Enlightenment via “Who Am I” Advaita Vedanta Meditation (Neti Neti)

Enlightenment Experiences:  Advaita Vedanta: Negation Meditation (Neti Neti):

Journal Entry: Jan 09, 2007

Yesterday had been a good day, the unseasonably warm weather not allowing winter to squeeze the joy out of us here in the North Eastern United States.  Connectivity with nature, is connectivity with life and the winter elements, that normally keep us locked down, isolated and disconnected, were missing their bite this year – perhaps global warming was not such a bad thing after all ;-).  Late in the evening after battling with the 3 year old and 3 month old, bruised and weary I finally got to bed.  The time before sleep, has been for years now a time for me to meditate.  I am one who is unable to sleep on his back so in that position, I discovered long ago, I could meditate effectively without falling asleep.  In fact, before I ever began sitting meditation I would only meditate in this posture.          


As I have described in the Silent Mind Meditation Program there are many approaches one can use when watching the mind, many angles with which to negate it.  One such angle, that I have not employed in some time, is the profound Vedic meditation technique of Neti Neti (not this; not this).  It is the corner stone of Advaita Vedanta – the Hindu school of non-dualism.  Some of the teachers of Advaita Vedanta are giants like Gaudapada, Ramana Maharishi and Nisargadatta Maharaj and at the heart of their teachings is the absolute non-duality of existence.  The technique itself is quite simple.  One puts the question “Who am I?” to oneself and negates everything that comes up.  What comes up is known, whether it be the body, feelings, ego, thoughts, etc, and it is identified for what it is and negated as not being the answer to the question “Who am I?”          

Many years ago Swami Dayananda Saraswati (of Arsha Vaidya Gurukulam fame) did a Jenoi ceremony (thread ceremony which servers as a reminder primarily to be a good human being) for my cousins and myself, and in a question answer session after words we discussed this question, “Who am I?”  At that time he answered it as I described above, “It is what you do not know.”  I remember the conversation like it happened yesterday.  I remember not being clear on the answer and bugging him again to explain.  He was quite happy to do so and explained, that what you can identify as something, is exactly that thing, and it is not who you are.  I was never fully satisfied, or just never quite understood, until much later when I came upon and practiced this meditation Neti, Neti.          

So last night I revisited that technique.  After being rudely interrupted by my 3 month old a few more times, my prayers were answered as my thoughtful wife whisked him downstairs for some TLC and left me alone with my restless mind.  I finally got down to the business of watching my thoughts.  The meditation was on.  Keenly I continued to inspect each thought, comprehend it and reject it as it was Not I.  I pushed on.  Meditating at this time, as long as you don’t drift off to sleep, I have found to be very effective and it was no different last night.  The mind began to slow and a great focus emerged.  No thought was escaping awareness and each was being “digested” by the furnace of intelligence.          

Soon, as often happens with these meditations, sweet joy and vast energy made their welcome appearance.  No analysis was being used.  Simply, thoughts were being seen for what they were and being rejected as not being “Who I am”.  Awareness and intelligence were is full flow, both were acute and inclusive. Insight was fully operational.  The state grew very pleasurable and seemed to continue on and on.  I remained as vigilant as possible, not allowing anything to stick – not attaching to any thoughts.  At some point much later, I had turned and fallen asleep, but throughout the night there were episodes where I was awake and watching, negating, enjoying.  To me, this is so much fun.  At another point even thought formations seemed to just cease, but the watching continued.  Neti, neti – not this, nor this.  The secret here is that it does not matter who you are, it only matters who you are not.   

The mind moves, so what?  It is in its nature to move.  Don’t fight with thoughts, just learn to stand apart, un-touched and be a good witness.  If you watch carefully, amazing things will happen.  Like it has been said, the only book you need to read is the one that is built in you – your mind – and unfortunately, so few of us pay attention to what is really going on there.

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  1. Surjit Dhami
    Surjit Dhami says:

    I am organising free neti-neti meditation classes in birmingham England. Neti-Neti is to take away all forms so only the formless remains.


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