By Megha Bajaj September 2008 Who am I? Numerous seers have found enlightenment by just asking themselves this question. Here, through a unique interview with that most mysterious and sacred ‘self’, get several insights and realisations, first-hand This interview is unique. For you cannot see the interviewee, touch it, hear it, smell it, or even taste it. Yet it is. It is neither a man, nor a woman, and yet it is present in either. It is a special entity, which exists within everyone who is, or ever was. It calls itself the ‘true self’. The rest remains a mystery. Read this never-before interview and learn more about this true self, who it is, where it resides, what it does, and so much more. Who are you?Let me begin answering this most-important question by telling you a story. An emperor was deeply interested in Buddhism. He read everything he could get his hands on, he talked with philosophers and monks about it, he even tried writing his own discourses and haikus. One day he heard that a famous Zen master was visiting the country. Eager to go deeper into his spiritual journey, he requested the master to visit him at the palace. He offered the master a fine meal, and afterwards performed a truly elegant tea ceremony. The whole time, the master was silent and peaceful, as you might expect from a Zen master – but the emperor was biting his tongue. He wanted to know everything the master could tell him. So finally, as they were drinking their tea, he broke the silence. “Master, according to Zen, what is the Self?” he asked. The master briefly looked up from his tea and said, “I do not know.” Then he quietly continued sipping. The king’s discontentment at this answer was reflected on his face, but out of respect, he said no more. Finally, when it was time to leave the monk smiled at the king and said to him, “Thank you for your hospitality and patience. When I earlier said, I do not know what the self is, what I actually meant is I know something. I know what it is ‘not’. When you strip yourself of all your selves as you know them, and understand that you are ‘not’ the king, ‘not’ a father, ‘not’ a man, ‘not’ a name, ‘not’ any of the false identities that you have believed yourself to be – what you are finally left with is what the true self is.” Many masters have understood this ‘I am’ as the spirit. That which comes from the Source and goes back to the Source, and in its essence is exactly like the Source. It may be easier to understand who I am with this metaphor. Water is the cause – steam is the effect of boiling water. Without a cause, there can be no effect. With human birth, we see the effect – but what is the cause? The cause is Existence, Life, God, Eternal Energy – call it whatever your mind comprehends the best. Steam will come from water and once again become water. In addition, in its nature can steam be anything but water-like? So can we humans, or any organism that has life, be anything but God-like? There have also been teachers who have understood ‘I am’ to be awareness, or being in the present moment. This is the idea that the true self is the process of observing, pure awareness, consciousness, and mindfulness. An interesting turn of events in evolution is that we humans seem to have developed a unique type of awareness: self-awareness, awareness of the ‘self’. We can become conscious of ourselves. We have the ability to be self-reflective. When this awareness exists every single moment of the day – when everything is done with the greatest of consciousness, you merge with the moment or with Life and then there is no pre-conceived notion of the self, and all one is left with is awareness – which as mentioned before is nothing but the true essence that we are. In this sense, both the understandings of the self are the same. Ramana Maharishi was one among the great sages who understood what the true self was. He said, “I am not the gross body which is composed of the seven humours. I am not the five cognitive senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell. I am not the five active senses of speech, locomotion, grasping, excretion, and procreation. I am not the five vital airs, which perform the five functions of in-breathing. I am not even the mind, which thinks. After negating all of the above – the awareness, which alone remains – that I am.”In the simplest of words, ‘I’ am that eternal, free, innocent, pure, God-like aspect of me that does not die with the body – that does not need the mind to survive, that, like energy can neither be created, nor destroyed. At a given point, the body may be diseased but ‘I’ remain vibrant, joyful, and energetic. At times the mind may be impure, filled with negative thoughts, but ‘I’ in the true sense of the word remain divine, beautiful and ever loving. What freedom it is when you know what ‘I’ is and live your life being in constant, continuous touch with your true self. True knowledge is knowing who ‘I’ is and true joy, being that ‘I’.I have been looking for you, World Honoured One,since I was a little child. With my first breath, I heard your call,and began to look for you, Blessed One. I’ve walked so many perilous paths, confronted so many dangers, endured despair, fear, hopes, and memories… …Finally in me the rain stopped, the clouds parted. The moon returned, shining peacefully, calming Earth and Sky. Looking into the mirror of the moon, suddenly I saw myself, and I saw you smiling, Blessed One. – Thich Naht Hahn The true self is the spirit or awareness and it will go back to the source from which it has come no matter what. What then is the purpose of life?Imagine this: you are a little child and you have come to a beautiful, wonderful fair with your daddy. Suddenly you realise that somewhere in the crowd you have lost daddy. Now what would your reaction be? Would you still enjoy the fair? No! You will be frantic. You will cry, scream, and look for daddy. Now imagine if daddy was wearing white and somewhere far you caught a glimpse of that white – there would be relief, happiness and you would run screaming, “Daddy!” However, to your greatest disappointment – the person in white is not your daddy. You will keep on searching for daddy – until finally, you find him. What joy, what excitement, and what a relief it is to be with daddy again. Now that you know your daddy is right there, you can enjoy the fair to the fullest. The fair is nothing but life, daddy is God or the Existential Wisdom that created you and the child is you. We go through life looking for that Eternal Power that we have lost. We wail, we weep, we search for it. So often, there are other aspects of life – like key relations, money, power, and fame that we mistake to be the relief for our soul’s agony. We run towards it, hoping the crying will stop. However, it does not. Until finally, we find that ‘daddy’ or that ‘God’ once again. Once we have done so, we can intensely enjoy every minute in the ‘fair’ or in ‘life’, knowing that the true source of happiness will always be being close to daddy! The purpose of life, then, is to live, and really live. Every second; every moment; knowing, and knowing this from deep within that no matter who you are, what you have done, where you are – God is with you – within you. A life born of this knowledge is the most wonderful, beautiful, ‘realised’ existence. There will be freedom from both pleasure and pain – as one will be attached to neither. Yet, there will be an intense involvement with everything that is life. ‘Enlightenment’ for a Buddha or a Mahavira was nothing but the remembrance of who they truly are and where they have come from. Anyone can become enlightened. As a great sage once said, “The only thing that keeps us away from realisation is the belief that we are not realised.” If we can cry with the human in us When the human in us cries, Then there is happiness. If we can smile with the divine in us When the divine in us smiles, Then there is happiness. Happiness is in identification; Happiness is in oneness-reality. – Sri ChinmoyIf the true self is the spirit or awareness, what is the purpose of the body and mind? To experience oneness, to know what unity is, one must experience diversification. Just like the sea experiences its rhythm through waves, so does God experience himself by creating several ‘bodies’. A body is a boundary that divides you from me and me from you. If you are hungry, and I eat, your hunger will not satiate. If she is thirsty and he drinks, her thirst will continue. The body is such an important aspect in spirituality, because it enables us to experience this ‘difference’ between you and me, him and her, I and God. If you can understand this, you will not get too attached to your body, as you will know, at any given point that the body or the feeling of separateness is only here to show you the opposite spectrum where there is Absolute Unity. The paradox of life is that there can be no life without paradoxes. The body is one such paradox. The bottle, the bucket, the pitcher may all claim that they are better or more beautiful, but ultimately they are all filled by water. Pots of all sizes may argue about who is bigger – but ultimately they are all made up of the same earth. However you look, however I look, ultimately the divine content within us is the same. We have come from the same Source, we will go back to the same Source and in essence, we are nothing but that Source.The greatest
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