I recently came across an expression I hadn’t heard before: “All research is me-search.” Used especially in the academic world, the saying asserts that people put their energy into researching topics that hold some deep personal attraction for them. They research answers to questions that haunt them, questions that inspire their post-graduate dissertations and their requests for research grants.
Because people’s interests change with the times, one consequence of me-search is that research in any given area tends to rise and fall. According to the Vedic scriptures, we live in an age where the greatest dearth of research is in the field of self-knowledge. People have stopped trying to figure out who they are in essence. They have no intense desire to discover the real “me” around which revolve the synthetic me’s created by race, sex, nationality, upbringing, schooling, and so many other external factors that make us who we think we are. The ideal me-search would be the search for my true self, free of bodily identification.
Though some self-searching goes on today, it tends to be psychological rather than truly spiritual. Fortunately, we can still learn from accomplished me-searchers of earlier times, when the quest for discovering the true self—and Truth itself—burned in the hearts of many. Like any good researchers, our ancestral me-searchers revealed their discoveries, and oral traditions have carried their methods and findings down through the centuries.
Today their discoveries exist in written form. The Vedic scriptures, especially, hold a wealth of spiritual information, a blend of direct divine revelation and the insights of spiritual adepts.
One important conclusion reached by the most mature Vedic me-searchers—among them Vyasadeva, the erudite compiler of the Vedic canon—is that research by our own powers yields only a partial view of reality. By meditation, for example, we can get in touch with the self, but without help from the Supreme Self our understanding of our own self will always be incomplete. We’re part of that Supreme Self, and to satisfy our innermost longings we must turn me-search into He-search—the search for He who sustains our existence.
To put it another way, because we’re part of God, self-realization can’t exist without God realization. Srila Prabhupada gave this example: You can’t see yourself in a dark room at night, but when the sun rises—when you see the sun—then you can see yourself.
Just as post-graduate students require thesis advisors, so students of the self (and the Self) need guidance from masters of the spiritual curriculum. Srila Prabhupada is one such master. Like his predecessors in the guru-disciple lineage descending from Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, he was completely dedicated to self-realization in service to God, thus verifying his spiritual mastery.
When applied to worldly research, the term me-search can suggest a degree of whimsy: I’m driven to research not what is objectively important, but what interests me. But if an objective Truth exists—and most people think it does—it’s worthy of everyone’s research. Success in that endeavor requires dedication, as Srila Prabhupada implies in this comment on Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.10), “Seekers of the Absolute Truth are never allured by unnecessary engagements in sense gratification because the serious students seeking the Absolute Truth are always overwhelmed with the work of researching the Truth.”