WHO AM I – THE WAY
The Mantra: Ko’ham
As already mentioned, but it needs to be reminded, the question “Who am I” can never be answered at the level of the rational mind,
only when we wholeheartedly accept this, and accepted it also
at the emotional level the mind can be transcended
at last finally revealing the Answer.
In the ancient, well known metaphor of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly, the point is that
a caterpillar that seeks to know himself as such remains attached
to his qualities and skills as a caterpillar
will never become a butterfly.
a) This means that instead of concentrating on the ”caterpillar”,
that is, on the self-image and personality that we have been identified with so far, and although to a lesser extent are still,
we should concentrate on the butterfly that we are
in the process of becoming.
Ever tried that?
It pays off.
As someone advised,
When everyone is speaking Caterpillar, don’t be afraid
of speaking Butterfly
Once you have found out who you really are, or are close to it, with a silent mind and a state of perfect equanimity,
you will feel like as if you had just left a crowded, dirty, noisy and violent ghetto
to find yourself like on top of the Himalayas
on a sunny day.
The main problem is that
our inner being is beyond the fourth dimension, therefore cannot be experienced by our ordinary perception apart from some subliminal insights and blissful feelings in those who have already reached a certain level on the Path.
Whatever we experience at the human level, however wonderful,
can only be a vague approximation.
But if we cannot “experience” it, how will we know it?
By becoming it.
There is no other effective way.
As the Ribhu Ghitasays,
The conscious introspective concentration of Self-enquiry
the dense darkness of nescience.
It effaces all worry. It illuminates the intellect with the radiance of pure awareness. It wipes out all conceptual confusions.
It fixes one in Shiva-Self.
It transforms a host of impending disasters into auspicious events. And lastly,
it destroys the ego-mind utterly with all its afflictions.
Oprah put it thus:
If you peel back the layers of your life, the frenzy,
the noise, stillness is waiting.
That stillness is you.
b) The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad asks the essential Question:
How, O beloved, shall the Knower
Nisargadatta Maharaj’s answer is:
Discard all you are not and go ever deeper…
discard what is not your own, till nothing is left which you can disown. You will find that what is left is nothing which the mind can hook on to.
You are not even a human being.
You just are a point of awareness,
co-extensive with time and space and beyond both,
the ultimate cause, itself uncaused.
In what does it consist all that you seem to be but you are not?
How does it make you feel?
But as the Course in Miracles warns that:
You cannot understand yourself alone.
If you look only at yourself you cannot find yourself because that
is not what you are. You have no meaning apart
from your rightful place in the whole.
This is your life, your eternity
and your true Self.
Whoever is really determined to find the meaning of his own life whatever Yoga,
spiritual path or religion he follows
first or later will have to go back to Socrates injunction, “Know thyself”
and start all over again from there.
Have you already reached this point?
If not yet, you will.
Then your ultimate Journey will begin at last.
A constant, intense concentration on the most essential Question
“Who am I’?”
is always the best, most direct way to become free from the prison
of our mind and all its divagations.
c) As Ramana Maharshi said,
Enquiring “Who am I?” really means trying to find out the source
of the ego, the `I’-thought.
In most cases, to find ourselves we have to pass through a not always easy transitional period
in which we must confront the parts of our being still clinging to the past, to all that we have ever been, and then overcome their resistance to be cast off,
but it is a very small price to pay for it.
We will also have to deal with those close to us who are unwilling or unable to accept that we have changed and keep relating to us as if were still inwardly deeply asleep as them.
this experience is a sudden awareness that has nothing
to do with mental knowledge, no matter how
clear and correct it may be.
Have you already had this experience?
If not, it will come.
The way that Nisargadatta Maharaj warns that:
You are what you are, timelessly,
but of what use is it to you unless
you know it and act on it?
Your begging bowl may be of pure gold, but as long as you do not know it
you are a pauper.
You must know your inner worth and trust it and express it
in the daily sacrifice of desire and fear.
In what does your inner worth consist?
Mooji’s advice is:
Don’t try to be somebody, don’t try to be nobody. Be nobody. You are nobody.
And, at the same time, you’re the Supreme Soul of the universe.
Being nobody, you are very Heart of the universe.
Does the idea of being nobody disturb you?
Being nobody is the only way to be one with all and all things.
Adyashanti adds that:
When you inquire “Who am I?”, if you are honest,you’ll notice that it takes you right back to Silence instantly.
The brain doesn’t have an answer,so
all of a sudden there is Silence.
d) Sometimes when contemplating an intense sunset,
a wonderful landscape,
gazing into a the eyes of a child or someone close to us, listening to high music, etc, at times our mind falls silent and before it begins chattering all over again for a moment which is very brief by the watch but so long inwardly we are our true self.
