|From Chapter 3: “Knowledge Must Apply Directly to the Whole”
Looking Selfward entails an intimate investigation of that which is permanently here before the word “I” ever appears. What is found in your looking comes to be recognized as the same infinity that is also equally here when the word arises in you and after it dissolves. However, to clearly confirm the ultimate truth for yourself without a shadow of a doubt, taking a stance of “prior to” is the most helpful. Your purpose is to become familiar with the actual, authentic, immediate source that the word “I” refers to.
What is the nature of your am-ness before you identify yourself as this or that? Laying aside every concept or image you have about who you are, right now, who are you?
Direct practice reveals what is left over when all concepts are dropped. Here and now, you can discover your own source as the same indivisible unity animating the totality of the cosmos in all directions. “What is left over” is what has always been and can never not be. It is the pre-existent, changeless reality—everlasting life. In Self-Inquiry, you learn to let the immediate moment be exactly the way it is, without adding something like the word “I.” To be here, you don’t need this word, or any word. You don’t need any image of yourself. With or without “I,” everything everywhere is simply, authentically, unmistakably just here... just this.
Your hereness is the infinite, immaculate source of all. And you come to know this by being it. By knowing nothing about it. Your willingness to be your immediate being without adding this or that takes you directly Home.
Here, you abide as your eternal Self.
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When earnest Self-Inquiry arises in a person’s life, generally it is because she or he is tired of feeling small and separate. Feelings of smallness and separateness are synonymous with suffering. So we always take with us into our practice the remembrance of the immense infinity that is here, moment to moment. This remembrance is what allows you to completely let go into what you actually are, which is this immensity. Same same.
When your Selfward “letting go” becomes the simple and continuous direction of your living, even remembrance itself is not really required. Rather, your Self-Inquiry is like a beacon illuminating your way of life and takes the place of needing to remember “something.” It all happens automatically; there is no time or distance, no effort involved. Letting go brings great joy, comfort and peace, so you naturally lose interest in going in a direction that creates a feeling of smallness by forming more concepts about an imagined separate self.
Through your direct application of the truth and your ongoing confirmation of your eternal nature, what you come to realize is that the idea of being separate was always only a case of mistaken identity. This did not ever alter your “true identity” in any way, but the illusion was convincing nonetheless. What normally takes time and practice, after you acknowledge this fact, is becoming consciously established in your true identity so the tendency to get caught up in the illusion can be completely given up. As practice deepens, that is, the illusory appearances within infinity lose their convincing hold inside of you.
The illusion may have been running on automatic pilot for decades in your life. As I referred to in the first chapter, being conditioned into the illusion happens innocently and from a very young age, without our yet having the sophistication developmentally to reflect upon and question this conditioning. By accepting innocence as an unavoidable foundation upon which our mistaken identities were built, we can have great patience for ourselves when we practice Self-Inquiry.
My Teacher likes to refer to the practice of Self-Inquiry as analogous to “deleting useless data from your hard drive.” We all grow up “downloading” information from others and the world around us. Much of this information is helpful, and necessary. We need it to develop our full personhood. The learning process is about survival and the creative possibilities of mind, which have evolutionary significance. But through a life of accumulating concepts about what we are and mistaking them for the truth, eventually we become earnest about uncluttering our consciousness as we develop one-pointed vision on our Selfward-Facing Way. We recognize that the clutter of our mental conditioning is like a veil blanketing over the pure, infinite freedom of our eternal nature.
For those of us with minds that have been conditioned in this manner (99% of us, at least!), matching patience with determination and perseverance in practice is also very important. Patience without determination breeds stagnation, and determination without patience breeds rigidity. In stagnation, the energy we have to apply—in an ongoing manner—the knowledge that “infinity alone is here” loses its directness and precision. In rigidity, we are unable to allow the natural process of relaxing and letting go, which are inevitable companions in our confirmation of what we truly are, to take its own course.
Striking a healthy balance between patience and determination when you practice Self-Inquiry is the most effective approach to maintaining your direct application of Self-Knowledge in the midst of the infinite moment. Your conviction that what you are is the infinite moment cannot be challenged then. From unshakable conviction, the concepts that previously deluded you with separateness and smallness merge in your omniscient, immense, ever-established Selfhood.
In the peace of deep conviction, your true identity spontaneously shines.
This is how illusion falls away. This is “looking Selfward.” And it can only proceed from the immediate moment. There is no other time or place you can go to confirm the ultimate truth. The only direct, precise, exact application of knowledge in all the galaxies is that which occurs here, in you. Maintaining patience, determination and persistence, with great curiosity and humility, you look to the here-and-now source within which “you” are arising.
What you encounter is inconceivable, and yet it becomes abidingly self-evident. You recognize that infinity alone says “I” in you, in everyone and everything. Infinity is the eternal subject, with nothing secondary to itself.
In this way you accord with your true nature and live from your direct experience of the sole reality—indistinguishable from yourself. The deep, unimpeded, radiant understanding that arises from direct practice is the joyous investment of your lifetime.