For the majority of spiritual aspirants, the process of attaining Self-Knowledge, like the process of learning any other Knowledge, is said to be a 3–fold process of repeated śravaṇa, manana & nididhyāsana, or learning, assimilation & practice. The Sanskrit word śravaṇa literally means "hearing", but in this context it means learning the Truth by hearing, reading or studying.
The word manana means thinking, pondering, musing, reflection or meditation, that is, dwelling frequently upon the Truth that we have learned through śravaṇa in order to imbibe it & understand it more & more clearly, & to impress it upon our Mind more & more firmly.
And the word nididhyāsana means keen observation, scrutiny, attentiveness or profound contemplation, that is, in our context, putting what we have learned & understood by śravaṇa & manana into practice by keenly scrutinizing, attending to or contemplating upon our essential Self-Conscious Existence, "I exist". In the Life of a serious spiritual aspirant, this 3–fold process of śravaṇa, manana & nididhyāsana should continue repeatedly until the experience of true Self-Knowledge is attained. In our day-to-day lives our Mind encounters innumerable different impressions through our 5 Senses, & thinks innumerable thoughts about those impressions. So the impression made by 1 thing is quickly replaced by the impression made by other things.
Therefore even though we have once learned about the spiritual Truth – the Truth that we are not the limited Body but are only the unlimited spirit or Consciousness – the impression made by that truth will quickly fade if we do not repeatedly study books that remind us of it, & frequently reflect upon it in our Mind.
However mere reading & thinking about the Truth will be of little benefit to us if we do not also repeatedly attempt to put it into practice by turning our attention back to our mere Consciousness of Existence, "I exist", whenever we notice that it has slipped away to think of other things.
To stress the paramount importance of such practice, Sri Adi Sankara declared in verse 364 of Vivēkacūḍāmaṇi that the benefit of manana is a 100x greater than that of śravaṇa, & the benefit of nididhyāsana is a 100,000x greater than that of manana.
For some very rare souls, repeated śravaṇa, manana & nididhyāsana is not necessary, because as soon as they first hear the Truth, they at once grasp its meaning & importance, turn their attention Self– wards, & thereby immediately experience true Self-Knowledge. But the majority of us do not have the spiritual maturity to be able to experience the Truth as soon as we hear it, because we are too strongly attached to our existence as an individual person, & to all that is associated with our Life as a person.
By repeated nididhyāsana or Self-Contemplation, supported by the aid of repeated śravaṇa & manana, our Consciousness of our own essential Existence & our corresponding understanding of the Truth will become increasingly clear, & by that increasing clarity we will steadily gain more love to know our self as we really are, along with more Detachment from our Individuality & all that is associated with it. Therefore, until we gain such true spiritual maturity – the willingness & love to lose our individual self in the experience of true Non-Dual Self-Knowledge – we have to continue the process of repeated śravaṇa, manana & nididhyāsana.
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"There is no Creation, no Destruction, no Bondage, no longing to be freed from Bondage, no striving for Liberation, nor anyone who has attained Liberation. Know that this to be Ultimate Truth."
– the "no creation"
, Shankara, Ramana, school of Gaudapada Nome – Ajata Vada
for very succinct summary of the teaching & practice, see: www.ajatavada.com/