It’s alright to have a nice body, nice ideas, nice learning, and a lot of money. As long as you have a lot of money in the bank you call yourself rich. When the money goes away, immediately you change your label: I am poor now. You identify yourself with the money in the bank. But if you could isolate yourself from this, if you could separate your I, you are saved from all the clutches, from the attachments. The language beautifully calls it identification because each one is a dent in your I. If you relieve your I from all these dents, you are fine again; you are the clean, simple, pure I, and that is what is called, liberation, or, in Sanskrit, moksha. What should you liberate yourself from? From your own identifications. The Bhagavad Gita beautifully puts it: You are your own friend, you are your own enemy. You bind yourself, you liberate yourself. You become what you identify with.
To relieve your I from all the limitations is a very direct approach that is called Jnana Yoga, the path of wisdom. You don’t need any rituals. If you are really capable of using your intelligence, you can sit and analyze and affirm, “I am that I am. All these identifications are temporary, and I use them for temporary purposes. They are my temporary addresses. I don’t need to get caught in it.”
If you can remain in that awareness, then when somebody looks at you and says “Look at that chubby, rolly polly,” you will only laugh along with them. You will say, “Yes, you are right, what a rolly polly. I don’t know how my body got like that.” You won’t even become upset or say, “How dare you say that to me?” With the awareness that you are not the body, nor the mind, you would know that the person is not addressing you, but is just talking about your body. Suppose somebody comes and says, “You are a fool.” Normally, your reply would not be very pleasant. But if you analyze, you know that the person is just saying words. You can just ignore it because you know the person is not talking about you. See how safe it is to liberate yourself from all these things? You can save yourself from lot of problems.
That is the Vedantic approach and it is found in almost every religion. Veda is a Sanskrit word that means, “knowledge” or “wisdom.” Vedanta means the end of Veda or the very end of what the scriptures should ultimately bring to you. What kind of experience should you get from the study of scriptures? If you ask the Sufis, they call it Ana ‘l-Ḥaqq, which means, “I am the Truth.” Every religion has that higher level. But it requires a very clean, sharp intellect, one that is not affected by anything. You are operating on yourself and the operation must be precise, performed with a well sterilized knife. You are wanting to know the answers to the questions, What am I, Who am I. It is like you are dissecting, separating everything; It is a self-operation. When you perform an operation, you should have all the instruments sterilized, totally free from any defective organisms and razor sharp. And what is the instrument you are using in this self-operation? Your own intelligence, or in Sanskrit, buddhi. This is not the ordinary intelligence. It’s a clean, sharp intelligence. It should not take sides. It should simply split you open. You might think, Oh boy! That’s too much! How can I sterilize like that? My mind is kind of blunt, corroded, mixed up with so many things. How can I do that?
The fastest way to sterilize an instrument is to dip it in spirits, is it not? That’s what the doctors do. They dip the instruments quickly in the spirits of alcohol. So, you can either take your intelligence, dip it in a bottle of spirit, or, boil it. There is a kind of sterilization chamber where the instrument is put under high steam pressure. That is what you call tapasya. Tapah means “to burn.” You literally clean it by burning. You might ask, “How can I burn my intelligence? With what kind of fire? Is there a fire with which I can burn?” Yes, there is such a fire. In life, very often we are in a fire. Either you put yourself in fire, or somebody fires you. All our sufferings are fire. The Thirukkural, a great Tamil scripture says: “Like gold is cleaned from its impurity by burning it, you should allow your mind to be burned.” This is done by self-purification or austerity. It is toward this aim of self-purification that all the scriptures of all the faiths recommend various kinds of self-discipline. They say to embrace poverty, which means to go empty-handed in search of the divine. Another thing they all talk about in the name of self-purification is to sacrifice your attachment to things. Renounce your attachments. Don’t ever say this is mine. Just say, “All mine belongs to Thine. I am Thine, all is Thine, Thy will be done.