Self is another name for Consciousness. Everything is Consciousness.
Once, when somebody asked Ramana Maharshi to explain the nature of consciousness he answered:
a) Existence without beginning or end
b) Existence everywhere, endless, infinite
c) Existence underlying all forms, all changes, all forces, all matter and all spirit
The many change and pass away, whereas the ONE always endures.
Consciousness is so to say the substratum of all existence, it is all pervading.
If one would dissolve any object on earth it would be returned to molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles. If the sub-atomic particles are dissolved there is just energy and if that is dissolved there is nothing but a void, the void or Nirwana that Buddhist talk about, a void that is Pure Consciousness. That is why it is often said that we are no thing. And no thing is Consciousness.
Once a Master , was giving a class on this subject when a student asked: “I do not know what you are talking about. How can everything be Consciousness? How can everything come from nothing? This does not make sense.”
The master, while pointing to a fig tree told the student: “Go and bring me a fig.” The student went and plucked a fig from the fig tree and brought it to the Master. The master said to the student: “Open the fig and tell me what you see.”
When the student informed the Master that he saw only seeds the master asked for one of these seeds to be given to him. The Master gave the student a razor blade and said: “Cut open the seed.” This was a pretty hard job because the seed was so small. He cut his finger a couple of times before he finally managed to open the seed. The Master asked: “What do you see now?” The student answered: “Nothing, in the seed there is a hollow, absolute nothingness.”
And the Master said: “From this nothingness the entire Universe is produced.
Whereas Buddhists call it Nothingness or Emptiness, Hindus call it Brahman. When people speak about Consciousness, many different names and words are used to denote THAT which is Consciousness.
A few examples: God, Ultimate Reality, the Absolute, Pure Knowledge, Pure Love, Shiva, Arunachala, Heart, Being, Jehovah, Bliss, Existence, real ‘I’, Light, Truth, Fullness etc. Many symbols refer to THAT such as the Bindu, the central point in yantra’s and mandalas or the yin/yang symbol in Taoism, or the Om symbol in Hinduism.
All these words and symbols are only pointers trying to describe THAT which cannot be described. The Self has three attributes:
- Sat : existence or being
- Chit : consciousness or awareness
- Ananda : bliss ( the non dualistic experience of love which can be inadequately described as an enduring ecstatic experience)
In order to give some understanding about what Consciousness is, saints have often used the analogy of a film on a cinemascreen. When people enter the cinema there is just an empty screen in front of them. As soon as the movie starts people forget all about the screen and they see various scenes passing on the cinema screen: fire seems to burn buildings to ashes, water seems to wreck ships, but the screen on which the pictures are projected remains unburnt and dry. Why? Because the pictures are unreal and the screen is real. After the movie, the pictures have disappeared, but the screen remains. So it is with the Self, That alone exists, the pictures come and go but Consciousness will remain as It is. Consciousness is the screen of Reality and all of the images of the whole universe are superimposition’s on the screen of Reality. We forget that we are superimposition’s on the screen of life, and that we are really the screen which is Consciousness. All great saints have told us to identify with Consciousness and not with what is going on; if one holds on to the SELF one will not be deceived by the appearance of the pictures. Nor does it matter at all whether the pictures appear or disappear.
The state which is called Realisation is simply Being oneself , not trying to become somebody or something , just TO BE. If one has realised THAT which alone is, one no longer identifies with the ‘pictures’ making up the world, one no longer regards the unreal as real, one can only BE THAT..
Consciousness is your natural state. When you are not identified with the world, you are THAT which alone is.
The SELF alone exists and the SELF alone is real. All that exist is but a manifestation of the the Supreme Being.