Self awareness as an approach to God
Just as the daily exercise for remaining in God for the Christian is prayer, the daily exercise for the intellectual is self awareness. The very practice of the Christian but looked upon with more of reasoning can be explained as self awareness. ‘Satan’ for the Christian would here be called the ‘false self’ that prevents one from realizing the true self. The false self creates its identity based upon all the emotions the mind experiences. When one sheds the idea that the emotions are a part of one’s self, victory over the false self is achieved.
Self awareness is being aware of what one is not. For example-when feeling angry, affirming, ‘but I am not anger’. When feeling jealous, affirming, ‘but I am not jealousy’. It does not mean denying the existence of the feelings but only rejecting them as being part of the self. Self awareness therefore does not mean being without emotion; rather it means a perpetual awareness of what the true self is not. The cloud is not the sky. The feelings are only a medium to perceive events, just like sense organs are to perceive the world. Though open to feelings, one must be constantly aware that ‘just as “I” am not the senses, “I” am not the feelings’.
This can also be compared to the Zen method of ‘total rejection’. Shed one by one what you are not, and so what finally remains, is you!
It is also obvious from the above explanation of self awareness that it is very clearly the same as ‘being dead to the world and alive in the spirit’(which is the christian approach). Self awareness and total rejection is therefore evidently the same as the Christian approach to God! What I understand is that all the three approaches perceive and experience what comes of the world but differentiate it from the true self. That is, all the three approaches do not seem to reject the body by suppressing the experiences it generates but rather only see it as separate from the true self or even as a medium to experience the true self.
The Tao religion teaches two methods; total rejection and total acceptance. We have noticed (above) how total rejection is similar to the Christian approach, and now we look at total acceptance in terms of the Christian approach
Total acceptance is in a way similar to the Hindu philosophy of seeing God in everyone and everything, in all creation. Five years back this philosophy seemed very different from the Christian approach until I heard a speech by a locally well known person in Elappara region of Kerala. The Christian approach of loving the neighbour was dealt with in such a fashion that I realized that the wall we create between different religions has to be more or less imaginary and the result of not looking at the same teaching from different angles. I will elucidate that explanation (heard at Elappara) even further by putting it forth as a dialogue between two kids discussing what they were taught in catechism….
John: I will love my neighbour as myself from today. Richard, you are my neighbour, so I will love you as myself.
Richard: Okay, so we are one.
John is confused: If we are one, then we are not neighbours!
Richard: Never mind, we have a new neighbour, Sarah. We will involve her in our gang. We three will be one.
John is more confused: If we three are one then she won’t be a neighbour either.
Richard (now irritated): Now John stop where you are, if you go on like this you will involve the whole universe in this gang.
John is silent for a moment.
John: Richard if I do that then we wont have neighbours left to love!
John has evidently understood what total acceptance is! Total acceptance can therefore be explained as ‘seeing one’s own self in everyone and everything’. This method to the experience of God asks one to be aware of the self in totality as all of what it is. Therefore, though in different words and different perspectives, total acceptance and total rejection do seem to be the two major methods taught by most religions for the purpose of achieving self awareness and thereby the experience of God. Amazingly, such seemingly opposite methods lead to the one experience! And what is more, both these methods are evidently more or less the same as the basic Christian approach to God.
in summary, self awareness is the same as total rejection which is the same as the christian idea of being dead to the world and alive in spirit. Total acceptance is similar to the Hindu approach of seeing God in all that is, and again is similar to the christian approach of loving the neighbour as oneself.