This is a book summary of Who Am I? by Swami Sarvapriyananda (Amazon).
For a video intro to Swami Sarvapriyananda:
- All content in “quotation marks” is from the author (otherwise it’s paraphrased).
- All content is organized into my own themes (not the author’s chapters).
- Emphasis has been added in bold for readability/skimmability.
Book Summary Contents:
Vedanta & Mandukya Upanishad: Who Am I? by Swami Sarvapriyananda (Book Summary)
About the Book
“The subject is the most ancient of questions – Who am I? We will investigate this question in light of the Upanishads.”
Vedanta & Upanishads:
- “Vedanta consists of the teachings of the Upanishads. Vedanta nama upanishad pramanam – this is the definition of Vedanta. It means that Vedanta is the source of spiritual knowledge called the Upanishads … The Upanishads present the highest philosophical teachings of the Vedas and they are among the most ancient texts known to humanity.”
- “There are many Upanishads. In fact, in one of the Upanishads called the Muktika Upanishad, we find a list of 108 Upanishads. Among these, 10 are called major Upanishads because Adi Shankaracharya chose these 10 to write his commentaries or Bhashyam. These Upanishads are the foundational texts of Vedanta. Adi Shankaracharya gave a non-dualistic interpretation to these Upanishads and so the school of Vedanta associated with him is called Advaita (non-dual) Vedanta. We will follow this interpretation.”
- “Advaitam declares you alone appear as the world and everything in it.”
- “Among all the major Upanishads, there is one—the shortest of all these texts—the Mandukya Upanishad, which is perhaps also the most powerful Upanishad. There is a saying that for those who want spiritual enlightenment, Mandukya Upanishad alone is sufficient.”
- “In the Mandukya Upanishad, the seventh mantra is the most important mantra. It answers the great question, ‘Who am I?’ It is one of the finest mantras found in our Upanishads. And I haven’t found a more sophisticated, more profound answer in any of the literature of the world religions or philosophies which I have come across.”
Body, Mind, & Three States
“You are not this waking person you imagine yourself to be … You are not this physical body or mind.”
- “The body is changing continuously.”
- “The mind is also continuously changing … The mind is a series of changes.”
- “You get identified with the mind in the waking state and say I am Mr. or Ms. so and so and this is my reality, these are my problems, these are my hopes, successes and failures, and these are my goals.”
- “States are coming and going, and the ego associated with each state is coming and going.”
- “The three worlds—waking, dream, and deep sleep—are appearances in consciousness.”
- “The three states are not real, they are appearances. Their reality is the fourth.”
“According to the Mandukya Upanishad, the three states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep are not the reality. The reality is the consciousness underlying all of them … What the Mandukya Upanishad tells you is that you are not these three—not the waker, not the dreamer, and not the sleeper. What you actually are, is the fourth—called Turiya which simply means number four.”
- “You—the self—have four aspects—waker, dreamer, sleeper, and Turiya. Among these, the first three are false, and one alone is real … I am not calling the fourth a ‘state’ because it is not a state like waking, dreaming, or deep sleep. Turiya is the reality—the one consciousness—underlying the three states.”
- “There is no fourth separate reality called the Turiya. It is the same reality which is being called the waker in the waking state; it is the same reality, the same consciousness which will be called a dreamer in the dream state, and it is the same reality which will be called the sleeper in the sleep state.”
- “The Self is not the dreamer, not the waker, not an in-between state, not the deep sleeper, not the all-knower, and not unconscious. The Self is invisible, not transactable, not graspable, cannot be inferred, beyond thought and beyond language. It is the essence of the ‘I-sense’, the quiescence of the universe, peace itself, bliss itself, nondual and thought to be the fourth. That is the Self to be realized.”
- the real Self (bliss itself).
- unnameable (you cannot name Turiya because to name something, you have to point out the thing apart from all other objects).
- non-dual (the one consciousness; there is no relationship because it is one non-dual reality; there is nothing apart from it, everything appears in Turiya but they have no reality apart from it).
- present here and now (what is added to the Turiya are the circumstances of the waker).
- not changing; remains the same (consciousness which illumines all states remains the same; the same consciousness is watching the mind).
- the reality underlying the three states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep (completely untouched by the trouble, sorrows, suffering, enjoyment, and limitations of the three states; there is no world there to disturb you—even when all three states are arising and disappearing).
“The Self is not a fourth entity apart from these three—the waker, dreamer, and sleeper. To find the fourth, you have to investigate these three states. The fourth one is shining in and through these three states. Look back upon those experiences and see what was common all through … There are not four things here, there is only one thing.”
Who am I?
- “Who is this continuous ‘I’? … When you follow that ‘I’ feeling, you intuitively realize that you are Turiya. This is the famous ‘Who am I?’ inquiry taught by Ramana Maharshi … The question is, ‘Who am I apart from the physical world of the waking state, apart from the mental imagination of the dream state and apart from the blankness of the deep sleep state?'”
- “Turiya, pure consciousness, is the only reality, and this is the answer to ‘Who am I?’ … ‘Who am I?’ I am the one Turiya, which appears as waker and waking world, dreamer and dream world, sleeper and deep sleep potential world … Turiya illumines the waker, illumines the dreamer, illumines the sleeper and also appears as the respective physical world, dream world, and deep sleep blankness.”
- “The enlightened one feels, ‘I am everything. I feel oneness with everything.’ Just like in the dream world you were there as many people and non-living things. When you wake up, what do you say? The dream world was entirely constructed from my own mind. That means, whatever you saw in the dream was actually you. In the same way in the waking world also, everything is projected in Turiya. We are one with all that we experience in that sense.”
- that, truth, Turiya, the Self (the same spiritual reality which I am, which we all are, which everything else is; we are one with the universe).
- pure consciousness (the same consciousness which appears in all beings and which appears in the non-living world as well).
- in and through the three states (illuminating all of them).
- witnessing/watching the three states (the consciousness which is watching all this panorama—this game of waking, dreaming and deep sleep).
- not an object of the senses or thought (cannot be inferred, nor can it be expressed in language or even thought about; cannot be manipulated, seen, felt, and used; the fact that we are having a conscious experience is because of the Turiya, but it is not an object of thought).
Spiritualization of Everyday Life
“Swami Vivekananda has said that he who runs away from the world to meditate and die in a Himalayan cave searching for God has missed the way. He who plunges headlong into the vanities of the world—he too has missed the way. Then what is the way? The way is to spiritualize your everyday life.”
- “We should realize ourselves as pure consciousness—Turiya—and everyone and everything as none other than the same Turiya, and live life in peace and fullness and joy.”
- “Realize the divinity within yourself and the spiritual oneness of the whole universe.”
- “Manifest that divinity in daily life through peace, love, and service to all beings. That is the spiritualization of everyday life.”
You May Also Enjoy: