Who are we?

Who are we?

By Sadhvi Bhagwati Saraswati

We then live our lives falsely identified with roles, masks and personalities that are not truly us. However, unlike the actor in a drama who remembers to remove his costume and make-up at the end of the day, we have become so internally united with our false self, that we have begun to think it is who we are. We have come to believe the mask is our true face, the script is our true life, and the costume is our true Self.

We get a degree and we say, “I am a Ph. D., or I am a doctor.” We put on make-up and expensive clothes or we get cosmetic surgery and we say, “I am beautiful.” We earn a lot of money and we say, “I am rich. I am successful.” We get married and have children and we say, “I am a wife and a mother,” or “I am a husband and a father.” We make many friends and we say, “I am popular. I am well-liked and respected.”

However, these are merely things we do, ways we spend our time, choices we make, personalities we don because it suits the culture in which we live. They are not who we are. We are not our degrees, our beauty, our bank accounts, our popularity or our relations. The problem with this false identification is that these roles are all fleeting. They are based merely on what we have done and achieved today. So, when they get shattered, as falsehood is inevitably shattered and as anything of the flesh is inevitably limited, we lose not merely a title or a job or money or beauty, but we lose the very connection to our Self. We have wrapped our sense of self so tightly around these roles that when the curtain falls and the drama ends, we feel that our life is being torn out from within us.

If I am beautiful, what happens when I age, or my skin breaks out, or I have an accident that scars my face? Then who am I? If I am a mother or a wife then when my children grow up and don’t need me or my husband divorces me or dies, who am I? If I am rich and successful, if I lose my money or retire from my profession, who am I?

We also say, “I am angry. I am sad. I am frustrated. I am depressed.” Yet, our scriptures, philosophy and gurus tell us we are none of these things. Our brain may be experiencing emotional patterns of chemical and electric energy that correlate to what psychologists may term anger or depression. However, I, the true Self am pure, perfect, untouched and not afflicted by patterns of energy corresponding to emotional states. I am the one who is aware, who is watching, who is witnessing, who is able to name the states of sadness and depression, but not the one who is afflicted by them.

The lack of awareness of who we truly are, the lack of ability to distinguish between what I do and who I am, this ignorance is the darkness which leads to suffering and misery in life. It is also this ignorance of the Self ‘s true nature that leads us to act in ways for which we have to reap the fruits of negative karma. Greed, lust, dishonesty, jealousy, anger and arrogance are products of our blindness toward the true light within and toward the true nature of the Self. If I am already full and complete then there is nothing to covet.

Those, who are truly enlightened, live with the experience that their cup is overflowing. They are one with all of creation; thus there is no need to possess the wealth of the universe. It is already theirs. This is why in the stories of our scriptures, whether it’s Kunti (mother of the Pandavas) or Dhruv or Prahlad, when God himself stands in front of them instructing them to ask for any boon, there is nothing they want. They are complete merely due to His presence.

When we light an oil lamp or a simple candle in our temple or in our rooms, let us pray for that light within our own hearts that illumines the nature of our Self, showing us who we really are.