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What State Am I In?
Joseph: Dear Ram, after our talks last week, I still have a doubt. I know you explained it before, but will you please put it in writing so I can think about it without distractions? I would like to know my state: Am I self-realized or enlightened?
Ram: The question should actually be “Who am I?” because you, the self, is not a state. You, the self, are neither in nor out of a state. From the self’s point of view, all states are in you. This means that you are always beyond all states; you are that because of which any state of mind is known. If you are an individual in a state, then the state is bigger than you and you are conditioned by the state you are in. People want to fall in love, for example, because the state of “in love” makes them feel good. The question “What state am I in?” shows that you think of yourself as a limited, conditioned being. Limited beings are continually trying to remove their sense of limitation and therefore are always trying to achieve a state that makes them feel limitless. This does not work because you already are limitless – as the self. So the question then becomes, “What is the self?” If you can figure out what the self is and identify with it, you will be free.
If you are the self, all states are objects of your awareness. This means that you know the states – but the state does not know you. If you are angry, you know you are angry; the anger does not know you. If your mind is quiet, you know the quiet mind but the quiet mind does not know you.
The self is all states of mind but states of mind are not the self. The self is the knower of everything and enlightenment is the knowledge “I am limitless, actionless awareness. I am the self.” It is not a state. It is jnanam, knowledge.
The knowledge an enlightened person has is “I am the self,” not that “I am this guy Joseph” who has a particular state; because there the “I” pertains to the limited guy Joseph to whom the state, whether it be high or low, is added. If a state is added onto you, then that state is
going to be changing, and you are going to be changing when you are in that state. So if you are something that is subject to change, you are not real. “Real” means eternal. The enlightened you – the real “you” – does not modify or change and is totally unaffected by any experience. So when you say “I” you need to look and see which “I” is talking. Is it a person that feels modified by experience, or is it the person who remains unchanged or unmodified by experience?
Enlightenment is the knowledge that no experience can affect me one way or another. Therefore I do not have any bias towards pleasurable experiences nor do I have an aversion toward unpleasant experiences. I know that all experiences are ephemeral and that they do not validate or invalidate me. If somebody hugs me it does not mean that I am a great guy; if somebody slaps me, it does not mean that I am a bad guy – because I am unaffected by my experience.
Where is the experience that was happening an hour ago? It is gone – it was here and then it just disappeared – but you are still the same. You are the awareness that was there before the experience happened and you are the awareness of the experience as it happened. When the experience went away, you did not disappear – you were not changed. “Joseph,” if there is such an entity, was changed a little bit perhaps; some feelings were temporarily rearranged in Joseph’s mind – positive or negative – but when the feelings dissolved there you were again – the same you. So that “you” which is unaffected by experience is called the “self,” and the knowledge “I am the self” is enlightenment.