A sincere seeker of truth is someone who is actively seeking for the truth. A sincere seeker is someone for whom discovering the truth is a very important and central goal of his life. So a sincere seeker will search for the truth in books, in gurus, in meditation and in conversation with others. A sincere seeker is serious about his search because he knows that the truth will give him the meaning of his life. This is not to say that a sincere seeker’s life has problems and therefore he is seeking the truth. That may be the case. But what I am saying is that a sincere seeker realizes that life must have something more to offer than the routine struggle for survival and he is seeking for that something beyond the ordinary.
Many people have written about this subject and a sincere seeker would do well to read all such literature. However, reading must be done with an open mind and not with a biased mind. This is an important point because any sort of bias – religious or personal – distorts the truth.
Many gurus speak on the subject of truth and today an unlimited amount of videos and audios are available on the Internet that the sincere seeker can access. But the very fact that so much material is available makes the task even more difficult because now the seeker has to literally search for the proverbial needle in the haystack. This cannot be a practical approach since it would take many lifetimes to read, hear and watch all the material on the Internet.
The benefits of reading and hearing from others cannot be discounted in any way. However, a sincere seeker must realize that the real work is inner work. In ancient times when there was not so much reading to be done, the seekers would only approach the task through the means of direct practice. And direct practice is even now the only way to self-realization. Mere reading and listening to Gyan will not help in any way.
I am recommending the following five questions that a sincere seeker of truth must ask of himself during his search.
WHO AM I?
This is a central question that appears again and again in most spiritual advices given by teachers across time and space. And no doubt it is the most important question to answer. However, note that the answer is not going to be in words because the answer is an experience or a direct realization of who you are. Later you might put it into words to convey it to another but those words will not transfer the realization to another. This has been the chief hurdle in the relationship between teacher and student.
So how do you ask this question? Who am I? What answer do you get? Probably you will say you are your name. And that is a good place to begin to discover who you are not. You could have any name but your parents gave you that specific name and now you think you are that. Then you might say you are your body and your mind. But please realize that the body is made of what you eat and the mind is made of what you sense (see, hear, smell, feel) and remember. Both body and mind will return to dust when you die. So is that it? If death really ended everything then there is no requirement for the spiritual search and no point in asking the question who am I. But if you simply think you are the immortal soul that keeps changing clothes in every birth, then you are no closer to answering the question than saying I am my name. Saying something and experiencing something are two different things. Saying something does not change your life. Anybody can say – I am the soul. But does it change his life? No. So remember that the experience of who you really are is important because that has the ability to change your life, your viewpoint and your experience. Remember also that going in search of the soul is another futile effort because you do not know what it is. How can you search for something you know nothing about. So there are very many complications in this question and a sincere seeker must be aware of them and not fall into their trap.
So a good way to answer this question is not to answer it but keep the question in mind as you go about your daily life. Do not answer but strengthen the question. Translate the question into the activities you are doing. Who am I? Who is walking? Who is speaking? Who is reading? Who is thinking? If you do like this for a long time, the answer might dawn on you suddenly. You will know for yourself.
Who am I is a very powerful and effective question. Teachers such as Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj have taught their students using only this question as the instrument.
Who am I is the key question but it can also be approached in a gentle manner by asking four other questions – where am I, what do I really want, why do I want it and how do I get it.
WHERE AM I?
This question is a good starting point for all those sincere seekers who find the who am I question a little daunting. Where am I does not literally ask which city or which house you are in, but refers to the context in which you find yourself. Where am I is about observing the world around you, observing what people around you are doing and what they are busy in. Where am I is a question about what age and time you are living in – what is the economic, political, social and religious environment, what is the prevalent psychology of people in the world.
If you are here, it means you are a part of that environment. You have been brought up in that environment with those beliefs and thoughts. Where am I in a sense is the reflection of the question who am I in the outer world. The whole world is reflected in you and you reflect the whole world. You may not be able to understand this at the moment but by understanding the world, you can get some understanding of yourself. Know as much as possible about the world – the way people live, the way people relate, the way people fight with each other, the way people express love, and the way people try to search for truth. Learn everything you can. Knowing where you are gives you a big picture perspective on everything and also your search for the truth.
J Krishnamurti in his talks usually pointed out to the things happening in the world. He was trying to tell his audience where they were and how the world reflected their inner mental turbulence.
WHAT DO I REALLY WANT?
The next question is what do you want. And I want to break it into two questions – what do you want and what do you REALLY want? There is a big difference between the two questions. For the first question you could answer that you want money, a good job, a good spouse, a good life in general. Most people do not go deeper into this question because in order to get what they want, they have to spend all their energy. But as a sincere seeker of truth you must ask the question what do I REALLY want. Behind all the wants and needs and desires, what is it that I want ultimately? Is it happiness? Is it peace of mind? Is it supreme bliss? Is it self-realization? Is it truth?
Whatever it is that you really want, you must be able to explore that and make sure that it is something you truly want. When this is reasonably clear in your mind, then your actions will start reflecting your choice. You will start moving away from what you want superficially to what you want deep down. Allow this process to happen.
The Buddha talked about how our desire – what we want – is the root cause of our suffering.
WHY DO I WANT IT?
This question is to be used in conjunction with the question what do I really want. The why do I want question helps to sort out the genuine want from the superficial want. For every answer you give to the question what do I want, you must ask why do you want it. This will take you to deeper levels of your psyche. However, beware of fooling yourself. If you are not honest with the answers to why you want it, you will not be able to go deeper. The why question is like a pickaxe which helps you to dig into the what question. The why question can hurt if you have created layers and layers of pretense about who you are and where you are and what you want. Do not underestimate the why question. It is a very powerful tool and you must develop your skill in using it.
The 5 Why technique was popularized by Toyota Motor Corporation as a means of getting at the root cause of any problem.
HOW DO I GET IT?
When you get the answer to the question of what do I want and why I want it then you can decide on how you can get it. The how is a conscious effort not dependent on vague expectations from the others in your life and God or destiny. A sincere seeker must realize that if one wants something, then one must consciously work on it without any complaints and blame. He should not expect anyone else in the world to support him in his task. He is truly alone in his search. Whatever path he chooses, he must take complete responsibility for choosing it and have no regrets on choosing that. He must accept whatever is the outcome of the path he has chosen without trying to manipulate the results.
From an awakened perspective, the how really does not make sense because the journey is really from the here to the here. How does one get from here to here or from the present to the present? There really is no way because you are already here. The problem is you do not know it and the journey is from ignorance to enlightenment. And it happens in an instant after a long period of effort. Sounds a little contradictory but that’s the way it is.
So the above five questions are powerful instruments in the toolkit of a sincere seeker of truth.
May you realize your true self.