By Megha Bajaj
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 Chinmoy
If 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 masters across time have discovered that ‘mind’ is a wondrous power residing in the Self. It causes all thoughts to arise. Apart from thoughts, there is no such thing as mind. Therefore, thought is the nature of mind. Apart from thoughts, there is no independent entity called the world. In deep sleep, there are no thoughts, and there is no world. In the states of waking and dream, there are thoughts, and there is a world. Just as the spider emits the thread (of the web) out of itself and again withdraws it into itself, likewise the mind projects the world out of itself and again resolves it into itself. When the mind comes out of the Self, the world appears. Therefore, when the world appears to be real, the Self does not appear; and when the Self appears the world does not appear. When one persistently inquires into the nature of the mind, the mind will end leaving the Self as the residue. When other thoughts arise, one should not pursue them, but should inquire: “From whom do they arise?” The answer that would emerge would be “From me”. Thereupon if one inquires “Who am I,” the mind will go back to its source; and the thought that arose will become quiescent. With repeated practice in this manner, the mind will develop the skill to stay in its source. Body and mind are both vehicles in coming closer to the ‘true self’. They act as aids. The only condition is to not start identifying too much with either, but recognising that they are present for a higher purpose, a greater good, a deeper realisation.I have thrown from me the whirling dance of mind And stand now in the spirit’s silence free,Timeless and deathless beyond creature-kind, The centre of my own eternity.
I have escaped and the small self is dead;
I am immortal, alone, ineffable;
I have gone out from the universe I made,And have grown nameless and immeasurable.
My mind is hushed in a wide and endless light, My heart a solitude of delight and peace, My sense unsnared by touch and sound and sight, My body a point in white infinities. I am the one Being’s sole immobile Bliss:
No one I am, I who am all that is. – Sri Aurobindo
I want to experience my true self. How do I get more intimate with it? Can gurus, spiritual books, and religion help me?Gurus, spiritual books, religion can take a seeker to a certain point of spiritual evolution and no further. They can provide the ‘food for thought’, but the thinking will have to be done by the seeker. They will provide the methods of detaching from the mind and the body, but only the seeker himself shall do the actual detachment. Power of intention comes to play here. How badly do you want the reunion? Does every cell in your body cry for that oneness? Does every thought of yours arise only in search of that divine unity? If yes, then the ‘how’ will follow. The question itself gives birth to the answer – ask the questions with sincerity and a true desire to know and eventually the Higher Intelligence will guide you to the Higher Intelligence. A seeker will naturally find himself attracting the right teachers, the right words, and the right knowledge into his life – but provided he is ready to become a seeker. The very first step thereby is to really want to experience that union, to have the desire, the yearning, and the wanting.
The next step is to gain control over the body-mind. Sitting still for a few minutes daily can do this. It is easier to gain control over the body, which is tangible and grosser than the mind, which takes off every now and then. Remain still. As the body calms, the mind begins to follow suit. Gradually one would see that the thoughts have quietened. It is in this state of deep relaxation – of non-doing, of awareness, and silence that one can experience one’s spiritual essence. Indeed, meditation or mindfulness is not just the communication, but also the communion with the Divine. It is through this togetherness of body-mind that the oneness of body-mind-spirit can be experienced. Any means by which your body and mind can be controlled and silenced – for the inner self to be experienced will bring one closer to the Divine. The method could be any – chanting, praying, meditation, yoga – the goal is just one. Let there be five different routes to your home, it does not matter what path you choose – the final destination will be home. So also, it will be for the soul. There reaches a point when everything will be done with mindfulness – every moment will be enlightened as in every moment the ‘enlightened’ or the conscious soul will be present. Nevertheless, until we reach that stage of finding meditation even in the mundane, keep aside a few minutes to get intimate with the “I”. In this moment of silent communion with Thee, O Lord, a still small silent voice speaks in the depth of my spirit.
It speaks to me of the things I must do to attain holy kinship with Thee and to grow in the likeness of Thee. O Lord, help me to be ever more like Thee,holy for Thou art holy,Loving for Thou art love.Speak to me, then, Lord, as I seek Thee again and again in the stillness of meditation, until Thy bidding shall at last become for me a hallowed discipline,a familiar way of life. – A Jewish Liturgy
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