Who Are You?

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One of the great Indian sages of the 20th century, Sri Ramana Maharishi, had a favourite meditation technique that he liked to share with his pupils.

And this was the simple enquiry ‘Who Am I?’.

In our conventional world view, we consciously and mostly unconsciously consider ourselves to be conglomeration of many things. I am my body, my name, my family, my personality, my religion and so on.

The purpose of the Who Am I enquiry, which is to be repeated silently in meditation, is to gradually strip away all of these false identifications we accumulate during our human experience.

For instance, if I lose my arm in an accident, am I any less ‘me’? Or is my identity or sense of self still intact?

Similarly, am I my car or job or spouse or ethnic group. These may all colour my sense of self, but who in all of this complexity am I?

Maybe I’m in my brain somewhere, someone or thing floating around the grey and white matter.

In the world of quantum physics, this issue was also confronted. Here it is expressed as the problem of objectivization: The world we observe is our own mental construct, i.e. we create it through our senses and our mind’s existing associations. Yet who am I who observes, creates and experiences all of this reality? And if I ignore this self-constructed aspect of reality, can I ever really know it?

The fact that we objectivize is not a problem; it is what we do. The problems arise when we become attached to false identities and exclude our true selves from our awareness. When we become the victim of false identifies, we suffer from unnecessary losses and conflict, and when we exclude our true selves from the scene, life can become a meaningless jumble of chemical reactions and atoms.

© David R. Durham

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