The greatest achievement of human birth is the realization of the self. In order to realize what we are, who we are, we need to distinguish the self from the non-self. The greatest mistake of a soul is non-recognition of its real self and can only be corrected by recognizing the self, said Lord Mahavir. We all have identified the non-self as the self and that’s why we are all miserable. Because of the lack of true knowledge of the soul and the fully accomplished status of the soul we seek happiness from the external objects. According to our belief we need happiness from the outside world. Realizing the true nature of the soul and the fully accomplished status of the soul we come to know that we were actually inviting misery that is masked with illusory happiness. From the absolute perspective nothing is required to complete our happiness. The soul is filled with infinite bliss. All we need is to turn our vision towards the soul. For this we first need to develop faith to the existence of the soul and then remain stable and in tune with the self leads to self-realization.
Meditation starts with self enquiry when the seeker asks mentally, “Who am I?” Repeating this again and again one realizes that, I am not this body. Since infinite births we have recognized our body as our self. So going deeper in meditation we realize that this body is made of numerous atoms. Be it the mind or the senses, everything is ultimately made of minutest particles. There is no clear answer in science about how atoms can generate consciousness. If we say, I am the mind, then we become wrong when we say I am running, I am eating, etc because it’s not the mind who runs or eats but it’s our legs that runs, it’s our teeth that chews. Now, if we say I am the hands, the legs then again the problem will arise when we say I am the one who thinks because the mind (or the brain) does not eat, drink or run.
Those who go deeper in meditation and self contemplation realize that the self is one. This does mean that the self is unbroken or whole. It’s not made of different substances or different parts. The hands, the legs, the senses are seem to be different parts and each has their own functions. Then who’s the ultimate knower behind the functions of mind and the senses?
According to the Jain seers, the soul has four attributes, Infinite Knowledge, Infinite Perception, Infinite Power and Infinite Bliss. On the other hand the body (pudagal or matter) has different qualities viz. touch, taste, odor and color. Now we can see that both the substance have different qualities and there is no relation between the two. The self-soul is the knower seer and all other souls and matters outside us are the subject to be known and perceived by the soul. There is a beautiful story in Jain history that makes the picture of the self and the non-self clear for us.
Once there lived a man who had only son. Once, his son became sick and as days passed his sickness became stronger. All the doctors gave up hope of saving his son. Now it was the last day of his son’s life and he was lying on bed in the courtyard of his house. All the neighbors were present and the boys’ father was crying. None of the neighbors was able to stop his father.
Soon a Jain monk was passing by the house and he saw the gathering of people and enquired about what was happening. When he came to know the fact he had decided to make the man enlightened about the fact of the difference between body and soul. So he approached the man and asked, “Why are you crying?” The man said, “Can’t you see this? My only son is on bed and is going to die.”
The monk asked, “Where is your son? I can’t see him; can you please point out him?” The man in amazement pointed his finger to his son and said, “There he is!”
The monk asked again, “Where is he? That’s not your son, but his leg!” The man now pointing to his son’s hand said, “There he is!” The monk replied, “That’s not your son but his hand!” The man then pointed every part of his son’s body and the monk continued to reject his son’s existence in all those parts of his body.
The man finally said, “Oh monk! This entire body is my son!” The monk holding this point said, “Oh man! If this entire body is your son then why are you worried? You can preserve this body even after your son dies!” The man now was shocked knowing this fact that his son isn’t this mere body. He heard about the soul once in his life so he then said to the monk, “Oh Monk! The soul is my son!” The monk replied, “Oh man! If the soul is your son then there is no need to worry, because the soul is an uncreated entity. It was never born and it is never going to die. Be sure about this fact and come out from agony”.
The man and his son now realized the fact. The man became calm and his son now realizing the soul died peacefully and took birth into higher existence.
From this example we realize the existence of the soul being separate from matter (body). However below are the steps for self-realization and attainment of the option-less meditative state. Scriptural knowledge of the soul and experience of the soul are two different things. Right Perception cannot be attained through Scriptural knowledge only. One requires developing faith in the knowledge of a soul and then through meditation and other austerities self realization can be gained.
The seeker, who has now faith on the scriptural knowledge, first contemplates on the nature of the soul. Then he thinks about different natures of soul and matter. He then ignores which is not related with the soul, like the body, karma body, luminous body etc and at last whatever remains is the pure consciousness. Now the seeker, contemplates, “This is my real self, I am pure, I am liberated, I am eternal, I am knower-seer.” Gradually, while in tune with such contemplations he gets rid of mental thoughts and experiences bliss. After a short while he experiences the pure soul. His all energy is now focused in this experience and he gets rid of all kind of options.