Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 10.05.2017 morning, Sofia)

Question of Aradhana:  How can we achieve our true identity?

Swami Tirtha: Very good question. Actually there are two ways. One is nivritti and the other is pravritti. One is elimination and the other is affirmation. So, if we want to find ourselves, we have to examine what we are not. Am I the body? Yes, a little bit, but ultimately not. I am conditioned by the body, I am not free from a headache, but I am not fully the body. Am I the mind? Well, thinking, willing, feeling – they are very important for us. And they are much more subtle than the body, but still it looks like I am more, I am something different. Yes I am the mind also, but something more, or something else. So, not the body; not the mind. Then maybe I am my cultural identity? I have such and such degrees and diplomas, and I am accomplished like this, like that. Is it you? It’s also a part of you. But you are more than this. Then maybe I am my gender – first, second, third, etc. Yes, you are a man, or you are a woman and in recent days you can have many other different identities. But not this, again not this. A little bit yes, but ultimately not this. So, I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am not the cultural identity. I am not this, I am not that.

What is this method called? Not this, not that – neti-neti. It is just like peeling an onion. Take the onion in your hands. Now we shall find ourselves. You remove the external layers, because this is not the onion itself. It’s useless, so external coverings we remove easily. And then you feel a thick layer. The first layer is very thick. You remove it, ‘Ah, no it’s too crude, too thick. I’ll remove that!’ So, you have removed the gross body, you have removed the mind and then you go on peeling your onion, right. As you go more inside, the layers are softer and finer. And then after removing these layers, you come to some core. You might think: ‘Ah, now I have found the essence of the onion!’ But go on peeling. What will happen? You peel the core also and ultimately you peel everything and there is nothing. Right? It works like this – if you remove everything, nothing will remain. In the same way, if you remove everything from your identity: ‘I am not this, I am not that. I am not that, neti-neti…’, ultimately what will you find? Nothing is there, sorry! ‘Where am I? I’m lost!’ Because you can always say that ‘Ultimately I am not this! Am I the concept that I have about myself? I am not! Or am I what I perceive? I am not sure!’ So, it’s a very, very complicated problem. Therefore elimination is risky. No doubt, it will help us to remove the crude and gross coverings. But when you have removed all the layers, then what remains?

Baladev: Only the tears.

Swami Tirtha: But something will remain. The smell will remain on your fingers. That means – the essence is on a different level. It’s something that you cannot remove. It’s so subtle that you cannot remove that. In the same way, if we try to eliminate the different external layers of ourselves, of course we can get rid of so many things. And finally, finally we should come to that platform which we cannot remove. Which is so subtle that it is always there. This is atman – the essence.

And this process of elimination is painful. Sometimes frightening, other times you really feel lost. So, this is really only for very determined ascetics who are ready to expose themselves to this extreme self-analysis.

The other is the assertive method. When we don’t eliminate the false or the non-true layers of our existence, but we cultivate our positive side, when we cultivate our positive identity. This will also help us to get rid of the external layers and ultimately we shall face ourselves. No doubt, this is also a very profound and sometimes painful process. But nevertheless, the method that we apply is a little bit softer, we can say, more positive.

So there are different ways to achieve similar types of realizations. And actually if we can perfectly apply the method of dharma, it should bring realization to us. Therefore Bhaktivinoda Thakura says: grihe tako vane tako sada hari bolo dako – “Whether you are a grihastha in a family or an ascetic in a forest – it doesn’t matter, just chant the holy names of the Lord; everything will come.”

So, for us, the method inherited from our masters and from Mahaprabhu is chanting the holy names. This is our mystic path. This is the way to meet yourself and to meet your beloved Divine Couple. As we discussed yesterday – to capture the conscious identity and to dedicate this in service.

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