Those who are ignorant about themselves live in the realm of blinding darkness. Nothing satisfies you for long, and you’ll be tortured by life. Nothing can satisfy you because you’re looking for happiness and security in things that can never provide it.
If you seek happiness in external things, this leads to suffering, dissatisfaction and mind-made bondage. We’ve been brain-washed into believing that we need these things to be happy. This is a great delusion that some people live their whole lives under.
Some say ignorance is bliss. But ignorance doesn’t solve the problem. The cure for ignorance is knowledge — but not any knowledge, we’re talking about Self-knowledge and not relative-knowledge. You can have knowledge how to make your life more pleasurable and comfortable, but eventually this leads to more frustration.
A rich man who has everything can be more unhappy than a poor man because the poor man still has hope, while the rich man is disillusioned. Relative knowledge doesn’t solve the problem and can even make things worse — we have unprecedented technical knowledge in the world today, but there’s also unprecedented mind-made suffering everywhere.
It’s very rare to hear that the answer to mind-made suffering lies in Self-knowledge. People try to solve problems by looking at what they have, and not at what they are. To be exposed to Self-knowledge, or knowledge of the Absolute, is a great blessing, but this knowledge must be experiential and not just intellectual otherwise it won’t help.
In reality you are ever-existing beingness or in Sanskrit: Sat, and deep down, you want to go back to this reality, the truth of your being. Nobody wants to die. Nobody is content with mortality. Everybody searches for immortality, like a river seeking the ocean.
Everybody wants happiness (ananda) which comes through Self-knowledge. Sat Chit Ananda is our natural condition, so naturally everybody wants it, and is seeking it. The desire for Truth, for God, for our deepest true nature, is written in the human heart, and it calls us.
But people are lost in opposite ideas: I am the body, I am the mind, I am the thoughts, happiness is found outside of myself, happiness is found through the senses. The whole world propogates and perpetuates this delusion. Ignorance is prevalent. People think they are mortal, finite etc, not immortal, infinite, ever-existing eternal Life. They are completely lost in the idea: I am this body. You must know your true Self: I am not this body, I am not this mind, these thoughts etc.
Absolute knowledge — and unfailing happiness — is knowing the truth of the I, who you really are.
It is difficult to believe that I am the happiness. It is difficult to believe that the source of happiness is within. Delusion is so strong. Before you will be prepared to seek happiness within, you must be tired of seeking happiness outside of yourself. Then you hear: I am the happiness! You dont believe it at first, but there is hope! That is why people come to India, as this is the only place you’re told this!
If you find the source of happiness that is within yourself, then there is no suffering as you are never separated from your Self; there is no dissatisfaction as your very nature is happiness; there is no dependence because you are it. The search begins with yourself and ends with your Self — the seeker is the focus of seeking.
Knowledge of Self and knowledge of God are indivisible. St Teresa of Avila (Christian mystic and author of ‘The Interior Castle’, one of the great classics of mystical life) said: “It is absurd to think that we can enter Heaven without first entering our own souls.” — that is, without getting to know ourselves.
Self-knowledge is not limited to the Vedanta tradition. It applies to all traditions, because it’s only within the depths of our very own being that we will find the truth and happiness that we have been searching for.
~ From a talk given by Swami Suddhananda (aka, Swamiji) in Tiruvannamalai, India. (written up by Leela Verity)