Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Merging with the Self?
Alan Stoltz

flower picture

The following is edited from a post to the SatsangDiary Egroup in Oct 2004.

Q: For those of us who have yet to merge in the effulgent bliss of Oneness, it is important to validate one's own experience, I feel.

This whole concept of ‘merging’ (and all concepts like it!) are just plain wrong, it seems to me. We’re barking up the wrong tree, I would say. As Ramana said, ‘There is no reaching the Self. You are already that!’ And for ‘reaching’ read ‘merging’ – they mean the same thing, essentially. Also, note that this ‘merging’ concept is a highly dualistic notion; not exactly Advaitic.

One can indeed ‘merge’ with things like cream cakes and the like (including ‘higher’ types of experience which have a ‘merging’ component), but Awakening, Enlightenment and Self-Realisation and any type of ‘merging’ idea have no connection at all, I would say.

The right concept, it seems to me, is ‘Recognition’ and not any type of ‘merging’ concept. And by ‘Recognition’ I mean the Recognition of that which is already the case, of that which is truly present, of that which is really real. And what could be more real than this Here-Now-Awareness which is always present. It’s absolutely rock-solid! [The Diamond of our True Nature, perhaps?] In fact, who we usually think we are would have no existence at all without It! Isn’t that so?

And is this Here-Now-Awareness something that you have, or is it rather the case that you, in actual fact, are this Here-Now-Awareness? It’s what you really, really are! Isn’t it? There may indeed be a belief in the mind that there is a real mental-psychological ‘entity’, but is there really? If you look closely I think you’ll find that this ‘person-entity’, in fact, borrows (so to speak) its apparent existence and apparent stability from this Great Existence and Stability that’s always here. Namely, this Here-Now-Awareness, this ever-present Unchanging Silent Self that is always here, and which is what you really truly are beyond the time-bound, ever-changing, ever-chattering phenomenal self. Wouldn’t you say?

I like this ‘borrows’ idea so much here, I find myself inclined to repeat it. [Indulge me! Here we go, again!] The ‘person-entity’ [self] that we are conditioned to think and believe ourselves to be ‘borrows’ its apparent existence and apparent stability from the Great Existence and Great Stability of this obvious Here-Now-Awareness [Self] that is always here! In an image: a whirlpool in the Ocean might get the idea that its ‘self’ or ‘identity’ or ‘existence’ resides in the apparent temporary stability of its motions, when, of course, its ‘True Self’, its ‘True Identity’, Its ‘True existence’ is always the Ocean itself!

Criticising this ‘merging’ idea further, it implies that 2 real existing things [dualism!] which are in a state of ‘not-merged’ becomes ‘merged’ and ‘One’ somehow. As indicated above, the mental-psychological ‘personal-self’ is a construct and concept essentially and is not a reality or stability, really. And it’s certainly not a reality and stability in the same sense as this obvious Here-Now-Awareness [or Self!] is a Reality and Stability. In fact, I should say this Here-Now-Awareness, this Self, this Open Space of Being, is the Reality and the Stability, rather. I think I should say so indeed! Goodness gracious me!

So how can what is essentially an unreality ‘merge’ with a Reality – or the Reality, rather. It just doesn’t make any sense when looked at and understood properly. The mental-psychological ‘personal-self’ is just an idea. It’s a type of thought-form, which the sense-of-identity has become fixed on. It’s a type of mask [persona] or ‘covering’, so to speak, which un-examined has a tendency to obscure and cloud the True Self and one’s True Identity, replacing it with an essentially false-self and wrong-identity which is constructed hugely (in most cases) on that face we see in the mirror every day. [Thank you Douglas Harding!]

Our situation, which is the situation which virtually the whole of humanity finds itself in, is a bit like this:

[Scene: a vast madhouse where everyone thinks that they’re Napoleon.]
[A physician attempts some ‘cognitive therapy’ on one of the inmates.]

Physician: ‘But Napoleon died a couple of centuries ago! How can you possibly be Napoleon?’

Inmate: ‘Yes, I know. But I’m still Napoleon!’

Physician: ‘But Napoleon was a short-arsed git! You’re 6’2’’, for goodness sake! How can you possibly be Napoleon?’

Inmate: ‘Yes, I know. But I’m still Napoleon!’

… etc.

So our situation is a case of mistaken identity, really. We think we’re something that we’re not, and that which we truly are we ignore and overlook. We think we’re a ‘person’ and we insist on ignoring the fact that what we actually are is Awareness. So what we really need to do is to get the Recognition (I repeat, Recognition!) of that which it is we truly, truly are! And this is dead easy to accomplish, actually!

(1) Look at any object. Notice that it has shape and form, is over there and is a fleeting perception in time.

(2) Now notice that which takes it in. Let’s call this ‘?’ which perceives the ever-changing object: Awareness.

