One of the most powerful lines of self-inquiry is the question, What do you really want? In my experience of speaking with people, I have found that the discovery of what one truly wants can be a doorway to realizing true freedom. There may be an immediate response to that inquiry, such as, “What I really want is a better life,” or “What I really want is to be happy all the time,” or “What I really want is the right mate.” Whatever answer immediately arises, it is very useful to then ask, “What will that give me?” If you have the perfect soul mate, what will that give you? If you have a happy life, what will that give you?
If the answer is, “Then I will be at peace, then I can rest,” the truth is that is possible right now, in this moment. Peace and rest have nothing to do with circumstances. The peace, rest, and fulfillment you have been searching for outside, however exalted or sublime, are actually here now. In this moment, you can simply discard your outward reference points for what will give you peace, and you can recognize that peace is already here regardless of any internal or external circumstances. In this recognition, you can investigate more deeply to see if there is any separation between the peace that is always present and who you are. What is the boundary between who you truly are and peace?
What emerges in a perfect moment of realization is what has always been present, and this usually gives rise to great laughter. What you have been searching for desperately, furiously, relentlessly and with great frustration has always been present exactly where you are! It is present now, in you, and it can be revealed to you now as your own self.
Another very powerful line of inquiry is the question, What do I do to get what I want? Through that investigation, you can begin to observe your own activity (even if it is purely mental) of searching to get something or running away from something else. Once that activity is observed, you can make the choice within your own mind to reverse your attention once again back to the source.
When I met my teacher, Papaji, he told me to “Stop.” Eventually, I understood that this meant to stop looking anywhere for what I truly wanted. This was, for me, a truly radical suggestion. All I had ever known was to look everywhere else for what I wanted, and the idea of stopping that activity felt scary. In the willingness to actually stop searching for the answer, to stop searching for anything, you have an opportunity to discover directly for yourself that what you really want in the core of your being is already here. Whatever name you give it, whether it’s perfect peace or happiness or enlightenment, if you stop looking for that anywhere, you will find that it is already here as the nameless truth of yourself.
The discovery of this treasure within is simple but it isn’t necessarily easy. It is the challenge of a lifetime. It is the biggest challenge of your life because you can even fool yourself into believing that you are telling the truth, that you are inquiring truly, but in your heart of hearts you know that you are still searching for something or turning away from something. That is the moment of choice, and in that moment you can recognize the pull of your conditioning, the tidal wave of the suffering it initiates, and you can choose to stop. The choice is yours.
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Gangaji is the author of The Diamond in Your Pocket, Freedom & Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe, You Are That, and Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story.