When people would come to Ramana Maharshi and ask him how they could reach Self-realization, he would answer them by saying that self-realization is not something to be reached or gotten; it is our natural state. To become realized we do not have to lose our own identity and change into something completely different. All that needs to be done is to rid ourselves of the ignorance that says that we are bound and unrealized. Self-realization is about returning to who we really are – to be realized is to reclaim our true heritage.
In Likutim Yekarim, the Hasidic Master, Dov Baer of Mezeritch says:
“It is a great virtue if a person constantly thinks and contemplates in his heart that he is with God, and that God surrounds him on all sides, and he is so bound to God that he does not need to remind himself that God is there…that God is the Place of the world… that He was there before the world was created, and the whole world exists only in Him.”
“A person who can do this”, he declares, “will merit that the klipot, the husks, will fall away from him, because these husks create a darkness and barrier between man and God, and block out the sight of God from his mind.”
Our animal body does not express our essential nature; it is merely a physical sheath – a garment that we had to put on, because we fell from Eden. It is a “klipah” that surrounds the soul: a covering that allows the soul to function in the physical world.
After millions of years of wearing this garment, we experience all of its desires, feelings and sensations as if they are our own. We have become very comfortable in our animal bodies. In fact, we have become so used to this physical existence that we think that it is our natural state. But our natural state is not to live and act like the animals – our nature state is to live as Divine beings full of love and compassion inhabiting bodies made of celestial light.
In Lekutei Amarim, Rebbe Dov Baer teaches that the whole of this universe was created through the power of the sephirah (spiritual center) of wisdom. As Psalm 104:24 says, “You created them all with wisdom.”
The Hebrew word for wisdom – hochmah can be broken into two words: koach Mah, the power of “Nothingness”. In the World of Emanation all is Nothingness – pure consciousness without any differentiation. It is only as this pure consciousness descends into the lower worlds that it begins to manifest in different forms, until finally it reaches our physical plane where it is enrobed in the myriad of creations that make up our world. But behind all these forms, vitalizing and illuminating them is the pure consciousness of Being – the power of the sephirah of hochmah – “koach Mah”.
The Hindus call this place of “Nothingness” the Ocean of Satchitananda: Being – Consciousness – Bliss. It is out of this ocean that all life arises as waves upon its surface: distinct forms with shape and movement in the waters of infinite Being.
We all are such forms – we are all waves upon the ocean – each with its own unique character and individual destiny or “life journey.” But these waves are only temporary forms that rise up out of the water for a moment, and then disappear again into its infinite depths. Our goal as human beings is to make a conscious link with our eternal source: to touch the depths of the ocean of Satchitananda even as we ride upon its surface – to experience the infinite reality while living in a finite world.
When we were in the Garden of Eden and had bodies made of light, it was much easier for us to plunge into the depths of the Ocean of Consciousness, because there was less of a physical barrier between the place of “Infinite Nothingness” and ourselves. After we fell from Eden and became enclothed in these dense physical bodies, that place of “infinite Nothingness” retreated into the distance, and the ocean of Satchitananda became only a faint echo in our hearts and in our minds.
Today, we are like one of those fossilized creatures that they find in the desert from some long forgotten ocean that existed hundreds of millions of years ago. It was once a beautiful and delicate creature, but after being buried in sand and stone for eons, it itself has become solid rock – a lifeless concretized remnant of its original vibrant form.
Yet there is a great difference between that fossilized creature and us. For we can still touch upon our “other reality” – we can go back to the ocean of pure consciousness from which we sprang and immerse once more in its blissful waters. Through the practice of spiritual disciplines and intensive inner work we can peel away the layers of rock, sand and dirt that cover our Divine body of light and make it shine again in all of its pristine beauty and supernal glory.
At the end of the teaching that began this piece, Rebbe Dov Baer concludes with the following words:
“And he should think that the infinite Lord surrounds all the worlds, and His emanation flows down from above through pipelines into all the worlds, and this flow of Divine life is running through him with every movement that he makes, so that he is constantly and continually walking in God.”
We spend many years engaged in all sorts of practices, trying to achieve a spiritual experience. But the truth is that all these techniques were only created in order to free us from the hold of the material consciousness of the ego, so that we might experience the eternal reality that has been there all along: that we are always “walking in God”, and the “flow of Divine life is running through us” at every moment of every day of our lives.
Or, as Ramanan Maharshi expresses it,
“What is self-realization? A mere phrase. People expect some miracle to happen, something to drop from heaven in a flash. It is nothing of the sort. Only the notion that you are the body, that you are this or that, will go, and you remain as you are. Indeed realization is but another name for the Self.” 
Copyright © 2012, by Yoel Glick
- David Godman, The Power of the Presence, Vol 3↵