You cannot find yourself,
only create yourself:
abandon everything that you ever desired, suffered, lived, experienced:
what will be left once you have finally let go of all that
IS THE REAL YOU.
Erasmus of Rotterdam agrees:
Don’t forget that you are always engaged in creating yourselves.
Every moment you are deciding what you are.
However, this works only if you keep in mind that
at the very most what you believe to be yourself can be
but the tiniest fraction of whom you really are.
Who – or what – is it then?
Ha ha ha ha!
Heed the Course in Miracles’ warning:
God has given you a gift that you
both have and are.
When you do not use it, you forget that you have it. By not remembering it
you cannot know what you are.
In what does consist this God given gift?
How will you remember it?
Here is a hint:
A king who believes himself a beggar can only be definitively
convinced that he really is thus:
by behaving like a king.
Nisargadatta Maharaj also has a warning:
As long as you have all sorts of ideas about yourself, you know yourself through the mist of these ideas;
to know yourself as you are, give up all ideas. You cannot imagine
the taste of pure water, you can only discover it
by abandoning all flavorings.
e) Ramakrishna offers this metaphor:
Imagine a limitless expanse of water: above and below, before and behind,
right and left, everywhere there is water.
In that water is a jar filled with water: there is water inside the jar
and outside it, but the jar is still there.
The ‘I’ is the jar.
Are you the jar or the water?
Yes, in a certain sense you are both, but can only experience yourself as one or the other at the same time.
Why do you keep identifying yourself with the jar?
Does it make you feel safe?
It is yet another deception.
Khalil Gibran had the right attitude:
Knowledge of the self is the mother
of all knowledge.
So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely,
to know its minutiae, its characteristics,
its subtleties and its very atoms.
In order to know your own Self
first of all become aware of what you are NOT
because it is what prevents you
from finding it out.
Hihab al-Din has a warning:
You are the traveler,
you are the path and
you are the destination.
Be careful never to lose
the way to your Self.
Which is the way to your self?
Are you careful enough not to lose it?
Apart in a very practical contest, never say: “I am Peter, I am Mary”
But keep asking yourself:
WHO AM I?
The ultimate truth is not that you are this or that but,
more simply, that YOU ARE.
Rumi sums it all up thus:
Do you know what you are?
You are a manuscript of a divine letter.
You are a mirror reflecting a noble face.This universe is not outside of you.Look inside yourself; everything thatyou want, you are already that.
When the Kabuli was asked by someone who wished to provoke him whether He was a true Faithfull or not He replied:
If I say yes, Allah would certainly laugh at me, but if I said no
I would be lying: why don’t you ask me how many
dates I had for breakfast instead?
What does this tell you?
The Devil’s Advocate:
Finding out who you really are, if you could ever manage it – your chances of success are much smaller than winning the National Lottery or of the chance of a snowflake in Hell – would be the most TERRIFYING thing that could happen to you and drive you mad because then you would realize that you are only a swamp of desires, ideas, fears, hesitations and little pleasures.
Listen to me: it is in your best interests to remain in your abysmal ignorance and never find it out!
Or you will be in a whole lot of trouble, much more than you would be able to handle!
Let me only repeat what Mère said:
You must go very deeply in yourself and realize the most important
thing of all: that you do not exist. There is only one thing
that exists, and it is the Divine.
Please meditate a little on this before reading on.
They are not just mere words
but a FACT.
Words of Power:
Do not consider too much whatever you appear to be
but that you really ARE.
“Know thyself, presume not God to scan; the proper study
of mankind is man.”Alexander Pope
“Who am I?” is the sharpest a sword to cut off all our false
identifications.” The Book of Privy Counseling
“Face the facts of being what you are, for that
is what changes what you are.”
“Oh man! There is no planet sun or star could hold you,
if you but knew what you are.”
“You can only know yourself by being yourself without
any attempts to self-definition and self-description.”
“I always thought that I was me – but no, I was You
and never knew it!” Rumi
“All that is other than the true “I”
must be slain.” Rumi
How will you slay it?
It is not that as difficult as it seems at first.
Unless you are too identified with the part that must be slain, that is.
Ha ha ha ha!
From the Quest:
When we tell our students to dis-identify themselves from their body, self-image, and all that they have been in general and concentrate on this question, who am I? at first they see nothing at all and tend to give up.
It is necessary then to go very deep into this apparent nothing
until one finally gets to the other side
Yesterday I asked my dear friend Gianni the eternal Question of Ramana Maharshi:
who are you?
