Self-knowledge through direct perception comes only through meditation. The step leading to meditation is uninterrupted spiritual concentration of mind on the Self. Such concentration does not develop by itself. It has to be practiced consciously and regularly, and requires overcoming the drags of perverted habits, attachments, and desires.
For this reason, meditation is a two-fold practice. It is focusing the mind on the ideal, while at the same time practicing self-control. It is seeing the all-pervading Self with eyes closed, and also seeing the presence of the same Self in all beings and things with eyes open. In meditation our mind rises higher and higher, and as we gain higher and higher spiritual altitude, this world of diversity becomes for us more and more unified, integrated, and divine.
The systems of Yoga and Vedanta present to us, in clear terms, the meaning of meditation, its goal of Self-knowledge, the methods by which concentration is developed, and the ways of achieving self-control. The goal of meditation is samadhi, the state of blissful superconsciousness, known as ultimate Self-knowledge. Self-knowledge gives us the highest self-fulfilment, puts an end forever to the sorrows and sufferings of life, and silences all doubts of the mind. Through Self-knowledge the individual consciousness finds connection with the limitless expanse of Pure Consciousness.
A knower of Self lives in his body as long as the momentum of past action that produced it endures. Sankaracharya in his Vivekachudamani (The Crest Jewel of Discrimination) describes a knower of Self:
“Sometimes a fool, sometimes a sage, sometimes possessed of regal splendour; sometimes wandering, sometimes behaving like a motionless python, which waits for its food to come to it; sometimes wearing a benign expression, sometimes honoured, sometimes insulted, sometimes unknown – thus lives the man of realization, ever happy in the Knowledge of Brahman.”
His passing away is unlike the death of others. He gives up his body as a person gives up his old, worn-out clothes. At death, his soul does not go out to be reincarnated again but is absorbed once and for all in the blissful realm of Absolute Brahman, leaving behind no trace of all his separative existence.
SWAMI ADISWARANANDA, in Meditation and Its Practices, Introduction, xi-xv (emphases, if any, are mine. – nytanaya)