Now to really deeply appreciate this Awareness we are (in an effort to stop our usual insistent habit of constantly overlooking and ignoring It), let’s look at its characteristics:

(a) Look at the object. Notice that which takes it in has no shape or form. In other words, this Awareness that you are is Formless! [Wow! Think about it! Everything is limited to a shape or form of some sort except this Awareness that you actually are! Wow! It is completely free of the ‘thousand natural shocks’ and limitations of form. Wow!]

(b) Look at another object. Notice that Awareness stays the same! Repeat with yet another object. Is it the same Awareness? Of course it is! In other words, this Awareness that you are is Unchanging! [Wow! Think about it! Everything in the universe changes except Awareness. Everything is just a fleeting transitory passing. But Awareness is rock-solidly Unchanging! Wow! And because it’s Unchanging it’s also Timeless and Eternal! That is, you as Awareness are Timeless and Eternal! Wow!]

(c) While looking at an object notice that Awareness is wide wide Open and Vast. Look out the window at the trees and sky, all of which arise in the context of Awareness. Experience here, particularly, the Vastness of this Awareness you are. [Wow! Think about it! Society’s conditioning tells you that you are a small little thing – but, in reality, you are taller than the trees, vaster than the sky, wider than the oceans! Wow! This Awareness that you are is Limitless! Wow!]

(d) Also, notice that this Awareness you are is always Here and Now, at Centre! Is it not therefore the Heart? The ever-Open Heart? The Heart that is never ‘blocked’ or closed, actually! Wow!

Wow! Indeed! I think we can say. If only we would spend more time tasting and savouring this Awareness we are! (Atma-Vichara, Self-enquiry.) Now that would be a ‘Wow!’ indeed! If not some type of Miracle, in fact! [Poor old ‘God’ or ‘Self’ suffers from neglect at times, you know, while we smoke pipe-dreams, so to speak, about uniting with effulgent blisses …etc – cough!]

Anyway, going back to our Napoleon example, imagine this. The ‘inmate’ says to the physician:
‘Yes, I can see that I may have a deeper and truer identity beyond my surface identity as Napoleon and I Napoleon hope one day to unite with it in the Oneness of effulgent bliss.’
The physician upon hearing this may then say:
‘Uh, right. I think it’s quite possible that you may not be quite getting what it is that I’m going on about, as it happens, old bean. Did I mention Ramana’s ‘There is no reaching the Self. You are already that.’ Which means, correct me if I’m wrong, that Unity and Oneness is already a fact. The bliss of the Self, the bliss of Awareness is already here. We just need to ‘unite’ with the Recognition of that which it is we already are, investigate it deeply, relax the mind and enjoy its Peace and Silence and its ever-present effulgent Bliss and Presence. The Ease and Bliss of Being, indeed! Have a taste.’


I think we have to be careful in this Awakening game not to confuse ‘higher’ experiences with Awakening and Self-Realisation. These ‘higher’ experiences (often confusingly called ‘spiritual’ experiences) are usually accompanied by very great bliss and seriously heightened emotional intoxication. Speaking as an old ex-kundalini ecstatic I know how impressive such states are, but they have nothing particularly to do with Awakening and Realisation. They are essentially communion states – still very dualistic, note! They may sometimes go on to the ‘Union’ of Recognition and Self-Realisation, but only sometimes. Of course, such extraordinary experiences go on to have an impact in the world. A lot of mystical writings in our world culture reflect and give voice to these communion-like states. The lover and the Beloved in Sufi poetry, for example.

Ironically, these less-important types of experiences are actually more difficult to get than the simplicity and naturalness of Awakening and Realisation, which, as Papaji (among others) said, is our birthright. Our True Nature is readily and easily available at all times, should we attend to the facts of what this Awareness that we actually are is: Open, Unchanging, Timeless, Eternal, Silent, at Peace, always in the Ananda-Bliss of Being, Limitless, Free of mind, conditions, limitations and identities, the Refuge and Contentedness of the Heart.

We just simply have to check the facts of what this Awareness we actually are is to find the ‘Jewel beyond price’, as they say. And the laugh, the joke is we had it all along. We just didn’t appreciate it. Good joke, huh! Not only is the Jewel ‘hidden’ in clear view, but it’s also ‘hidden’ as that which Looks.

So it is Recognition that is the essential, the vital, the critical. And I don't care how apparently shallow and superficial it may seem to be initially. I don't care that it's not immediately emotionally satisfying. I don’t care that it doesn’t blow you away as much as some nice Sufi poetry. I don’t care that … etc…etc. If it’s the truth it’s the truth! And if we steep and abide in the Truth, in Awareness, in the Self, we may come to appreciate the Jewel of this Awareness that we are. Forget ideas of ‘merging’, I would say. And careful not to be seduced by the sensation-seeking of the higher aesthetic. As Douglas Harding says (I paraphrase): going after spiritual flowers without the foundation of Recognition is a fruitless pursuit. If we rest and abide in and as That which is their Source, we may enjoy in due course the various varieties of spiritual flowers as they arise and inevitably pass. That which does not pass, of course, is the oft neglected Root and Source of it all.

Return to list of topics in Discourses by Teachers and Writers .
See the list sorted by Topic.
See the list sorted by Author.

Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012