How Do I Practice Self-Knowledge on My Own?

Self-enquiry questions


I understand the [Vedanta] teaching, but I am not ‘finished’. I don’t seem to get it in any way that makes a difference. I am still seeking, still suffering, still dissatisfied. I feel I need something more, but I don’t know what that is. Please can you point me in the right direction?


Understanding the teaching is the first big step. However it will likely take some time to fully assimilate it and to stand with rock-solid confidence in that understanding.

Your yearning to get it is a good sign.

In order to withstand the pressure of the conditioning received throughout your life, and the ignorant dualistic perspective spouted by the media — you need to REALLY want to get free.

Your desire for liberation needs to be your TOP priority.


My seeking has taken two main forms: enlightenment and a partner.

At 65, I am in the process of giving up the search for a partner.

Enlightenment is all I really want now. Nothing else has worked in my life.

My ‘life’ hasn’t worked in any conventional way: relationships, jobs, social life: nothing has been satisfactory.

I am now alone in a radical way. I spend most of my time alone.

I go the Brighton Buddhist Center to spend some time and meditate with people who might have similar interests. I sing in a choir. Apart from that, I have little contact with people.


Your decision to give up seeking a partner is a sound one. I don’t mean to suggest that Vedanta is in any way against relationships, just that seeking a relationship is no foundation for enlightenment.

Vedanta defines enlightenment as freedom from dependence on objects for happiness — because the nature of the apparent reality is change and all objects in it are limited by this inherent attribute of impermanence.

For this very reason, no object possesses capacity to give permanent joy, happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, contentment, or peace. Because the very object is impermanent.

So if it is true that enlightenment is really all you want now, then you find yourself in a very conducive situation to focusing all the attention on contemplating, assimilating, and applying the teachings on a moment-to-moment basis.

You have an opportunity that is rare among those living in the world to closely monitor your mind and root out all the ignorant ideas that arise within it.

I won’t kid you, this can be a somewhat uncomfortable, even downright painful process at times depending on how identified one is with one's mind and/or how tenaciously one resist's giving up that identification.

It sounds like you have been alone for some time, so perhaps you have already been attending to your thoughts with such an acute degree of scrutiny. If so, that might be why your suffering and dissatisfaction persist.

And because those self-knowledge-obstructing-notions are the center of focus — they're experienced in a more pronounced way then before.

Whatever the case may be, the important thing in terms of enlightenment or liberation is to cease identifying with the notions of lack and limitation, and consequent feelings of discontent and suffering that arise in the mind.

Always ask yourself, “Am I this thought/feeling, or am I the one witnessing it — the pure, limitless, ever-present, impervious awareness in which the thought/feeling is arising, abiding, and subsiding?”


From my 20s, I was reading books by Ram Dass, Paul Reps, Shunryu Suziki, Alan Watts, CG Jung. I have been doing TM for 20 years.

Spiritual literature is the only thing that really makes sense. I am currently nearing the end of reading I Am That, by Nisargadatta, which definitely ‘floats my boat’.

I feel that I am on the verge of enlightenment, but can’t quite get that last piece in place.

I understand that I am unlimited awareness, and that everything is arising in me, but I feel like I am this limited, unhappy, separate entity.

Perhaps I am in a similar position that Eckhart Tolle describes as the moments before his ‘enlightenment’ experience, that decisive moment that changes things.


You articulate your predicament (a universal predicament for those who are ready to ‘pop’) very clearly and succinctly.

You say, “I understand that I am unlimited awareness, and that everything is arising in me, but I feel like I am this limited, unhappy, separate entity.”

At this point, it seems that your understanding is intellectual. But anything we understand intellectually must be rooted in some degree of experience.

In other words, there is degree of understanding that you are unlimited awareness because down deep you know that is absolutely so.

When you witness everything arising within, you directly experience the fact that you are different from and unaffected by such experience, for the subject (you) cannot be the object (whatever thought or feeling is arising).

This experience, however, is different than a discrete experience such as one might experience during an epiphany – and subsequently use to define enlightenment and try to recapture and maintain indefinitely.

This “experience” is automatic, natural, ordinary, and continuous.

Think about it. When are you not aware?

Even in deep sleep you are there. If you were not, how would you know, upon waking up, that you slept soundly?

And now for the kicker, this experience is the epitome of joy, happiness, contentment, peace, and confidence. Contemplate this.

Really take a close look at yourself.

Can any experience really make you feel good or bad? Have you ever experienced something in a positive way that another experienced in a negative way, or vice versa?

The bottom line, as you articulated it, is that you are always outside of experience.

