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What Is Self-Actualization (Nididhyasana)?
The Purpose of Nididhysanam by Swami Paramarthananda
What is self-actualization (nididhyasana)?
Karma yoga is a preparation for jnana yoga, and jnana yoga leads to self-knowledge and liberation. Jnana yoga is three disciplines: (1) hearing (shravanam), (2) reasoning (mananam)and (3) actualizing (nididhysanam). Hearing is extracting the essential teaching of Vedanta by systematic and consistent study of the scriptures under the guidance of a competent living teacher, mananamis logically dwelling upon the teaching until all doubts with regards to the teachings are eliminated. It is understanding that Vedanta is flawless and factual. Actualizing is the internalization or assimilation of the teaching by dwelling on the teaching until it is spontaneously available during everyday transactions.
The process of liberation (moksa sadhana) is presented in Vedanta as consisting of three stages: (1) liberation while alive (jivanmukti), (2) liberation at death (videhamukti) and (2) the end of samsara (samsara niviritti), i.e. no future births.
The seeker starts the path as a doer with sanchita karma, tendencies towards good and bad actions accumulated from previous births. Prarabdha karma is that portion of the sanchita which is actively fructifying in the present birth, and agami karma is karma the doer accumulates during the current birth.
When the jiva gains self-knowledge through Vedanta sadhana, the knowledge destroys sanchita and agami karma, leaving the jnani with prarabdha karma only. This is called jivanmukti, liberated while living. And when this jnani exhausts all the prarabdha, the current birth and body caused by the prarabdha is destroyed, which is called videhamukti, liberation at death, so there is no reason to come back. This is called cessation of transmigration (samsara), moving from one body to another.
The final stage of Vedanta sadhana is nididhysanam, whose purpose is to internalize and actualize the teaching Brahma Satyam Jagat MithyaāJivo Brahmaiva NaāParaha, “The self is real, the world is apparently real. There is no difference between the self and the jiva.” It is a fact that I am only limitless existence/consciousness, but as a jiva I am ignorant of this fact, so I have to (1) claim my limitlessness and (2) negate the misconception that I am a jiva. Claiming limitlessness means claiming that I am not a doer/enjoyer entity. If I don’t accept this fact, even though I know the scripture’s point of view, I am not a jivanmukta. I am still at the doubt-removal stage (manana). But if I am convinced that I am the limitless self and am not perfectly satisfied with my new identity, I must actualize it. I must:
(A) Get Rid of the Idea that I Did Sadhana to Get Liberated
The entire process of moksa from jivanmukti to vidhamukti to the cessation of samsara is based on the idea that I am a jiva with three types of karma. Nididhysanam negates the idea that I am a jiva, so along with it I need to negate my sadhana. The idea that I am a jiva and the idea of moksa are two sides of the same coin. I shouldn’t think I did sadhana for moksa, because I was free when I was doing sadhana.
(B) Get Rid of the Idea that I Am Liberated
If I didn’t do sadhana because I was always the self, I didn’t get liberated either. So I have to get rid of the status of a liberated person because it is a misconception based on an incorrect notion of who I am.
(C) Get Rid of the Idea that I Won’t Be Reborn
If I never was a jiva or a jivanmukta, it is also true of videhamukti and the end of samsara (samsara nivritti). So I can’t say I will be liberated at death or that I won’t come back again. These notions should be dismissed during the nididhyasana stage.
(C) Get Rid of the Idea that Qualifications Are Necessary for Liberation
The idea that qualifications are necessary for moksa is unconsciously formed during one’s sadhana and needs to be deliberately negated because moksa is my nature, not something I gained, nor which I can lose. This is usually difficult for doers, but it is a fact. Persisting in this notion is tantamount to identifying with the doer.
(D) Redefining Qualifications
Even though qualifications are not valid as a condition for moksa, sadhana still is required for nididhyasana. Why? Keeping up your sadhana once you are liberated is the best gift you can give Isvara for bringing you to Vedanta. Neglecting it is the worst thing you can do. It is the best gift you can give your teacher also (guru dakshina). Neglecting it is the worst gift you can give the guru. Keeping up your sadhana is also the best publicity for Vedanta. And keeping up your sadhana is a blessing for the world (loka seva).
So you should keep the qualifications – discrimination, dispassion, etc. – but convert your desire to be free into the idea – which is a fact, incidentally – “I have always been free.” If you think you achieved moksa, you are still thinking of yourself as a jiva.
(E) Get Rid of the Conventional Experiential Definition of Liberation
Often people who are convinced that they are the self still long for some kind of epiphany to validate it, which means that they haven’t completed stage two of Vedanta sadhana (manana). Since I am limitless awareness, I am always experiencing myself, so I needn’t look for some kind of experiential validation of my nature.
(F) Redefine Liberation – Taking a Stand as the Self – Repeated Internalization of Identity Mantras
I need to continually contemplate on and confidently assert: (1) I am of the nature of eternal, all-pervading existence/consciousness. (2) I am the only source of permanent peace, security and happiness. (3) By my mere presence, I give life to this material body and experience this material universe. (4) I am never affected by any event that happens in the material world or to the material body. (5) When I forget my real nature, I convert life into a burden. When I remember my nature, I convert life into entertainment.
Commit to memory this mantra from the Kaivalya Upanishad and repeat it until it becomes a continuous and automatic thought. Once it is continuous it will never be forgotten and it will drop out of everyday consciousness but be available always when it is needed, like your name:
“Everything is born in me, all things have their existence in me and everything merges back into me. I am that limitless awareness, the one without a second.”
Om Tat Sat