Self inquiry meditation benefits you by helping you to see the nature of your true reality.
The self inquiry meditation technique (below) will help you to detach from Maya (the illusion of yourself and the world). Plus, it will help you discover your innermost being.
If you’ve tried the breathing meditations and techniques like Vipassana, you might be looking for a way to take your meditation practice further. And while being mindful is great, there are so many more things you can get from meditation.
Self-inquiry is an example of another path that meditation can take.
What Is Self Inquiry Meditation Technique?
Ramana Maharshi [Indian Hindu sage and jivanmukta] says that self-inquiry meditation is the single most effective way of overcoming the ego to achieve oneness.
Arguably the best benefit of self inquiry meditation is that it helps you to realise that you are not what you think you are.
When someone asks you, “Who are you?” what do you say? You probably describe yourself by telling them about your job, your family situation, and perhaps some of the core elements of your personality. But these factual things are not the real you.
Anyone who has ever felt a moment of true enlightenment, or what in Zen is called “Kensho” (which translates to “seeing the true nature”), will tell you that we are pure energy. But it can be hard to see ourselves that way because the mind is lured to matter-of-fact things, like your job and your family status.
Overcome duality to see your true self
In order to truly see our innermost selves and to overcome duality, we need to silence our regular thoughts and perceptions.
There are several ways to do this.
One is through koans, which are riddle-like questions that Zen monks use to see the true nature of things. One such koan is, “Show me your original face before your mother and father were born.” Questions like these make us challenge our usual mode of thinking.
Another such question is “Who (or What) am I?” These obscurations are called Kleshas by Buddhists and Vasanas or samskaras by Hindus and yogis.
The purpose of the klesha What am I? is to guide us past our ego-induced delusion of ourselves and to perceive our true reality: that we are an empty and timeless energy.
And here we come to the principal benefit of self-inquiry meditation: seeing our true nature.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Because once we see our true nature, we are set free of the pressures and strains that come from our delusional perception of ourselves.
“The consciousness in you and the consciousness in me, apparently two, really one, seek unity and that is love.”–Nisargadatta Maharaj [Hindu guru of nondualism]
Self Inquiry Meditation Benefits
The primary way in which self-inquiry meditation benefits us is that it lets us see past our delusional view of ourselves and to realise the fact that we are pure energy.
However, this is just the beginning. Because once you realise that you are pure energy you are set free of many of the pressures and strains of life.
If you think about the stresses and pressures you face, you will realise that most of them are created by your perception of yourself.
For instance, “I must work overtime this week because I’m a hard worker”. Your idea that you’re a hard worker forces you to overwork in order to substantiate your belief of yourself: that you’re a hard worker.
Many times, this belief will not aid you (how many people have succumbed to illness because they worked too hard and faced too much stress?).
Then you have those people who believe they are victims, who thus always seek relationships with people who will make them victims (it is scientifically proven that people with victim mentality are more likely to enter relationships with abusive people).
Your beliefs are messing you up
What is happening is that your invalid beliefs about yourself are causing you to live a life in accordance with the person you believe you are.
And you are unlikely to overcome this pattern of belief-becoming-reality until you change your perception of yourself. Thankfully, self inquiry meditation let’s us see the true pureness of ourselves, beyond our thoughts and misconceptions, such that we can then be freed from our ingrained delusions.
Be mindful of your self
Zen teacher Master Dogen described a sense of “stepping back”, away from our sense of identity, as a means to achieve oneness and what Zen Masters call “Kensho”, meaning to see one’s true nature. To acheive this we must overcome the layers on our way to Kensho (Budhist “kleshas” / Hindu “vasanas” and “samskaras”)
The problem is that our sense of self-identity often confines us. Ask yourself: How are negative beliefs about yourself effecting your reality? If you meditate on this question you might be surprised by the answer. And so, the number one benefit of self-inquiry meditation is that it frees us from the trappings of our own delusions.
However, if you consider the impact that your delusional perception has on your life, you will see that the benefits of self inquiry meditation are potentially limitless. For instance, if you believe you are an overweight person, self inquiry will stop that belief from affecting you so that you can successfully lose weight. Or if you believe you are a lazy person (and thereby act lazily in order to substantiate that belief), self inquiry meditation will get you past that idea of being lazy so you can actually be productive.
It’s impossible to give an exact list of self inquiry meditation benefits, because they depend entirely upon the individual and their perception of themselves.
In a nutshell: Self inquiry meditation benefits you by letting you see the true nature of yourself and letting you overcome your delusions about yourself (and the influence thereof).
So how do you do self inquiry meditation technique?
How To Do Self Inquiry Meditation Technique Instructions
- Sit quietly somewhere peaceful. It is best if this place is a relaxing neutral ground devoid of anything that informs you about yourself. For instance, you don’t want photos of yourself around, nor any personal property. For best results, perform self inquiry meditation in a forest. Make sure you have good posture. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and planting on the floor. Roll your shoulders back then let me open outwards a bit, which will open the space in your chest. Tuck your chine down to elongate your neck.
- As usual with meditation, spend a short time doing mindful breathing so you relax.
- Once you feel calm, ask the question, “What am I?” (I prefer this question to Who am I? because Who immediately suggests that you are a person, which carries with it ideas of what a person should be, where What am I? is a much more open question that permits you to be anything).
- Hold the question calmly in your mind. Do not grapple with the question or seek answers. Just let the question rest in your mind. Do not spoon-feed yourself answers either (yes you might want to be a spiritual enlightened person, but do not force that answer upon yourself). Stephan Bodian says, “Eventually, the question “Who am I?” reveals the answer, not as a thought or a particular experience but as a vibrant, timeless presence”.
- Perceive the originator of the thought. Where is the question “What am I?” rising from? Seek the origin of the question by gazing inward.
- Continuing to think, “What am I?” focus on the I. What is the I? Where does it arise from? Seek the very depth of that I.
- Continue to tune inwards as the question permeates your mind.
- Eventually you will realise that the centre of the I, the point from which the question arises, is complete emptiness. And this is you.
- When you find the emptiness, meditate on it. It will liberate you from all pressures of the material world.
Self inquiry meditation is a powerful method. The reason it is so powerful is that it connects us with our innermost being, and helps us to realise that we are not subject to nor victim to this material world. We are pure energy that cannot be touched. Do not be surprised if you feel somewhat invincible after doing this method!