Dissolution of the personal ‘I’
Most Advaita knowledge that I encounter appears to focus on the fact that I am the all-pervading consciousness. When the words “I am” or “true self” are encountered it appears that they are processed the same way by the mind as any other ego story. Instead, the knowledge that there is “nobody here” that is doing or experiencing feels rather more insightful. I suppose these are just varying pointers to the same truth? Is such a shift in identity at all possible? Or is the concept of identity limited to the body-mind and I can just stick to the second pointer that focuses on the lack of an “I” or a center from which actions happen?
Let’s begin at the beginning of the Advaita Vedanta teaching.
Step 1: An ignorant one comes to Advaita. He addresses himself as ‘I’. He has a subtle assumption that ‘I am the body-mind’ though he is not consciously aware of this assumption. He needs to be taught that he is not the body-mind but simply the witness of the body-mind. Obviously, a teacher uses the words ‘I am not the body-mind, I am the Consciousness’ so that he can understand the teacher. A teacher must start where the student is. This is the reason why all scriptures use ‘I’ for the beginner level. But the journey has not even really begun dear.
Step 2: When he recognizes experientially [not intellectually only] that I am the silent field of awareness beyond the body-mind, then his inquiry into himself really begins. That is not the end of the journey, it is the beginning actually. Now the crumbling of ‘I-the-person’ begins. This is not easy for the Ego to handle. The higher the resistance, the slower the death of the ‘I’. The lower the resistance, the faster the journey.
Step 3: When his inquiry of the field of awareness strengthens and he becomes completely clear that he is not the body-mind, he frees himself of the notion of an individual ‘I’. Now he is made to recognize that he does not need words to communicate with himself and does not need to address himself as the ‘I-the-body-mind’. His perspective shifts. He recognizes that he is not even the witness of the body-mind, but that there is simply a field of awareness that every other living being addresses as ‘I’. We all use the same name for the field of awareness, that is ‘I’. It is not a personal ‘I’. It is a common universal ‘I’.
The final experiential [not intellectual] transition from the personal ‘I’ to the universal ‘I’ completes the experiential journey in Advaita Vedanta.
P.S. The 3 steps above are akin to the 3 levels of Advaita taught in Gnyana Sangha. The examinations, quizzes, spiritual journals, self-exploration meditations, individual mentorship, etc aid a sincere seeker to churn in the specific level’s wisdom just enough to recognize it experientially. They help him go through the 3 steps of Shravana [Intellectual comprehension], Manana [contemplation], Nidhidhyasa [experiential recognition and assimilation]. Only when one experientially gets it at a specific level along with self-conviction plus the teacher’s conviction, does he progress to the next level. The only graduation certificate is the complete dissolution of the person, the sense of an individually existing ‘I’. The body-mind identity will still continue for the world. But your relationship with the false ‘I’ will be completely divorced. Nothing short of that will complete the journey dear.
Last word of caution: If one has not dropped the personal ‘I’, he hasn’t completed the journey yet!
Has the ‘I’ started dissolving in you yet? What are the signs that you notice? You can comment below.
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