Shanti Sadan and Self-Knowledge name
Spring 2017


Meditation is a means to peace of mind. When partnered with enquiry into the true nature of the Self, our meditative sphere is extended almost infinitely, like changing one’s swimming pool for the ocean. We may still hug the coastal shallows, but when we look seawards, the boundless deep beckons.

Our self-enquiry is not meant to be open-ended. Taking as clues the teachings on mind and Self found in the Vedanta writings, we awaken the highest human faculty: spiritual discrimination. This enables us to discern, in the immediacy of our experience, that which never changes, even though the mind and the world change all the time. It is the attempt to divine that which is deeper than the mind and nearer than thought.

Spiritual discrimination is subtly different from ordinary choice and assessment. Normally we discriminate between things that have an objective existence, either as physical objects or mental concepts. But the innermost Self is not an object of sense or thought. Again, we can only discriminate between things which display qualities to us or suggest them to our imagination—the dishes on a menu, the places in the travel brochure, even great questions regarding marriage or our career—all tempt or deter us with qualities, and we choose what is most agreeable. But the Self has no finite qualities; it transcends the world.

The Sanskrit word for discrimination is viveka, from the root ‘vic’, to sift. We learn to sift away, in our introvertive concentration, everything in experience that is finite and changeable. This includes not only material things, but anything that appears in the mind, however sublime or profound. All falls through the sieve of viveka, which is only interested in discerning that in us which is immutable. The verbal formula given in the Upanishads which typifies this purposeful rejection of the finite, is ‘neti, neti’, ‘not this, not this’.

If such a sifting casts aside everything, and nothing remains, the whole endeavour is futile. But something does remain, and that is the negating consciousness. Our consciousness itself can never be negated. To claim: ‘I have negated consciousness’ is to harbour a contradiction, because consciousness is needed even to affirm ‘I have negated’.

What can be negated are the thoughts, feelings and ideas which form the content of consciousness; indeed, these things negate themselves by their transiency. But the consciousness that witnesses the pageant of thought-forms and knows its fleeting nature, never changes. It knows, not as the intellect knows, through reaction and transformation. The ‘knowing’ of the witness consciousness is not a process; it simply reveals experience, and hence it is called ‘the knower of knowing’.

This enquiry and way of discrimination leads our intellect to the verge of infinity—proximity with the infinite wisdom of the knower of knowing. Because the knower of knowing is consciousness itself, it is never experienced as having any limitations or interior divisions at all. The limitations exist in what is witnessed by consciousness, not in consciousness itself. Untouched by time, it is also unenclosed by space.

Therefore discrimination means the constant attempt to discern our innermost Self as that pure, all-revealing, self-luminous consciousness, by sifting away the finite elements of experience that muddle our sense of identity. Our true Self is Consciousness Absolute. It is the possibility of this realisation that makes meditation, joined with self-enquiry, such a fruitful partnership.