The awakening power of two simple questions
By Gangaji and Eli, April 2004
“Simply because you are alive and intelligent enough to read this, you are ready for the next evolutionary leap, from the isolated selfishness that is destroying the world, to the bliss of union, which holds the healing of the earth.”
It is possible to awaken to the depths of one’s true nature through honest and sincere self-investigation. There are two essential questions critical to this investigation: What do I really want? and Who am I?
Surprisingly, most people have never asked themselves this first question with any depth. Indeed, most people live their entire lives without ever questioning what it is they really and finally want. Most make do with whatever shows up. They are content to settle for some version of what their parents had or wanted. Others may rebel and want something totally different from what their parents had.
Most people’s lives are dedicated to getting what they think they want. They live in the conditioned wants of family, and in the manufactured wants of society, with their subconscious fantasies projected out onto the world. They spend their lives invested in second-hand desires.
When you answer this question on the deepest level, you can turn your life toward something of real consequence.
As long as there is an experience of separation or alienation, there is correspondingly a longing for union. As long as there is fear and a sense of isolation, there is consciously or unconsciously a longing to return home.
It is time to tell the truth about where you have turned away from the longing for union. Only then can the call of your heart be heard.
Be willing to stay true to your deepest longing for truth. Stay true in the face of every wave of thought that arises from the ocean of mind and tries to wash you back into subconscious desires. In the end, the desire for union and true freedom will transcend all other desires. This is the only pure desire of a human life.
Having this desire has been rare in the past. But humanity is now entering a new stage. Either we will evolve or we will destroy the earth. The choice is up to us. Now is the time for ordinary people to wake up. There is no need to be a great saint. Simply because you are alive and intelligent enough to read this, you are ready for the next evolutionary leap, from the isolated selfishness that is destroying the world, to the bliss of union, which holds the healing of the earth. Perhaps the only hope for the planet now lies in our willingness to end our personal suffering.
Until the desire for truth, freedom, and love arises in a life, everything is all about “me” and “my” story of “reality.” Once the desire for freedom arises, it can become the central axis, the ground of being that life revolves around. This then signals the end of the search for happiness and the birth of realization. Awakening is the end of wanting and the beginning of discovering.
Once you have discovered what it is you truly want, you are ready to make the most important inquiry of a lifetime, the second essential question: Who am I? In a certain way, this has been an implicit question throughout every stage of your life. At its root, every activity, whether individual or collective, is motivated by a search for self-definition. Typically, the search is for a positive answer to this question or a running away from any possibility of a negative answer. Once this question becomes explicit, the momentum and the power of the question direct the search for true Self.
Until the question of who you are has been truly answered, there will still be the hunger to finally know. Because no matter how you have been defined by others, well-meaning others and not so well-meaning others, and no matter how you have defined yourself, any definition is finally revealed to come up short.
Recognizing that no answer has ever satisfied this question is the crucial moment of spiritual ripeness. It is at this point that you can consciously investigate who you really are.
The question, Who am I? in its power and simplicity, throws the mind back to the root of personal identification. It throws the mind back before the basic assumption, “I am somebody.” Rather than automatically accepting that assumption to be the truth, you can investigate deeper. When this very basic sense of individual self is questioned, the mind is thrown back to the I.
This is called Self-inquiry.
We spend most of our days telling ourselves or others we are someone important, someone unimportant, someone big, someone little, someone young, or someone old, never truly questioning beyond conditioned definitions.
Definitions of oneself as good or bad, ignorant or enlightened, are all just concepts in the mind. All of that changes and is even forgotten every night when you drop into deep sleep. Whatever can be forgotten or continually changes is not the absolute truth. If you will stop trying to find yourself in some definition, in an instant of true and sincere self-inquiry, the indefinable spaciousness of consciousness reveals itself as who you are.
When you turn your attention toward the question, Who am I? perhaps an image of your face or your body appears. But who is aware of that image? Are you the object, or are you the awareness of the object? The object comes and goes. The parent, the child, the lover, the abandoned one, the enlightened one, the victorious one, the defeated one—these identifications all come and go. The awareness of those identifications is always present. The misidentification of yourself as some object in awareness leads to extreme pleasure or extreme pain and endless cycles of suffering.
When you are willing to stop the misidentification, when you are willing to see and to discover directly, completely, that you are the awareness itself and not these impermanent definitions, the search for yourself in thoughts finishes.
When the question, Who? is followed innocently, purely, all the way back to its source, there is a huge, astounding realization—There is no entity here at all! There is only the indefinable, boundless, recognition of oneself as the fullness of being found everywhere in everything.
The fullness of being is whole, is endless. There is no bottom to you, no boundary to you. Any idea about yourself appears in the fullness and will disappear back into it. You are awareness, and awareness is consciousness, full beyond measure.
Let all self-definitions die in this moment. Let them all go, and see what remains. See what is never born, and see what does not die. Feel the relief of laying down the burden of defining yourself. Experience the actual non-reality of the burden. Experience the joy that is here. Rest in the endless peace of your true nature before any thought of I arises.