To progress in spirituality, one must esquire about his own self and understand “Who am I? “. This is very important as unless we know who we are then there is no progress spirituality. We should know who we are and what is God and how we are related? Etc.In Advaita Vedanta to answer this question we have Mahavakyas (great sayings) which encapsulate the entire teachings of Vedanta in to a statement like “Tatvamasi”, “Ahaṁ Brahmāsmi” etc.
We will try to analysis and understand the statement “Ahaṁ Brahmāsmi” here. The phrase consists of two parts one being “Aham” and second part “Brahmāsmi”. What is Aham ? In short it is nothing but Self that is within us. Self is nothing but the Atman (Soul). So, the statement clearly says that the Atman (Soul) within and the universal God (Brahman) are one and the same.
Now you may say, hold on how can you say that I’m Brahman, where the person is always with many imperfections and Brahman is supreme and perfect. So, it is at this stage Self enquiry becomes important.
To discern and understand that I’m Brahman now we will investigate who we (our true nature) are as opposed to our assumed self. When the mahavakya says “I”, it is not referring to the body, mind or the ego which is appears from it. This simply refers to the source of body, mind and ego as we can consciously drop the notion of these and still exist.
If we do a simple exercise now, we can clearly discern that we are not the body as we perceive it, we say this is my hand, leg etc., so the perceiver/observer is different from observed, similarly we can observe the mind undergoing so many thoughts and we say that I have a good thought or bad thought, who is this I that is having good or bad thought? When we understand this, we know that we are neither the body or mind.
So next thing that comes up is the ego, now we will argue that the “I’m” the ego because it is for the ego that everything is done. Or is it really? If I say my name is Deva, I’m identifying myself as Deva and finally say that Deva did everything or doing everything. But stop, here I’m calling myself as Deva, so who is that I calling itself Deva? So again, ego is different from the true “I”. Meaning we neither the body, mind or ego. Then what are we? Is the question that needs to be understood.
After negating everything what is left is “I”, anything that can be imagined or cannot be imagined, anything that exist or does not exist, anything that we perceive or not perceive is not “I” (Brahman), then who am I becomes more confusing as it seems like there is not solution to this problem. For this the answer is simple, who am I is nothing but the witness of all of these and you are that witness, consciousness and bliss [Bliss because the I is everything and there is no second thing other than it, at material level we try to acquire more and more and think that we will be happy, when only Brahman (“I”) exists and there is nothing other than Brahman which is complete, there nothing to acquire, when there is nothing to acquire we are complete and blissful].