THE DAWN OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE आत्मा ज्ञानम् ATMA GNANAM
As Yogapreneurs and Wall Street occupy modern yoga and sweep moksha, the end goal of liberation under the yoga mat, in India, Modern Revivalists show the true path to liberation has always been knowledge.
Before arriving in India, I had no idea Self-Knowledge teachings even existed. They became the focus of my attention for the next eight years. Turns out questioning our existence as human beings, the answer is never found in the stars or galaxies, but in the one questioning.
One word - ‘I’ - describes the human being.
Who is this ‘I’?
‘I’ is the PIN code, the password to the universe. The first name of the whole human race, ’I’ is the truth of every human being. Knowing who is perceiving through the lens of this ‘I’ explodes all our perceptions and unlocks the secret door of the universe.
All experts at knowing who we are relative to ‘I’, religious or secular, believer or non-believer, all identities belong to ‘I’, yet ‘I’ belongs to no one. Genderless, having no nationality, ‘I’ requires no belief and ‘I’ has no religion. The supreme thief, whatever you think you own, whoever you think you are, ’I’ has already stolen everything from you! Kings, Queens, presidents, emperors, dictators, whatever the position, title or role in life, all belongs to ‘I’. Yet who owns ‘I’? As its loyal subjects - ever mindful of this ’I’, perhaps its time to get to know why one small word wields so much power in our lives?
The tiniest word in the English dictionary, like a stick of dynamite, awakening to the truth of this ‘I’ awakens the whole human being.
Because ‘I’ is meaningful, everything is meaningful. Without it there is no meaning.
Both the discovery and the destination, through Self-Knowledge knowing this ‘I’ turns out to be the motherlode of all knowledge. Subsequently told to teach, after years of travelling giving Self-Knowledge classes in yoga teacher trainings and retreats around the world I have decided its time to spill the beans ….
To say Self-Knowledge solves the problem of being human is to belittle it.
Because ultimately there is no problem!
Enter Yoga - Answering the Question of the Questioner
’I’ is a never ending conversation going on timelessly in each of us. Since the dawn of awareness, travelling through each generation is this eternal time traveller. Wanting to know where the conversation ends its destination and meaning, where do we go?
The term most commonly used to describe yoga is that yoga is rooted in the joining or yoking of you to yourself.
But yoga or meditating is not the only time human beings are with themselves. Its just when we recognise it.
Having heard the word ‘Self’ mentioned in a yoga class or meditation, you should not assume that yoga is talking about you. It is not.
With ourselves 24/7 365 days a year, in any rare bliss moment, enjoying a coffee break or a fresh pristine moment in nature, we are with ourselves. That the moment is powerful and magical is not because of us, or the coffee, or because nature is beautiful. It is because in that moment we are one with the timeless power and pure potentiality of what is called ‘Self’. The reason sleep is so powerful and rejuvenating is also because in deep sleep we are with nothing but ‘Self’.
The Self that yoga talks about is not the individual. It is the intangible Self. Just as happiness is invisible and bliss intangible, so the Self contemplated in yoga and meditation is the intangibility itself.
All encompassing, ever present, in yoga, the all empowering ’Self’ is the absolute; the holy grail of the universe.
Until we can adequately establish what Self is, left up to us, there is a gaping hole in our understanding the size of the universe.
Growing up a rock musician in a racially divided, politically charged South Africa, my generation was at the leading edge of the computer age and modern yoga revolution. An avid yoga enthusiast, while my country burned its way to liberation, yoga proved helpful and promised hope. But along with my enthusiasm for yoga grew my frustration and ignorance.
The more I questioned my teachers about the nature of Self and more I couldn’t get answers the more frustrated I got. Like a giant blackhole in space, this huge question mark kept hanging over me filling up the sky.
While friends in South Africa moved west to establish new lives for themselves, hungry for knowledge, I decided to go East. Packing my bags, I left my life in Africa and moved to India.
Making India my home, through my travels and studies I was lucky enough to discover Self-Knowledge. Imagine my surprise then, when getting my education in Self-Knowledge from my teachers, the giant question mark instantly vanished and the Self magically ‘appeared’.
The Elephant in our Universe
Before modern psychiatry and psychology there was always Self-Knowledge. ‘I’ being the only thing getting into crisis, wanting the crisis to end the person could always go to the Self-Knowledge teacher.
Whether its landing spaceships on Mars extending the barriers of outer space and science, or fighting for civil or LGBTQ rights, whatever form the human struggle takes it is always the direct result of the constant quest for moksha - freedom from all pain and suffering.
From the moment we can crawl we seek our freedom in everything. Not finding any in the world, told by ‘self-help’ gurus to turn the enormous spotlight habitually focused outside within, shining the light into the depths of darkness inside, we still come up empty. Why?
According to Self-Knowledge, the one looking already being the answer means, searching anywhere, inside or outside, all we’re doing is changing the location of our search. While we keep on ignoring ourselves, looking in all the wrong places, our search never ends.
Whoever unpacks the timeless secret of Self, discovers ultimate Peace and Completeness is already there.
