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. Alec Narayne
    Alec Narayne says:

    Anmol …. I always do meditation and I enjoy it very much. Recently I had a breathing problem and I felt I was going to die. I felt really lonely and sorry for myself. I am 59 and nowadays I feel desperately lonely and the thought of a God who doesn’t really care whether we live or die, an impersonal God makes me only feel worse. I never turn to others for spiritual advice and I always look within. In your experience is God good or evil jor just indifferent.. How does one really reach out to him. Please advise me.

  2. john r. lee
    john r. lee says:

    I have used the neti,neti meditation with the 5 koshas meditation for 32 years. I have seen the Self twice in this time frame. To reach Enlightment is the hardest thing to achieve. But it’s worth all the effort. Long live jnana yoga.

  3. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Hi Sanjeeb,

    No that is not mandatory at all. I began my journey with meditation only, and added yoga asanas much later. My initial posture for meditation was on my back, and it was very effective (and still is for me).

    Meditation is the key to unlock the Truth.


  4. sanjeeb
    sanjeeb says:

    Is it mandatory that one gets mastery into one of the meditation asanas before one gets good results from meditation?

  5. daniel
    daniel says:

    i dont understant how to watch my mind because when i try thoughts stop and then when is nothing to watch i move my attention to body then thoughts start again.

  6. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Hey Albert,

    Thanks for your positive feedback. This is one of my favorite meditations and am glad to hear it has inspired you to take your own practice up a level.

    All Good Wishes,

  7. A. Decker
    A. Decker says:

    Anmol, glad i finally got around to reading this one. Your description is excellent. I haven’t been meditating much lately, but I believe your words have inspired me to redouble my efforts. Thank you.

  8. Matthew Pyrke
    Matthew Pyrke says:

    “who am I?” points to THAT which is beyond words. This can only be pointed toward, not put to words. It is an introduction to a resting point of being.

    It is the supreme validation for They with the souls yearning for the great mother. The deeply mysterious Maharshi gave something that balances all things. In the mind of the seeker they need not attain to anything after realising who they are. Who they are is the attainment. : p

    The rest of the journey is that of Custodianship. You are then left to care for others in the world. The free being becomes the Custodian and Preserver of all things. They speak only the Word, as THAT which arises out of the Self is always Holy. This to say that there is a natural integrity to the person who is comfortable with their identity.

    This practise is simple, but also utterly complete. The realisation is practical and utterly divine.

  9. Kara-Leah Masina
    Kara-Leah Masina says:

    I love the way you explain things, and the amount of knowledge you put up on your site – plus the way you intermingle it with your day to day living.
    You inspire me, and in fact, since reading your site and doing your first online course, I have been meditating far more regularly and loving it…

    Much joy,

  10. Anmol Mehta
    Anmol Mehta says:

    Short Answer: Not easy in the beginning and not a relevant question later on.
    Long Answer: Since the light of awareness has been focused outward on the objects of consciousness and the apparent ego-centric reality has been emphasized, the turning of this light inward in not easy in the beginning. But if passion is strong and intent sincere, the apparent reality will be inevitably examined, leading to the shell of the ego to crack. This is the point of no return. After that, results will matter less and less and so will the question of easy or hard. The only concern will be to meet the demand that work/life requires in any given moment.
    Suggested Meditation: To crack the shell of the ego/duality, try the following meditative attitude. Don’t think of anything or anybody to be outside of your mind. Think of everything to be a part of your mind, just appearing and disappearing in it. So there is no division between inside and outside. The whole world is you and yours. Cling to this attitude as best you can and see what happens.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] The techniques used by Advaita Vedanta are very close to my heart.  They resonate with me very deeply as they deal with awareness, the mind and thoughts, and the meditations that deal with these dimensions are the ones that I find most direct, pure and powerful.  I have written about my experience with using the Neti Neti Advaita Vedanta meditation in the following article, Enlightenment Through Advaita Vedanta Neti Neti Meditation and you will also find more details about this spiritual science in the following articles, Understanding Hinduism Buddhism and Non-Dualism and The Miracle of Self Awareness – I AM ALL. […]

  2. […] Overcoming the Fear of Death – My Thoughts: So the last paragraph is the experiment put forth by Krishnamurti that I want to you to try for 1 full day.  Here are 3 things you should try to do during this day.   1. STOP WORRYING ABOUT EVERYTHING:   This is the key.  Just stop worrying… completely.  Don’t worry about anything. Drop all your worrying, fretting and obsessing about the future and past.  Leave everything to life and put yourself in her care.  Just tell yourself whatever issues come up in the future, you will deal with them then.   Worrying is not just a huge waste of precious energy, it is the also one of the activities that binds you to psychological time and prevents you from cherishing the moments of your life.  Worrying creates other problems as well, such as stress, suffering and fear, so just for this one day let it all go and live without any worry to see what happens.  I assure you it will be quite a liberating experience.   Here is an article and Zen story that delves deeper into the concept of time and living in the moment more: The Zen of Time Management.   2. GO WITH THE FLOW:   Throughout this one day experiment, go with the flow of life completely.  Just doing what needs to be done and allowing life to carry you forward.  Don’t try to control or manipulate the day, just relax and go with it.  Do the task that is presented to you and just let yourself be simple and spontaneous.   Here are 2 articles that expands on this topic:  Embrace Reality and Let the Universe Fulfill Your Desires and Zen Definition of Enlightenment.   3. DROP YOUR SELF-IMAGE:   For this one day, don’t try to live according your who you think you are.  Don’t be anything at all, in fact just be nobody.  Drop all that you know about yourself and just be empty, letting your natural personality and self come through.  Don’t try to live according to all the beliefs and ideas you have been conditioned with, instead drop them all and just live innocently from moment to moment.   For those interested, here is an Advaita Vedanta technique with which to shatter the false sense of "I" and penetrate non-duality: Enlightenment via Advaita Vedanta "Who Am I" Neti Neti Meditation.   […]

  3. […] For the Mind/Intelligence techniques, include any Advaita Vedanta (Who Am I) meditations, or other insight meditation techniques such as Zen Koan’s or the Silent Mind Meditation Technique.  For Mantra Meditation, include prayer or other chanting.  […]

  4. Love Mind Body Spirit » Blog Archive » Survey: How Long Do You Meditate For? says:

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

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