An old Brahmin opens the debate with these questions from the Aytareya Upanishad:


Who is this Self whom we wish to worship?

What is its true nature?


Is he the heart and the mind by which we perceive, know, discriminate,

think, remember, feel, desire, breathe, love,

and do all our other acts?


Sufi Lalla has an even more relevant question:


Why have you forgotten your own true Self?


Plato answers her first:


The soul, dragged by the body into the region of the changeable,

in confusion wanders; the world spins around her, and

in the midst of changes isn’t she like a drunkard?


Empedocles echoes Plato thus:


In truth the soul is a fugitive and a wanderer, banished

by the decrees and laws of the gods.


Vijay adds a positive note:


You both spoke only of our self’s trials, ignoring its wonders!


And so does Vivekananda:


All is the Self or Brahman. The saint, the sinner, the lamb, the tiger, even

the murderer, as far as they have any reality, can be nothing else,

because there is nothing else.


Sri Aurobindo says it all in a few words:


He is the Self above Nature, above Fate.


Alice Bailey adds something very theosophical:


The Self is the force functioning through the etheric body and evolving its specialized centers acting upon the dense physical.


Sri Aurobindo objects:


The self is inactive, it is always a silent witness

supporting all things.


The same Brahmin who opened the debate quotes the Katha Upanishad


The Self cannot be gained by the Veda nor by understanding

or much learning but by him whom the Self itself

chooses as his own.


Has It chosen YOU as his own?

If not, or not yet, why not?

Think about it.

Krishnamurti repeats what he often said in his Talks:


No amount of knowledge from books or the words of any Teacher can ever really teach us what the self is.


Kierkegaard presents another aspect of it:


The child which is you even now is your real self.

How so?


The Buddha Himself emerges a moment from His Nirvana to advise the debaters:


Take the self as a lamp; take the self as a refuge. Friends, to no external refuge commit yourselves, hold fast to your self

as the refuge in the truth.


The mummy of a Pharaoh mumbles:


The Self is a human headed hawk.


The famous anthropologist Frazer agrees:


Often the soul is conceived as a bird ready to take flight.


An unknown scientist thinks that they are kidding and says that according to avant-garde Quantum physics:


The Self is essentially an electrical field.


Pythagoras is of a different persuasion:

No, the Soul is a harmony of numerical relations.

But everyone laughs at him.


Aristotle condescendingly tells both:


The actual knowledge of the soul is identical with its objects!


Jinaneshwar points out that:


As there is nothing else here but the Self whatever form appears only because of Him.


B. Griffith says that according to him:


The Self is the principle of reason and responsibility in us. It is the root of freedom, what makes us men.


John Dewey shakes his head at that:


The Self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.


Nisargadatta Maharaj also strongly disagrees:


The Self is but the knowledge that ‘”you are”!


Dogen disagrees with both, for according to him:


The self is Time.

Of course, he is speaking of the surface self only.


Ikkyu adds a dash of poetry:


Like vanishing dew, a passing apparition or the sudden

flash of lightning — already gone – thus

should one regard one’s self.


Jinaneshwar also is poetical:


In the current of the river or in the waves of the sea, there is only water. Similarly in the word nothing exists but our own Self…


An unknown poet nods his approval:


Only poetry brings us closer to its essence.

The old Brahmin is not interested in poetry and quotes the Brahma Sutra:


The two who entered into the heart’s cavity are the individual Self and the supreme Self, for that is what is seen.


Jinaneshwar is a talkative mood tonight and elaborates on it:

If the first person, the “I” exist then the second and third, you and he also exist.

By enquiring into its nature the I dissolves leaving us in own natural state shining as the Supreme: ones own Self.


Ramana Maharshi goes deeper into the issue:


Although forever one, it is reflected in the infinite fragments of existence and appears as many; such appearance is unreal… But the self is not unreal. It is not a void or nothingness: for it is the self of all…

Vijay adds that:


The Self is the Divine looking at the word

through US.


But the majority vote goes to an unknown quoting the Vashista:

As empty as space is the Self but isn’t nothingness: it is consciousness,

but as it can’t be experienced by the mind and senses

it is as if it was not.


Being the self of all, it cannot be experienced

in the same way as objects.


Which of these definitions touched you most?


What does it tell you about yourself?

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