Besides all its well documented medical health benefits, what physical yoga promises us is really only the beginning.
While exercise yoga keeps my body and mind healthy, and meditation reminds me I am present relaxing this ‘I’, what relaxation and meditation cannot do is reveal its true nature. Ever present, ever relaxed and ever peaceful, the ever available Self gets taken for granted.
All already conscious effortlessly, present already, only one thought stops us being ourselves; ‘I’. To stop the ‘I’ from interfering - our thought of ourselves needs to be resolved.
Only then, when the mind has done its job of identification properly, can we settle down and get some peace.
As the perceiver of time and purveyor of the universe; the Self, the ‘I’, while seeing all, cannot be seen and cannot be perceived.
Light on ‘I’ Atma
“Atma or the Self is the One to know, Atma va arey drashtavyah.” Srivatsa Ramaswamy (BrihadaraNyaka Upanishad II. iv.5)
While many argue that modern yoga is the legacy of one man, Sri Krishnamacharya, few know that, more than just a yoga teacher, Krishnamacharya was a gnani. As a knower of Self - Atma - and a Vedanta Vageesa, Sri Krishnamacharya taught Self-Knowledge.
“Sri Krishnamacharya was a traditional Vedanta teacher. Even as he is well known as a Yoga Teacher, Krishnamacharya taught Vedanta in the traditional way. He taught several texts like Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads Tattiriya, Mandukya etc.” Srivatsa Ramaswami Krishnamacharya longest standing student, who studied with him for over 30 years.
Versed in Upanishadic wisdom, if you were a student of Krishnamacharya, he could give you the rare understanding (darshan) of your absolute nature (Self) - from various relative perspectives.
The word ‘vedanta’ means ‘the end of knowledge’. All knowledge finally resolving in oneself, in vedanta, knowing this ’I’ through the teachings of Atma Gnanam is the end of knowledge.
Looking for 21st Century Moksha
With courses in yoga and spirituality sold out across the globe, you’d expect the word on moksha to be out by now - at least on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
But looking for 21st century moksha turns out to be nothing but a red herring.
Not taught in universities, yoga schools, satsangs or yoga teacher trainings, not taught on ashrams, spirit festivals or exotic island retreats - ignored by Yoga Alliance of America (YA), the silence surrounding moksha in the 21st century is deafening.
Mentioned whimsically in the yoga teacher training manual as if moksha belonged to some exclusive club of rishis (seers) and munis (prophets) 6000 years ago - were the rishis and prophets the only ones to get moksha?
What about you and me?
Not according to their teachings and definitely not according to moksha.
Yoga’s Next Wave - Self-Knowledge - The Path to the Pathless
Not about being self-centred or selfless - Yoga is being centred in Self.
As the wave of modern yoga and spirituality keeps pushing higher gaining momentum due to popular demand, Self-Knowledge comes to show the path to moksha has always been knowledge.
Throughout the ages, whenever man has questioned the nature of himself and his existence, the upanishadic teachings crystallised in Atma Gnanam have successfully answered all our questions.
After being revived by Indias great teacher and philosopher Adi Shankara 2500 years ago, the teaching of Self-Knowledge all but disappeared. Hidden in religious orthodoxy, only taught orally in Sanskrit by priests who still strictly forbid teaching Atma Gnanam to the lower caste or common man, Self-Knowledge had to be rescued again from obscurity.
Had it not been for the brilliant minds of todays modern revivalists in India translating the teaching into English, Self-Knowledge would not be available and its methodology forgotten.
As the Seer of Time, Self outshines and outlives everything.
Getting an education in Self-Knowledge, wakes us up to our true timeless nature. Knowing our true nature is absolute, changeless and eternal, and freedom, moksha as having always been ourselves - liberation is instantaneous. Leaving no doubts, flowering in Self-Knowledge all pain and suffering disappears. Eternally free, called jivanmuktah - the person is living liberated.
Because Self-Knowledge has always revealed the highest truth of mankind, known as anadhigata - knowledge that cannot be gained from any other source and, abhadita - knowledge which once gained is never subject to cancelation, it has always been kept sacred.
Wielding Atma Gnanam on the battlefield in the Bhagavad Ghita, Krishna convinces Arjuna of the Truth. No longer overwhelmed by fear and doubt, his crisis over, Arjuna is ready to fight, prepared to die in the battle if necessary. Such is the power of the great teaching, knowing Atma, Self, not even death can challenge you.
Known variously as Atma Vidya, Sri Vidya or Brahma Vidya all the teachings have one end in common; to remind mankind of the truth.
The Teaching Modern Yoga Forgot
While world religions and the industrial yoga and spiritual complex sell emancipation by the truck load, it’s worthwhile noting that no matter what action you take - sadhana - or how sincere, trying to gain moksha, the ultimate freedom, doesn’t work and can only lead to disappointment.
Religious or not, believer or not, vegetarian or not, whether its praying on top of Machu Pichu sipping ayahuasca or doing pure mindfulness practices or mind blowing practices like LSD, nothing works. Why?
