More important than understanding what we observe is understanding what it is that observes

Every day, and indeed at every moment, many things pass through our visual range. If we observe such things carefully, we can understand a lot about how things work. In fact, most of modern science has progressed by careful observation of the world around us. 

While understanding what we observe is important, even more important is understanding what it is that observes. Why? Because our well-being and satisfaction are determined much more by the state of our inner world than the state of our outer world. 

Just as the foundation is the basis of the entire building, self-understanding is the basis of all understanding. Most people’s attention doesn’t easily go to the foundation of a building — they are captivated by the superstructure. Similarly, most people’s attention doesn’t go to the self — they are caught by the many worldly things the self can observe. 

However, when a quake occurs, the stability of the building is determined not by its superstructure, but by its foundation. Similarly, when a quake of adversity occurs in our life, our stability is determined not by how well we understand the world, but by how well we understand ourselves. 

In the Mahabharata, Arjuna faced such a quake when he was confronted with a fratricidal war. And he sank into confusion and dejection — till Krishna illumined him by speaking the Gita and explaining how no war could destroy the self. At our core, we all are eternal souls, meant to pursue spiritual evolution through life’s ups and downs. The Gita stands ready to similarly illumine all of us. 

Just as understanding what we observe has empowered us externally, understanding what it is that observes can similarly empower us internally. Once we experience how self-understanding fills our life with meaning and purpose, we find the notion that anyone can live without self-understanding amazing — amazingly absurd (Bhagavad-gita 02.29). 


Think it over:

  • Why don’t most people bother about self-understanding?
  • If we don’t have self-understanding, what is the problem?
  • How does self-understanding benefit us?



02.29 Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.

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  1. Intriguing title, Prabhu. By the way, I do find the notion that anyone can live without self-understanding, amazing — amazingly absurd 🙂

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  2. Observe with mind to see GOD

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