Inquiry into the Self
from Sanathana Sarathi Apr, '91, p. 101ff

Sanathana contents 4-91

Asked at an interview in 1987 how one could say that we are God, Sathya Sai Baba answered "You are God!" "How can that be so?" the questioner continued. "You are God. You are God." was the reply, said with total conviction and full reassurance. It increased our self-confidence; our faith in our Atmic reality.

The mind being an instrument to be used well until it reaches total equanimity through spiritual practice, we also need to inquire into the reality of self as far as mind can reach.


Swami once held a rose in his closed palm and told interviewees that to say God is within like the rose in his hand, makes God seem smaller than yourself. Rather, he explained, think of yourself as being inside God, since God is everywhere.

This lesson, to see God in everything and everyone takes in a lot! How is this to be squared with Baba's words in Sathya Sai Vahini ?:-

"Whatever is not in man cannot be anywhere outside him. Whatever is visible outside him is but a rough reflection of what really is in him."

What is within is also without. A mirror reflects what images it receives, only in reverse and according to its clarity. This world around us, this interminable universe registers itself in our awareness as inconceivably intricate, eventful and whole. It appears to be massively 'material', not mental; it seems to be objective to consciousness and not to be conscious itself. The mind seems powerless to command it or even to penetrate its vastness, limited and localised as we (seemingly) are by the body. Yet because it is 'absent' for the mind which does not cognise it, we cannot be fully certain that it is not somehow a projection of mind.

"The body is the temple of the Self; the world is a structure raised on one strong pillar, 'I'. For, when this 'I' is dormant during deep sleep, there is no world as far as you are concerned. You are alone when you sleep. Before you were born, there was no world for you. After you die there is no world of which you are conscious." (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. IV Ch.48)

From what do the very thoughts that stream through 'my' consciousness arise? Or who daily occupies 'my' hands, mind and heart with whatever they do?

The ego is defined as 'the me and mine' and ever-moving consciousness as 'I'. Consciousness can hardly be said to be 'my' possession, for it is I... apart from it I do not exist. I can pay attention to 'my' body and all that arises in connection with embodiment, the needs or desires, the whole web of the sensory and mental world in which my mind repeatedly entangles consciousness... yet these are still only objects of that attention. They are not it, not my identity, not I (the aware subject itself). So the only 'I' that remains is pure Consciousness... in so far as it is reflected 'within' (the 'seer' who witnesses everything).


The idea of being (eg. that everything 'is') itself implies that 'being' is what is present everywhere. We are all acquainted with it. Further, what 'is' is thus no more at one place than at another. This amounts to an idea of Omnipresence.

"It is indeed strange that this huge Cosmos depends ultimately on whether 'I' cognise it as such or not! 'If you feel it is there, it is there; if you feel it is not there, it is not there!' This means that we have to go deep into this process of the mind of man. Is there any occasion when our assertion leads to the existence of a thing and our negation results in its disappearance? Or, is this conclusion a figment of the imagination? Inquiry on these lines would undoubtedly reveal the Truth..." (Sathya Sai Vahini, p. 164)

Was Bishop Berkeley right to have held that there can be no direct evidence that the college quadrangle is there when no-one was there to behold it? Or was Dr. Johnson's frantically kicking a stone in disgust at this theory sufficient (as he hoped) to 'disprove' it?

No, despite all the mountains of scientific rationalisations and other arguments, one must admit that no facts exist that conclusively refute that the universe depends for its (passing) reality on consciousness. I need not doubt that an independent objective universe appears to be for other persons, even if or when it does not appear the same to me. But appearances are Maya; reality is not as it appears to be. Conclusion: all this highlights how reality is intellectually-ungraspable at the deepest level!

At the same time this also strongly indicates that it is the subject and not the object-world that is ultimately real; that everything we perceive with the senses is, on the deepest analysis, nothing else than a subtle construct of mind. Dr. Paul Brunton called this thesis 'mentalism' and he convincingly clarified the scientific basis for it with the aid of Indian scriptures. Mentalism holds - more or less - that 'the mind' illudes me into feeling that its own creations are superior to itself in permanence and reality, essentially 'different to me'.

Given the assumption that the universe is created by 'mental' spiritual will and not a sheer physical cause, it must then take a similar act for its dissolution. That is the mystery of inner vision. The assumption that the only reality is what our senses perceive, is only an assumption... and one that can never be tested through any sort of experience, whether collective or personal.

Neither the physical universe or other persons need be taken as figments of imagination created by 'my own mind'. Nor need we think of one another as essentially 'other' and separate beings. All ideas of difference are rooted in outward, physical life. Similar ideas then arise about some basic inner identity that seperates people yet 'they' need not be regarded as being really different to me.

Such ideas are due to limiting Consciousness (Atma) down to 'my own mind'. Consciousness is thus encapsuled as ego, pretending to 'private ownership' of the mind, its 'creations' etc. - as if other persons cannot be or become channels of the very same thoughts and feelings as oneself, however convoluted, clever or sublime they may be.

All persons appear as (outward) expressions of one and the same Overself to the inner vision of consciousness, as in the image of five billion (human) water drops falling, each separate spheres, until they reach the surface of the ocean where they join in unity. They were always the same substance, yet lose any previous separateness or limitation.


Sathya Sai has told us that "the world is but a mental image of the individual. How this happens is a mystery. One can only say, that just as sleep is the cause of dreams, maya or the Basic ignorance is the cause of Creation." (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol.9. p.168)

It is thus futile to seek a rational-scientific explanation of the phenomenon of creative subjectivity because this belongs to the sphere of the mystical, the supra-mental Consciousness beyond the 'mental divisions' that accompany every possible idea and word.

Narcissus stares at the reflection of himself until, like a stone thrown into a placid pool, the looking glass is shattered. The reversed image fragmented and gone to the past, a mere figment of mind, he all at once sees beyond himself. Fascination for the mirror-illusion dispelled, he looks up to the sky to see God's cosmos everywhere.

We are also told: "very few fix their Inner Vision on the Universal and the Eternal; nor do they listen to its Majesty and Mystery." and "man has lost faith in himself; so there is no wonder that he has lost faith in God also. Only those who know themselves and have confidence in themselves can acquire knowledge of God and confidence in God. Know thyself first, then your attempt to know the world will be rendered simple." (ibid, p.161 & 165)

(Robert Priddy. April 1991)

The above material is the copyright of Robert Priddy, Oslo 1999