“I AM THAT I AM”
According to Yogananda: “Self-Realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul, that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.”
But what kind of knowing is it that we need to improve? All spiritual masters have stressed that knowing many things is pointless when you still do not know yourself. Self-knowledge is the ultimate goal of every genuine spiritual path. Sri Yukteswar writes that the highest aim of religion is atmajnanam, self-knowledge. “Know Thyself” was the maxim inscribed on the Temple at Delphi, the main center of pilgrimage in ancient Greece and the ancient world. The maxim reminded the pilgrims journeying to the Delphic oracle to seek guidance that the answer to all their questions was within themselves.
And what is this self that we are called upon to know? Not the personality of the little self with its likes and dislikes, its accumulated habits; not the beliefs and attitudes imposed upon us from childhood. When Moses asked God by what name he should call Him when giving his message to the Israelites, God replied: “Tell them I AM THAT I AM… say unto the children of Israel I AM hath sent me unto you.” Self-knowledge is precisely our knowing of our own “I am”, of our true self, stripped of its egoic desires. It is our knowing that our “I am” is a wave on the ocean of the divine “I am”, or to use yogic terminology, it is knowing our atman (self, soul, individualized Spirit) to be a manifestation of the paramatman (infinite Spirit). Yogananda expresses it in this way: “Self-Realization means the realization that your true self is not the ego, but God, the vast ocean of spirit which manifested for a time the little wave of awareness that you now see as yourself.”
Knowing in this sense is not merely an intellectual understanding of this same truth which has been expressed in many ways by many masters. Yogananda’s definition of self-realization may resonate with us to a greater or lesser degree depending on our purity and spiritual advancement. We all recognize truth to some degree because truth is our essential nature. When a truth is presented to us, it is somehow familiar. We intuitively “know” it is the truth and are usually inspired by it. We only have to think of the “pearls of truth” and “words of wisdom” that everyday fill the pages of Facebook, posted by people who recognize and affirm the truth of these sayings.
But our recognition or affirmation of certain truths is not the same as realization of these truths. “Realizations of that sort”, says Yogananda, “are imaginary”. An intellectual grasp of these truths does not mean that we have become them or that we act in accordance with them. As Jesus put it: “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
So, in our search for Self-Realization, how might we improve our “knowing” that we are already in possession of the kingdom of God and that God’s omnipresence is our omnipresence so that we become one with this truth; so that we attain union (yoga) with this truth? The spiritual masters again and again tell us that the only way to realize truth (in the sense of knowing and becoming) is to go within. “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” is what Jesus taught his disciples. It is this journey inwards that leads to the Self, to that which we truly are. It is this knowing alone which leads to being.
The task is not an easy one, but there is help. Success on the path to Self-Realization, according to Yogananda, is the result of 25% self-effort, 25% the help of the Guru and 50% God’s grace. But, of course, our 25% contribution requires a 100% effort on our part. Everything in future will improve, as Sri Yukteswar said, if you are making a spiritual effort now.