In other words, all experience arises only within the scope of your awareness.

And so you are always free of experience.

And though this knowledge is ever untainted by any particular emotional state — it does translate into a qualitatively different experience for the one who knows.

Just as the joy is not in the object, but floods forth from within ourselves when we cease desiring the object, so it is with self-knowledge.

Once you rest in your essential independence, you will more often than not, find a natural joy or sense of peace pervading your being.

But even when the emotion of happiness or contentment or satisfaction is not there, you will still stand with rock-solid confidence in your true nature as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness.

That said, the feeling that you are limited, incomplete, unhappy, separate individual will persist until all your doubts have been completely removed and the aforesaid knowledge has become unshakably established in your intellect.

But no worry. The remedy is to simply keep applying the teachings over and over in every situation, with regard to every thought and feeling.

And if the knowledge isn’t firm yet, then as James Swartz often advises, “Fake it ‘til you make it.

This type of faking isn’t B.Sing yourself because, as was mentioned before, deep down you know it is true.

You simply have to keep reminding – get that, ‘re-minding’ as in re-training the mind how to think correctly or in alignment with reality — rather than the way things appear to be. Until you become fully convinced of the truth and stand with full confidence in your true nature.

Even at such a point, however, there is no telling what kind of crazy thoughts might still flit through the mind.

The appearance of thoughts is not under your control, for they come from the causal body and their character is determined by the vasanas.

And thoughts will continue as long as you have prarabdha karma yet to play out.

What is under your control is whether or not you identify with these thoughts and their consequent emotions.

Truly speaking, you would do well to never say, “I think this” or “I feel that”, for you as awareness are never thinking or feeling anything.

Just witness the thoughts and feelings floating through you as clouds float through the sky.

And realize that just as the sky remains ever unaffected by the clouds, so you remain ever unaffected by the thoughts appearing within you.


Something has to give, but ‘I’ can’t make it happen.


It is true the you can’t make liberation happen, but it is also true that you as a body-mind-person (jiva) have to exercise the mind's free will and do the practices that will purify the mind — and apply the teachings that will reorient the mind toward the truth if you are ever going to get free.

That is how it works in the apparent (mithya) reality.

Of course, the truth is that you as awareness are already free.

Enlightenment is for the mind.

So what has ‘to give’ as you put it is that you have to undertake a rigorous program of retraining your mind to think in alignment with the truth that you are whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness.

In the irascible spirit of Nisargadatta; any other thought is useless. Throw it out!

It should be noted, moreover, that self-knowledge does not produce or help you attain or acquire the self.

You ALREADY are the self (atman).

The teachings of Vedanta simply remove the ignorance that blocks one’s appreciation of one's true nature.

So just keep in mind that ‘getting it’ is a matter of understanding; not experience.

UNDERSTANDING comes first. Experience follows next.

When a convict opens up and shares his childhood trauma and abuse — we come to understand his helpless position. Experience of empathy naturally follows.

In other words, lasting experience DEMANDS understanding. And understanding demands attention and  time.

Had the perpetrator merely sincerely-apologized, it would've produced a half positive emotion in the listener(s) — but it would lack depth and substance as compared to first scenario.

Once you fully ‘get it’ — it won’t matter what kind of experience you are having.

Because you will know that no experience, either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, has anything to do with you. Nor can any experience enhance, diminish, or change your true nature as whole and complete, limitless, actionless, ordinary, unborn, non-dual awareness.


The difficulty for me is applying the knowledge moment by moment: the thought, ‘I am unlimited and nothing is separate from me’.

I find this very difficult, because, as you say, I get sucked into identifying with the feelings and I forget to apply the knowledge.

How do I ‘practice knowledge’? I feel I need a course of some kind, a step- by-step training in this. I suppose that this is why people live in an ashram. But how do I do it on my own?

It’s as if I’ve learned a foreign language from a book and I’m facing the question, ‘How do I actually speak the language in real life?’


This is really a great analogy. The way you ‘practice knowledge’ and ‘speak the language in real life’ is the same way you learn to speak a foreign language.


Over and over again, re-mind yourself of who you really are and what your true nature really is.

This is the only way.

Despite what the shaktipat gurus would have us believe, no one is going to transmit enlightenment into you.

The closest vehicle for that is scripture and the teacher.

Keep exposing yourself to the teachings.

Do your best to apply the teachings in the way that has been discussed above.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Although I’ve heard it all before, I needed to hear it again. Already today I’ve gone from one extreme of thoughts to inquiring and letting go. This message just told me to keep doing that day by day, moment by moment. Thanks Isvara!

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