People say Aham Brahmasmi -- I am God, I am Brahman. But when Brahman is, how can "I" remain? Only Brahman remains, not I. But there is no other way to express it.
We all mistake the self to be the ‘I’ and only the physical body is not the self. However, in reality ‘I’ is not the self. Therefore, whatever is seen, known, believed and experienced and accumulated on the base of ‘I’ is falsehood. Therefore, it is time to realize the fact that ‘I’ is not the Self but the formless soul, which witnesses the coming and going of the ‘I’ is the real self. Till we think ‘I’ is the self we are playing hide and seek game with the truth.
The Ataman or soul is the innermost self.
The formless soul or consciousness is the innermost self, is birth- less, deathless and world -less eternal identity. The ‘Self’ is totally dual (waking or dream) and non-dual (deep sleep) experiences that is both conscious and unconscious, and something that is always aware of coming and going of these dual and nondual experiences (three states).
The ego (waking entity) is not the self. Limiting the Self to the ego (waking entity) and practicing meditation or any other path on the base of ego (waking entity) is like trying to drain the ocean drop by drop. The soul, which is in the form of consciousness, is the innermost self. Consciousness transcends our ego and the mind which is in the form of the universe. The universe appears as waking and dream. Thus limiting the self to’ ego or waking entity’ is the cause of the ignorance.
Ignorance is the cause of experiencing the duality (universe or waking) as reality. Waking is cause of experiencing the birth, life, death and the world as reality. If experience of birth, life, death and the world (waking) is accepted as reality, than ignorance will prevail and if ignorance prevails wisdom will not dawn.
"It is this Supreme Oneness which alone is real, since there is nothing else but the Self. Verily, there remains no other independent entity in the state of realization of the highest Truth."
People believe that a teacher or mystic or priest has got so many followers and therefore there must be some truth in their teaching, is a common fallacy accepted by the mass due to their inherited samskara or conditioning. It proves only an ignorant can find a number of greater ignorant to follow him.
When religion has become merely a matter of external rituals and ceremonies, it has become a prison for the soul.
Sage Sri, Sankara varied his practical advice and doctrinal teaching according to the people he was amongst. He never advised them to give up their particular religion or beliefs or metaphysics completely; he only told them to give up the worst features of abuse: at the same time he showed just one step forward towards the truth. Sage Sri, Sankara was extremely precise and careful in his choice of words.
Scriptures are being added to from time to time. This process will go on. There is the final authority among them? One contradicts the other: duality reigns supreme.
The Upanishads are self-contradictory. Every pundit even gives conflicting interpretations of them. The final authority therefore is using one’s own own reason. One should apply his reason to them.
The scriptures are for the ignorant masses, who wholly accept the material world as it presents itself. Gnana is for those who have begun to realize that things are not what they seem.
The Scriptures are of value only when dealing with persons who are incapable of understanding truth. They have no value as authority for those who use reason.
It is impossible to find and realize the truth via religion and scriptural study. Even Upanishads conform this.
That is why Sage Sri, Sankara indicates in (VC):- 56. Neither by Yoga, nor by Sankhya, nor by work, nor by learning, but by the realization of one's identity with Brahman is Liberation possible, and by no other means.
58. Loud speech consisting of a shower of words, the skill in expounding the Scriptures, and likewise erudition - these merely bring on a little personal enjoyment to the scholar, but are no good for Liberation.
59. The study of the Scriptures is useless so long as the highest Truth is unknown, and it is equally useless when the highest Truth has already been known.
60. The Scriptures consisting of many words are a dense forest which merely causes the mind to ramble. Hence men of wisdom should earnestly set about knowing the true nature of the Self.
63. Without causing the objective universe to vanish and without knowing the truth of the Self, how is one to achieve Liberation by the mere utterance of the word Brahman? — It would result merely in an effort of speech.
65. As a treasure hidden underground requires (for its extraction) competent instruction, excavation, the removal of stones and other such things lying above it and (finally) grasping, but never comes out by being (merely) called out by name, so the transparent Truth of the self, which is hidden by Maya and its effects, is to be attained through the instructions of a knower of Brahman, followed by reflection, meditation and so forth, but not through perverted arguments.
66. Therefore the wise should, as in the case of disease and the like, personally strive by all the means in their power to be free from the bondage of repeated births and deaths.
Thus Sage Sri Sankara clearly indicated that - yoga, intellectualism, scriptural mastery is not the means to self-knowledge or Bramha Gnana or Atma Gnana. But by the realization of one's identity with the formless soul , which is present in the form of consciousness is ultimate truth or Brahman, freedom from experiencing the illusion as reality is possible, and by no other means.
When the Upanishad says: the human goal is to acquire Self-Knowledge and they indicate the personal gods, scriptures, worship and rituals are not the means to Self –Knowledge, then why anyone should indulge in it. The religion, concept of individualized god and scriptures are greatest obstacle to realize non-dual truth or self-realization, because they are based on false self. The seeker of truth has to search the ultimate truth without losing himself in the labyrinths of philosophy, through deeper, inquiry, analysis and reasoning and assimilate and realize it.
That is why Sage Sri Sankara, indicated in Bhaja Govindam says: - [Jnana Viheena Sarva Mathena Bajathi na Muktim janma Shatena] - one without knowledge does not obtain liberation even in a hundred births, no matter which religious faith he follows.
Then it is no use going roundabout way, trace the Brahman which is the formless substance and witness of the universe, which is in the form of mind. By tracing the source of the mind or universe one will be able to realize the Brahman.
Thus, Self-knowledge or Bramha Gnana or Atma Gnana is meant only for those who have intense urge, and courage to accept the truth with humility and reject the untruth. Since people start comparing with their scriptural knowledge, it becomes impossible to assimilate and realize the non-dual truth. Therefore, there is no need to convince anyone other than our own-selves to get the firm conviction.
So they clearly indicate that the rituals and theories are not meant for those who are searching for the higher knowledge or wisdom. The path of wisdom is the only means to acquire Self-knowledge or Bramha Gnana or Atma Gnana.