The Mirror Of The Self: [10] Self-Perception

Published: 29.01.2009


“Perceive the soul through the soul!" The practice of meditation started with the recitation of this maxim and it was concluded in course of time. A sadhak asked: "Is the maxim of perceiving the soul through the soul a practical one? Is it possible?"

Two Problems

The sadhak said - "My knowledge is subservient to the senses. Whatever I know, 1 know through the five sense organs and the mind. If I renounce them, wherefrom shall I obtain the data on which knowledge is based? Wherefrom shall I receive the raw material? The sense organs constitute the only means of our contact with the world. There are five sense organs with their five subjects, called the intrinsic modes. There are five qualities - sound, form, smell, taste and touch. To apprehend these, there are five senses - the sense of hearing, the sense of seeing, the sense of smell, the sense of taste and the sense of touch. Each sense apprehends its particular quality. Under these circumstances, how is it possible to perceive the soul through the soul?"

Another problem is this - "Living is a collective affair. If a man is engaged in perceiving himself, will he not become selfish? In collective living, you have to see the other, too. You have to consider the other person's problems and difficulties. If an individual lives in society but is totally self-absorbed, it will not be conducive to good social life. Actually, the maxim should have been 'Perceive the other!' Had this been the aphorism of medita­tion, it would have been eminently practical. As far as group life Is concerned, how can the talk of 'seeing oneself be useful?"

A Forceful Argument

It is a forceful argument. But there is no argument without counter-argument. As far as direct experience is concerned, there is no such thing as counter-experience, because it is the direct experience of truth. Jainendraji [the celebrated Hindi writer] often said, "A man practising meditation gets lost in himself. Being self-absorbed, he is isolated from society. Therefore he cannot be of any use to society." Jainendraji spent three weeks in a medita­tion camp, but because of his above belief, he never participated in any meditation session.

Knowledge And The Senses

'Perceive the soul through the soul!' In the context of this aphorism, we have before us two problems. Now, firstly, to believe that knowledge is dependent upon the senses is a delusion; let us get out of it. The senses may be the starting point of knowledge, but these do not constitute its ultimate limit. While meditating, we go beyond the senses. We must enter the frontiers of transcendental consciousness and meditate there. Which means that knowledge is not merely limited to the senses but lies beyond them, too. Beyond the senses is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, and beyond the intellect is the Supreme Spirit.

For meditation, it is necessary to go beyond the limits of the senses. Only that man can truly meditate, who enters the frontiers of wisdom after transcending the bounds of the senses, the mind and the intellect.

A Significant Maxim

It is true that one cannot live in society without perceiving others. But the greater truth is that an individual, who is not self-aware, is incapable of behaving well towards others. The more a person strives to know himself, the more alert he would be about conducting himself humanely. Could the rapport, which the great men established with mankind, be possible through merely 'seeing others'? Whether it be the question of collective life or that of knowledge being limited by the senses, we can advance a great deal in our exploration. As a matter of fact, an important maxim for advancing knowledge and for a peaceful and collective life is 'Perceive the self through the self.'

Self-Perception: Body-Perception

Acharya Siddhasena wrote: "Let us observe the condition of the body; let us perceive the state of our mind. Let us observe all this with our mind's eye, which means 'perception of self through the self.' The observer is our mind's eye. The body is an inseparable part of our soul. The mind, too, forms a part thereof. Changes take place in a man's body every minute. Let us sit in meditation, and observe the different states of the body throughout the day. A thousand kinds of changes take place in the body. A common man can have no idea about it. There are eight kinds of karma and hundreds of dispositions. These dispositions come to fruition every minute. Knowledge-covering, intuition-covering, deluding, obstructing - all these dispositions are in the course of maturing. A complete system thereof is functioning in the body. To witness all these varying states with the mind's eye is 'percep­tion of the self through the self."

How To Observe?

It is not easy to observe the differing states of the mind. Each thought produces in us 33 vibrations per second. Who can witness all the states of the mind? Only that man can see them who remains detached. He who is attached will be swept along and will thus be able to see nothing. But a man should observe the states of his mind dispassionately, and this dispassionate observa­tion is self-perception. One who is not detached is incapable of perception. He, who is swept by the event, cannot witness it. Only he can see who remains detached, equanimous.

The State Of Transparency

The man, who observes the different states of the body and the mind, starts witnessing, besides the present, his past and future, too. This is an exercise of generic memory. First of all, a person observes the phases of the gross body, then the phases of the taijasa sharir (electrical body) and the vibrations of karma sharir (micro-body). Later, he will start witnessing his past life. Thus progress­ing from the gross to the subtle, he will develop the capacity to witness his future. This condition of farsight is possible only through self-perception. If we see only others, we will not be able to resolve our problems. Looking at others has become our second nature, but along with it we must develop the capacity to look at ourselves. Then we shall be able to maintain an equilibrium. A balanced approach will be helpful in the all-round development of our life, freeing us from all bias and taking us towards perfection. This is the objective of 'perception of self through the self'.


3rd Edition 1995

Jain Vishva Bharati Institute
Ladnun -341 306 (Rajasthan)

Muni Dhananjay Kumar (Hindi)
Muni Mahendra Kumar (English)

Translated by:
Late Prof. R.K. Seth

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Siddhasena
  3. Body
  4. Consciousness
  5. Electrical body
  6. Karma
  7. Karma Sharir
  8. Meditation
  9. Sadhak
  10. Sharir
  11. Siddhasena
  12. Soul
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