By Gurudevi Nirmalananda
You need the theory to get beyond the theory. For the knowing of your own Self, you must have an understanding of the Self, so you can get there. But you must go beyond your understanding to actually get there.
It’s like going on a long car trip to a wonderful and beautiful destination. You plan your trip: figure out your timing, pack your bags and snacks, and set your GPS. Once you get there, you have to let go of the steering wheel and get out of the car.
You have arrived. However, being in the new location changes how you see things and what you will do next. If you’ve read about the destination, you have an idea of what to do. In this way, the teachings help you make sense out of your new state once you are enlightened.
Vitarka aatmaj~naanam. — Shiva Sutras 1.17
Right understanding is Self-Knowingness.
The sutra is read forwards and backwards. Forwards: this means you can use the sutras and teachings to get to the Self. Backwards: When you know the Self, your mind gains a new understanding of everything. In both directions, this use of your mind is called “right understanding,” meaning it is accurate as well as beneficial.
What is the right understanding? First you use your mind to understand that you are more than your mind. You are the one who has a mind as well as a body. Cultivate your ability to see that you are the one seeing through your eyes. You are the one who speaks through your mouth, hears through your ears, who does what you do. You are you even while you do what you do.
As you distinguish between what you do and who you are, you grow into a greater sense of being, which opens up new possibilities. The most important of these is the possibility of inward expansion, the exploration of the “who” that you really are.
And when you explore your own Essence and Beingness, you discover that you are even more than what you thought you were. You go beyond your idea of your own Divine Essence — to experience your own Self, named “aatma” in this sutra.
This inner recognition of your own Self is beyond thought, beyond hope, beyond faith and belief. You realize that your own Self knows your own Self, and always has. You are That which has always existed, and is existing as you.
All the yogic practices and teachings are for this purpose — giving you the experiential knowing of your own Self. You are in your glory, shining with the inner light of being Consciousness-Itself.
This inner experience and knowingness now shines through your mind, illumining the shadows and burning away the foggy thinking. A new clarity informs your choices. Your decisions and actions are more direct, even simplified while being made more powerful and effective.
Now you live with right understanding, using your mind as a tool to implement the Divine Wisdom that is always arising within. This is the goal. What a way to live!