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What does it mean to 'see the self by the self'? || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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यत्रोपरमते चित्तं निरुद्धं योगसेवया ।  

यत्र चैवात्मनात्मानं पश्यन्नात्मनि तुष्यति ।।

yatroparamate chittaṁ niruddhaṁ yoga-sevayā

yatra chaivātmanātmānaṁ paśhyann ātmani tuṣhyati

At the time when the mind restrained through the practice of Yoga gets withdrawn, and just when by seeing the Self (the pure self) by the self (the little self), one remains contented in the Self alone.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Verse 20

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Question: What is meant by seeing the pure self by the little self? What is meant by seeing the Self by the self?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Seeing the Self by the self means two things. One — the ego is allowing itself to love. Second — the ego is allowing itself to hate. Seeing the Self by the self, two things are here: seeing, and self. There is the ego that is the seer here, that is the doer that sees. That sees, correct? And then there is the Self who is being talked of as the seen.

The true Self can actually never be seen. Then what is it that the ego is seeing? The ego is seeing its own cringeworthy state. But the ego cannot usually acknowledge that its state is one of inner devastation. It is beyond the agency of the ego to be honest with itself. Therefore, when such honesty happens, it is attributed truly to not to the ego, but to the blessings of a power beyond the ego.

So, you bring the great Self into the picture. How do you bring the great Self into the picture? You say, “The call of the Beyond had come, and the call of the Beyond was so enthralling that one fell in love with it. Falling in love with it, one could not help hating oneself.”

Now I have proposed a certain sequence. It is not really sequential; it does not have to be in that order. You cannot say that first of all the call of the Beyond will come — step one, and then the call of the Beyond will awaken your inner honesty — step two. And then step three — through your inner honesty you will come to a certain disillusionment with yourself. No, not that way. But all of these do happen together. The sequence is changeable, but the happenings are all almost concurrent. Are you getting it?

In general, the ego sees nothing beyond itself. That’s the fundamental law of mind, of duality: you see what you are. But here Shri Krishna is talking of an impossibility. He’s saying, “Seeing the pure Self by the little self.” What does that mean? That means something very unusual is happening. A miracle is taking place — that which is not supposed to happen, that for which you are not designed physically-mentally, is happening.

Because it is an impossibility, therefore it has been represented through impossible words: seeing the Truth by the ego. Seeing the Self by the self is the same as seeing the Truth by the ego. No, that cannot happen. That cannot happen. For that to happen, a miracle must take place. And the miracle is, you fall in love with something that is just not you. You do something that is just not you. You go beyond your characteristics, you go beyond the scope of your personality. And why will you go beyond the scope of your personality? I said there is a certain hatred towards oneself; I know hatred is a strong word. You could say that you loathe oneself. You could say that you dislike yourself. I prefer to be a little blunt on this. I would rather say that — you hate yourself.

That reminds me of what Jesus had said once. “Unless you hate your entire life, no point coming to me. Unless you hate your entire life, no point coming to me.” He would go on to say, “Unless you hate your family, your wife, your life, why are you coming to me?” So, a few people are rather blunt. Getting it?

What does the ego usually see? Nothing but its own projections. You see what you are. You surround yourself with situations that concur with your worldview. You create a universe of your own; you live in your own little reality. You live in your own personal world where it is impossible to see anything that transcends you.

Internally, what kind of thoughts do you have? Thoughts that align, match, agree hundred percent with your conditioning and configuration. Do you ever have thoughts that are unlike you? You think as you are; you are as you think. Correct?

So, both internally and externally we live in a made-up world. That world is nothing but an extension of who we are. Therefore, usually the ego sees only itself.

You will be greatly fortunate if your own inner churning or chance situations, compel you to acknowledge something totally beyond you.

You know, even to acknowledge one thing beyond you is a great challenge, almost impossible to admit. Because if there is one thing that defies the laws of your universe, then those laws do not stand. Or do they? A thousand instances in which a particular law is honoured or verified, are still not enough to verify that law, but one instance in which that law is violated, is enough to render that law false. Is that not so?

Therefore, if you can admit even one thing that is outside your boundaries, that will challenge everything that is inside your boundaries. Therefore, we are extremely aggressive against everything that does not match with our worldview.

If there could be one thing that proves us wrong, then that one thing could be extended to prove that our very center is wrong, the ‘I’ itself is wrong. Not that the ‘I’ is holding wrong opinions — it could be proven that the very existence of ‘I’ is wrong!

Therefore, we very aggressively, pointedly, guard ourselves against anything outside of our universe. This is by the way the real meaning of bigotry. You are so centered in your ego and so afraid of seeing the Truth that you will not allow anything alternate to yourself to come to you.

Getting it?

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