Because if the destination you are trying to reach is already reached; i.e. yourself, rather than bring freedom any closer, the more you do, the more you distance yourself and farther from your destination your journey eventually takes you.
Because absolute emancipation is already ours, moksha is already gained.
Therefore our destination is already reached. We just don’t know it.
That we keep on trying shows how ignorant we are.
That society keeps struggling to free what is always free and complete what is already whole and complete is an eternal paradox, the nature and irony of which is never lost on the yogi.
That we keep on trying to reach the unreachable ever complete Self and fathom the unfathomable is a source of endless mirth and amusement to the yogi.
Born free already as babies, other than our worldly needs like food, water, clothing and a place to sleep as human beings we lack nothing. Liberated by nature, we already are the gods and goddesses that yoga and spirituality talks about. Experiencing nothing but absolute peace and freedom, absolute happiness, the pure auspiciousness and pure potentiality of moksha is already ours 24/7, 365 days a year - we just don’t know it!
The Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow
If I am already the happiness then the next question is, how do I get it?
For everything relative there is a relative destination. But for absolute freedom and completeness, other than ourselves, there is no destination.
As human beings our relative choices are infinite. But if I want absolute freedom and happiness, I have no choice. Being myself, my goal and destination is already reached.
Called praptasya prapti in Sanskrit, gaining the ever gained, as long as we remain uneducated, our ignorance of ourselves alone creates the distance. The source of all our pain and suffering, ignorant that the gold, ourselves, is already ever reached, thinking it is at the end of the rainbow, our ignorance keeps following us around and the pot of gold remains hidden ‘as though’ forever at arms length.
Knowing one thing - ‘I’ completes the journey.
Knowing what is ever free, moksha is instantaneous.
Atma Gnanam - The Direct Path to Self-Realisation
Where do I go for that knowledge gaining which everything is gained and knowing which everything is known?
Fortunately we don’t have to go as far as the Himalayas to know ourselves. Already ever present 24/7, all thats needed is the means of knowledge.
In the past the teacher of Self-Knowledge would walk through the villages beating the drum of truth. Calling all those interested to sit and listen, choosing words and scenes his listeners were familiar with he would wield the concepts he’d learned from his teacher (who’d learned from his teacher and teachers generations before him). Fluent in its methodology, it wouldn’t take long before his listeners recognised the Truth being spoken of as none other than themselves.
The key to unlocking the truth of the Self is in the methodology. By knowing the methodology one who has gained the understanding can unlock the timeless nature of the Self for others.
Pramana - Words as the means of knowledge.
For any knowledge to take place first there has to be a suitable means of knowledge. For Self-Knowledge this has always been the words of the teacher.
The vedas are the oldest books of mankind. Part of the vedas yet older than the vedas, are the upanishads. Yet like all relative systems of knowledge eg. Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry etc. the vedas only deal with the world of relativity we see around us. Incapable of answering questions about the non-relative nature of the Seer, the Self, this has always been left up to the upanishads. Absolutely rational, the upanishads take away the responsibility of unraveling the mysteries of creation from all the relative sciences.
Like Google is to the internet, the upanishads have always shone a huge spotlight on the inner workings and mind of the human being.
The teacher of Self-Knowledge knowing their own true nature, knows your destination is already ever reached.
The Upanishads declare, “Srunvantu sarve amritasya putrah” – Listen, Oh Children of Immortality! (Svetasvatara Upanishad)
Before we can even start looking for the truth, the Truth has already found us. Wanting to remove the giant question mark hanging over our heads, how much closer to the truth do you have to be than yourself?
The only question remaining unanswered is ‘Who is this ‘I’ questioning?’
For the absolute completeness that I am already, being already gained, I can do nothing. But to gain the knowledge that frees me to revel and glory in the joy of my own completeness I need to leave no stone unturned. Answering the question of the questioner, the ‘I’, there are no further questions.
Upanishad - means UPA - sitting - NI - near - to the truth -SAD.
(There is play on the words SAD meaning sitting down and the word SAT meaning Truth.)
Before the words being spoken by the teacher have reached the ear of the student, already they are the truth. Once the student recognises it, being the truth, the teaching is over and the knowledge is never subject to cancelation.
We are not the first to ever question ourselves and our existence, nor will we be the last. As much as human society has journeyed and survived the onslaught and conquest of time, Self-Knowledge offers us this beautiful promise. That this unbroken oral tradition of teaching still survives is through the dedication of sampradaya - tradition.
Biography - John Weddepohl
Describing himself as a vagabond, rogue and rascal, John Weddepohl has always been blessed with teachers. Receiving his formal training and education from his Master's in India in the direct lineage of India's great revivalist and philosopher Adi Shankara and in the dynastic yoga lineage of Patanjali Siddha, mandated by his Master’s to teach John has been traveling with the knowledge sharing Self-Knolwdge on Yoga Teacher Trainings and yoga retreats ever since.
Rather than live a life of monastic bliss as a renunciate, John chooses to remain in the world and embrace living in 'The World Ashram’.