Do you truly know who you are? Materialists would argue that they are their body. That there is no existence beyond this life. You get this one life and when you die that is it. Personally I could never quite settle for that explanation. There just seems to be much more to life than pure materialism. This viewpoint is actually very shallow. I can’t say for sure why people would believe they are just their body or their minds for that matter. Life must be utterly meaningless in this case. We are all on a journey of self-discovery, and these people are probably at a very early stage of this discovery.
The mind is actually more real than the body, because there is evidence that it survives death. This is what religious people believe. They believe in an individual soul that survives death which goes either to heaven or hell. The soul is like your personal consciousness that survives your physical death. So does that mean that we are consciousness in essence? No, because even consciousness had to come from somewhere. Some spiritual traditions say that the soul evolves lifetime after lifetime until it realizes it’s oneness with God.
According to this view there is only one universal soul(God), and the individual soul is part of that universal consciousness. This is all true, but where does the universal soul come from? There must be an uncaused reality for the universe to exist. This is the Supreme Reality where only the self-realized dwell. In fact we all dwell there, but we have forgotten. We imagine ourselves to be a person in the world, when in fact we are the world in a person. If there is an uncaused reality which is your essence, then the world must be in you, and not the other way around.
The ones who have realized their true selves have left us clues about this reality. They have said that this reality cannot be put into words, but has assured us that this reality is not only accessible, but that it is our very own nature. To a self-realized being, or gnani, there is no such thing as a person or a world. This is all a dream to him. A gnani does not believe that he was born or that he will die. A gnani has woken up from the dream and therefor knows it is not real. A separate person in the world is simply not real to him. Not even consciousness is real to the gnani.
Whatever is a concept or a thing is not real to him. There must be a changeless reality if there is one where things are constantly changing(the manifest universe). And compared to the changeless reality, the changing reality is a mere shadow. To see yourself as a person in the world is to be lost in the dream, and suffering is part of this dream. To escape suffering one must stop seeing yourself as a person with a mind. And to do this it is important to witness your thoughts. By being the witness of your thoughts you slowly start to identify with the silent witness and your idea that you are a person in this world fades away.
The witness itself is not ultimate reality, but it is the gateway. If you identify with the witness long enough it will take you to the Supreme Reality which is beyond time, space, and causation. This is where all suffering ends because there is no such thing as a separate person with fears and desires. It is a state of pure bliss. You don’t need a guru to help guide you, although it can be useful. Because you already exist in this reality, you can ask all of yourself. It is not a question of finding this reality, but removing all illusions that prevents you from seeing you are already there.