When I was a young boy, I used to dream a lot about wild animals in the jungle. And very often, in these dreams, they used to chase me. I would run and run and get so tired and when I felt that I couldn’t run anymore and the tiger was very close to me, right in the dream I would think to myself, What nonsense, I’m only dreaming!

Probably, right after that, I would just continue dreaming. Some of you may also have experienced something like this when you are aware you are dreaming within a dream. Now you might be asking yourself, How can the swami say he knew he was dreaming while he was sleeping?

Well, even if you are not aware during a dream, still there is an awareness that is there even when you are sleeping because if you knew nothing, how can you even say that you knew nothing? That shows that there is an awareness, even in deep sleep. It means, it is not you that was sleeping or you that is awake or dreaming. All that is a function of the mind: the mind dreams, the mind wakes, but you are always minding the mind. I am just reminding you!

In Jnana Yoga, this is what is called sakshi, the witness or the Self (Atman). If there was no sakshi, no unchanging awareness, how could you wake up in the morning and say, “I had a sound sleep and I knew nothing.” How would you know that you knew nothing? You know because there is somebody in you, who is the real you, who never does anything; who is simply a witness, watching everything. The self or ego is what uses the mind and body to do things, to perform all your actions. But, the true Self is the one witnessing it all and is not affected by any of the activity of the self.

And that Self or consciousness, that witnessing awareness is what is found in Turiya, the fourth state. It exists in the junction between waking and dreaming, between dreaming and deep sleep, and between deep sleep and waking. It actually is always present—beyond waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. If you could always identify yourself as that pure awareness, that simple I who is constantly watching and witnessing, but not doing anything or saying anything, then you would be always in peace.

But the minute you associate yourself with the mind and its functions, or with the body and its growth, then you say, “I am sick, I am poor, I am happy, I am miserable.” It’s not only that you identify with your body and mind, you sometimes identify with your currency in the safe or in the bank. If you have a little money in the bank, you call yourself rich. If that is stolen, you call yourself poor. If a message comes that your daughter gave birth to a baby, you immediately label yourself as a grandpa. That is what you call wrong identification. It’s all right to use those terms, as long as you are in the world. If you say, “I’m not a grandpa,” your daughter will be  unhappy. So, as long as you are acting your part on this world stage, go ahead. But don’t forget that you are completely different from all these things—you are pure awareness.

If you could do that then you are liberated from all these wrong identifications. You are liberated from the clutches of the body and the mind. That is what you call, salvation, liberation, moksha, and nirvana. What does it mean when Buddha spoke about nirvana? Nirvana means nakedness. It is not covered or colored by anything that it is associated with. Sri Patanjali used the term kaivalya, which means aloneness. And that is how we came, as a pure essence.

You are always that pure essence, or the image of God, or the prajna (consciousness). Somehow the essence got carried away and became mixed with the elements. Then the elements got into the body of a male, and then entered into the blood stream, into the semen and then came into the mother’s womb. You were pure essence and when you were in your mother’s womb, she wanted to give you a nice, strong body and so she started eating all the essential foods. She created a body for you, and until then, you didn’t even have a name. You were the pure essence.

You were given your first name even before you were born. What was that? Your first name was “It.” People gave you your very first name when they asked, “Will it be a boy or girl? Then when the relatives were waiting in the delivery room, as soon as they heard the cry, they saw the nurse coming out smiling, and they asked, what is it? That was the very first name given to you, isn’t it so? Since that day you have been given many names and if anyone should spell it incorrectly, you get upset! You are attached to that name, forgetting that you are going to lose it one day.

After accumulating and losing many names such as child, mom or dad, granny or grandpa, you end up with your original name. At the very end someone says, “Put it in the box, and take it away.” That’s it!

It sounds a little funny, but it’s true. So due to our wrong identification, we lose our original identity; we temporarily forget it. It’s not that we are going to get it back from somewhere. We are always that pure “I.” But nobody has ever explained exactly how we forgot that and how we somehow became deluded.

We became the little “i,” and that illusion is what you call the ego. The individual feeling, the egoistic “i” is little. Even in English, if you ever want to write the pure I, it is the simplest letter which is just one stroke, “I.” So in one stroke, you were created as a pure I, but we don’t remain that pure and allow that simple pure I to be painted with a dot. The minute you put a dot over the head, you are in a tight spot. In that one stroke, if you put a dot, you are no longer the capital “I.” Instead you become the little “i.” So the only difference between the little, egoistic lower self, and the higher Self, is just a dot—the egoistic spot.

How can you erase that little dot? Very simple again. Just say e–go! You don’t need to do anything. E–go and you remain the pure I. But you don’t tell the ego to go. You say, “Come, I want you.” You want to cling on to that, you want to bite it and that is what gets you in trouble. When you start biting, it means identifying is it not?

You can’t bite without “dentifiying,” and that’s why I say the babies are saints, because they don’t have teeth with which to bite. First they are pure, but once they grow, they start biting everything. And they begin to identify and that is the reason that when the dents go away you come back to that purity again.

Vedanta means the end or culmination of Veda, which is the word for sacred knowledge. In Sanskrit, danta means teeth and ve means without. The realization of the essence is Vedanta. But there is another meaning. Instead of Vedanta, if you read the word as “Ve Danta,” it means that when you lose the I–dentifying, the “I” remains pure.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda