During the recent travel from New Delhi to Haridwar in the train, a gentleman from Bhuvaneshwar, Odisha asked me a question, “ Who suffers? Whatever suffering happens, it is experienced by whom? Is it our body, our mind, our Atma or by the divine of which we are part of?”
Such precise question from a so called semi-literate person was the best trigger for a beautiful conversation that followed upon. Ultimately the Vedantic take on suffering (Hey Dukkha) and its experience and the measures or experience of the ‘state of non-suffering’ (Haanopaay) was discussed. What was impressive was the immense knowledge of such complex subject by this group of people from rural Odisha.
All these questions ultimately led to the famous quest we all subject ourselves to:
Who am I?
In a day to day life, chat on internet, registration on any website / forum, filing a complaint in the office, serious debate about religion, international forums and so on. This question of establishing ones identity comes up. It starts from name, then surname, religion, caste, geography, state, nation, city, ethnic group, body type, education, profession so on and on. The list is unending. In the world of ‘Naam-Roop’ (the world that is seen and experienced) these constant engagements with the ones own identity is a continuous exercise in today’s world. This exercise of identifying with something itself gives rise to confusion, creates dilemma and takes the quest to the further level: Who really am I?
Identifying with something is a natural human tendency. I think some identities originate with the ‘sense of ego’. For example, an artiste starts considering himself larger than life or very special than others. It probably is reflection of his overgrown ego.
Some identities originate from the social compulsions/norms. Husband or wife of somebody obviously expects you to mould you in some social sanctions which approve you to be right or wrong. As a spouse you have a code of conduct to abide by. And in identifying with this role, one keeps himself / herself busy. When the role is demanding and encroaches upon personal wishes / ambitions then the ‘conflict’ starts. Then one goes into identity crisis. This crisis takes a toll in the form of end of that role or personal damage to an individual playing that role.
Religious identity is something that really keeps big population of the world engaged. People want to identify with a religion. A group following similar lifestyle. The interesting fact about this identity is it comes with birth. Very few in their lifetime, make it a matter of choice. Being born with some religious identity brings some sense of security / and insecurity to one. And both these feelings keep seriously engaged to the one who seriously identifies with a religious identity.
This ‘identity business’ with something, that our senses experience is a major determining factor of the worldly affairs. Some identify with something that is beyond senses. Something that is invisible, intangible still its authority can be experienced. And we hear terms like ‘one love’, 'peace', 'divine', 'Brahman' etc.
What to identify with, certainly has to do with ones intellectual, emotional, spiritual evolution. Some may find it easy to live with a religious identity as it suits his/her level of evolution. Some like to identify as ‘modern’ as it gives some sort of mileage / satisfaction to them. Not everybody in the world will understand or identify with the ‘Brahman’. Some chose identities, some follow identities they are born with, some don’t care about identities those have sanction. Some intentionally try to break away from given identities.
|Break Away to Pure Consciousness|
In this world today, there are many identities and multiple sources keep adding. Also the vast, complex universal phenomenon creates conflict among identities. Many of my friends say they are not happy with the religion they are born in. Or with the caste they are born with or the economic situation to they identify with. I think these are superficial identities and if given sanction to, they will hardly give the experience of ultimate peace.
Then what identity will bring that peace?
Identity is a ‘conditioning’. And any conditioning brings its weight with it. So it brings stress or joy. Positive or negative conditioning. Best way to deal with this stress is to un-identify. Just not molding into something that adds layers of illusion on the core.
Any dialogue is a good opportunity to recognize what one identifies oneself with.
Adi shankaracharya was once traveling in the Dakshin Bharat (South India). He reached a place Shri Veli. He met a dumb boy there. His name was Hastamalak.
Shri Adi Shankaracharya asked this boy, ‘O’ boy, who are you? From where are you coming? Where are you going? Who are your parents? Etc. All those questions which we face often.
“I am neither human, God, yaksha, brahmin, kshatriya,vaisya, sudra, brahmachari, householder, forest-dweller, nor sannyasi; but I am pure awareness alone. I am the eternal, single, conscious Self, reflected in various intellects, just as the sun is reflected on the surface of various sheets of water.”
I think this is a beautiful identity to live with. Pure awareness.
Or let's say it is a non-identity.
Let’s try to live with one such. Or without!
(Image Courtesy: - Eric Pepin, psychedelic adventure)