Self-knowledge is the basis of all knowledge as the ancient sages taught thousands of years ago. Your ultimate question in life is “Who am I?”, not knowing which all our other knowledge is called into question as to its ultimate truth and value.
If you don’t know yourself, can you claim to know anything outside yourself? You are most connected to yourself, yet we run after external objects, trying to know or possess them, while ignoring the obvious, which is our own inner being and seeing.
But how then do we know our true Self-nature, not merely theoretically but realize it? This is the fundamental inquiry of Yoga and Vedanta, which is in essence the search for our true nature in consciousness through introspection and meditation, the path of Self-inquiry. To return to the Self within is to know it. To run after the not-self on the outside is to lose it.
How to Know Your True Self
Self-knowledge is not something for you to gain from the outside as something new in the field of words and ideas or human discourse, but to recognize and realize within you what you always are and have always been. As such, knowing the inner requires unknowing the outer. The highest knowing is the unknowing of all that the mind presumes to know.
To know your true Self, you do not need any instrument, experiment, formula or description, no scientific review or group verification. You are who you are, as you are, even if you are doing nothing outwardly. You are always accessible to yourself as an inner light of peace.
Your inner being is your inner witness who endures behind all your states of waking, dream and deep sleep, your diverse experiences of life and all their ups and downs. You do not have two selves, one looking for the other. The true Self is always there when outer seeking ends. Your true Self is always there to welcome you to your inner home in consciousness.
Self-knowledge is not something for you to gain from the outside as something new, but to recognize and realize within you and what you always are and have always been. It brings to an end all our outer unhappiness, which is based upon the need to become somebody in the outer world.
Abiding in Your Self-nature
Your true Self is the Self-effulgent light of pure Consciousness that is the essence of pure knowing behind all creatures and all existence. It is not a matter of outer knowing but of inner being. It is not a matter of what you think, which is always changing, but what you are when the mind is silent and no thought can reach. True knowledge is to see and to be, not to look outwardly and get caught in becoming which never ends.
Self-knowledge is not something that needs to be given or formulated. It needs to be searched out and discovered like a great mystery. We can relax into our inner being by letting go of the mind and senses for the peace and happiness inherent when we put the mind and its thoughts to rest. It may sound difficult, but can be discovered in the space between our thoughts, in the instants between our sensory perceptions, and in the deep calm behind the breath.
Rest in the ground of your inner being, your true Self and you will achieve the highest goal of knowledge and Yoga as your natural state. You will know what is one in all and all in one. You will know the great unknowable that puts all knowledge to rest, and find the essence of all within you.
Learn by meditation to be who you are beyond the movement of thought, whether as sensations, emotions or ideas. That is the Self-knowledge of Yoga and Vedanta and your true nature beyond birth and death, one with the entire universe.
David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)