Part X – Who am I or what am I not?
What we have done so far is to clarify some of the misconceptions and in the process introduced some of the Vedantic assertions too. We will now address some of the questions we have raised earlier.
We started our inquiry recognizing that there are two things in this Universe: I, the subject, and the world of objects constituting the rest of the universe. We have been examining the subject to find out our nature. We learned that according to Vedanta, the realization or understanding or experience of my true nature involves convergence of the knower and the known, or of the experiencer and the experienced, into one. In that sense, experience of the true self that I am is not different from knowledge of myself.
In fact, we have stated that knowledge of myself is not an objective knowledge as ‘I am this’ or even as ‘I am brahman’ (unless I know what that Brahman stands for), but as ‘I am as I am’ (and there is nothing other than I am), by negating what I think I am. Therefore assertion of ‘what I am’ involves negation of ‘what I think I am’, since whatever I think that I am is only objectification, which is different from the subject that I am. This, in Vedanta, is expressed as ‘neti, neti’, meaning I am ‘not this, not this’ where ‘this’ means anything that is objectified.
The negation process begins with the body-mind-intellect complex and ends with the entire world of objects that I experience or that I know. Krishna calls all this the ‘field of experiences’ or kShetra, and Krishna further declares, “Know me as the knower, the conscious entity, in all the fields of experiences”. Therefore, the ‘inquiry into the self that I am’ essentially involves rejection or renunciation of all that stands for ‘this’. Whatever I say I am, in qualifying myself, as ‘I am this’, or ‘this’ or ‘this’- all needs to be renounced in order to arrive at my true nature. This renunciation, as the path of salvation, is emphasized throughout Vedanta; it is the renunciation of all the notions about myself in order to arrive at the truth of myself. Only through renunciation one can attain liberation says Vedanta (tyAgenaike amRRitatvamaanasuH).
It is not physical renunciation of objects as some wrongly assume (although that does helps), but mental attachments to objects (as ‘I am this’ - ahaMkAra and ‘this is mine’ - mamakAra). I can only negate that which I am not; I cannot negate the true self that I am, since I have to be there even to execute negation. Hence what remains, after all negations are accomplished, is the negator, I, who cannot be negated. I cease to be even a negator, when all the negations are accomplished – I just remain as I am.
Proceed to the next essay.