, weaknesses, strengths, talents and also one’s darker side. Common sense says it is not possible to understand or embark upon any enterprise before making such a self-assessment. So, when one wants to know oneself, one should start with the understanding of what one is at the moment.