Without an instant of hesitation he just replied:
I am a man sitting peacefully
in this armchair.
His answer may seem a tautology, but it has deeper and deeper levels of meaning and could have been given by a great Zen master!
Once he asked me something very personal about myself which I didn’t want to tell him so I just said that I wasn’t sure, but he laughed and replied:
If you want to know what you think of yourself, all you must do
is to observe what you think of others!
He then added something to the effect that I thought little of most people, even despised them, and therefore of myself as well.
Then he just left me to reflect on that.
The Italian expression for it is a bit gross but can be translated as: “Take it and bring it home!”
These days I keep meditating on these words of Ramana Maharshi:
“Self-Inquiry brings you to the place where you inquire,
“Who am I?”
But it is not the “Who am I?” that wakes you up.
It is the silence after you ask
“Who am I?”
It is this silence that I am trying to remain.
From the old Poems:
Alas, on far too many tangled threads a puppet
am I still, by sleepwalkers surrounded
in a daze stumbling all around, loud, demanding, and I
until so recently one of them as but empty masks
see them now, of some hidden Design symbols
and facets all whose meaning keeps eluding me…
Question/Ko’han 1 and 2:
If you have read this far you should be aware that
you do not yet really know who you are.
What prevented you so far from discovering it?
How will you find it out?
According to Thoreau,
it is as hard to see one’s self as to look backwards
without turning around.
How good are you at turning around?
Question/Ko’han 4 and 5:
S. Suzuki said that
What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves
when we inhale and exhale.
What does it imply?Question/Ko’han 6 and 7:
The Amrita Sutra asks:
Would a person ignorant of his own presence wander across
various countries in search of himself?
The Oracle of Delphi has the last word with a warning:
I warn you, whoever you are…O you who wish to fathom the arcanes of nature,
if you do not succeed in finding inside yourself what you seek
you will not find it even outside.
If you ignore the wonders of your own home, how can you pretend to find other wonders?
In you is found the occult Treasure of the Gods.
O man, know thyself and you will know
the Gods and the Universe.
1) This little exercise of Vivekananda:
Close your eyes and see what picture appears
when you think of your “I”.
Is it the picture of your body that comes, or of your mental nature?
If so, you have not realized your true “I” yet. The time will come, however, when as soon as you say “I” you will see the universe, the Infinite Being.
Then you will have realized your true Self and found that you are infinite.
That is the truth: you are the spirit, not matter.
2) Meditate on this passage of Ramana Maharshi:
You are not to think of other thoughts, such as `I am not this body’.
Seeking the source of `I’ serves as a means
of getting rid of all other thoughts.
Keep the attention fixed on finding out the source of the `I’ – thought by asking, as each thought arises, to whom the thought arises. If the answer is `I get the thought’ continue the enquiry by asking
Who is this “I” and what is its source?
3) Meditate also on these words of Sri Aurobindo:
It is in the peace behind and that “something truer” in you that
you must learn to live and feel it to be yourself.
You must regard the rest as not your real self, but only a flux
of changing or recurring movements on the surface
which are sure to go as the true self emerges.
1) This passage of the Dalai Lama:
Two people have been living in you all your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating;
the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom
you have only rarely heard or attended to.
As you listen more and more to the teachings, contemplate them, and integrate them into your life, your inner voice, your innate wisdom of discernment, what we call in Buddhism “discriminating awareness,” is awakened and strengthened, and you begin to distinguish between its guidance and the various clamorous and enthralling voices of ego.
The memory of your real nature, with all its splendor
and confidence, begins to return to you.
2) These words of Wu Hsin:
How do you know what you are?
You are what you think you are.
You are what you believe you are.
You are what others say that you are.
You are what you feel that you are.
You are what you sense that you are.
But do you really need a mirror to know you are?
What mental activity is required to know that you are?
Stop telling yourself what you are
and only be what you are.
3) These verses from Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri:
A thinking being in an unthinking world,
An island in the sea of the Unknown,
He is a smallness trying to be great,
An animal with some instincts of a god,
His life a story too common to be told,
His deeds a number summing up to nought,
His consciousness a torch lit to be quenched,
His hope a star above a cradle and grave.
And yet a greater destiny may be his,
For the eternal Spirit is his truth.
He can re-create himself and all around
And fashion new the world in which he lives:
He, ignorant, is the Knower beyond Time.
Is there joy when you’re alone with yourself?
If not, you don’t know who you are at all!
How can the truth of your being manifest
until you joyfully proclaim and live it?
How will you proclaim and live it?
It is not as difficult as it may seem at first.