Who am I?…The role I play?…The mask I wear?…Body? Mind? Knowledge? Or….


Sankhya yoga/Topic of knowledge(Chapter 2 …continued)

I would like to remind readers that Chapter 2 is one of the more important chapters in the Gita. In the previous post I mentioned that the crucial question the seeker must try to answer is: Who am I? In this post we will deal with that. All our identities come from the roles that we play in life. Usually, people will respond to `Who am I?’ with, `I am an engineer or a doctor or a yoga teacher…’ But that is what you do, that is not what you are. It’s like Batman who says: `This is only what I do; inside I’m much more…’ It’s a role that you are playing, the role is not you. The role is dependent on you alright, but you are independent of the role. Who is this I is the question? It ‘s true that many of our identities do come from our roles, but we have to keep it to the roles. I can’t say `I’m a parent’ and say that is final, because I’m only a parent to my kids, I’m not a parent to the whole world, much less a husband or a wife. Therefore, those identities are about looking at myself from the standpoint of other people.

What am I or who am I with respect to myself? That is easy: what you see is what you get. When the body walks, I walk; when the body talks, I talk….so` I’ over here equals `body’. Sometimes you say `I body’; you say  `I’m tall, I’m short, etc’ and sometimes you say `My whole body is aching, my head is hurting etc’…In the latter sentence, I’m referring to the body as `mine’ whereas previously I referred to the body as `I’. There is a contradiction here, `I’ and `mine’ cannot be used with reference to one and the same object…..And when there’s a doubt whether it is `me’ or `mine’, you have to use some logic. The paradigm is a very simple one but it’s tricky to understand– What you are aware of you are not. You are aware of the bag, but you are not the bag. You are aware of the cell-phone, it is your phone, but you are not the phone even though sometimes these days you see people so glued to their phones they seem to be a part of it. Similarly, I am definitely aware of my body, there is no doubt that I am not aware of this body. In fact, if I tell a doctor I have a backache, he can examine me and say there is nothing wrong with you, but he cannot dismiss the fact that I have a backache. Why?  On that I am the final authority, because I am the one who knows this body intimately, I have a backache.

This example works for objects, but does it work for the body, the mind?

That is where the difficulty comes, that is why we have taken the body and mind as ourselves. There is a confusion here. With the rest of the world, with bag and phone, I am not confused. If it is separate from me, if it is not me, I can be aware of it. However, with respect to the body there is confusion, because I am always associated with body and mind, though it is also my experience in deep sleep that I have no identification with body or mind. This confusion is evident in the way I’m presenting it–sometimes I refer to it as `I body’ (I’m tall, etc), at other times as `My body’ (My head hurts, etc). …..That is why one is forced to bring in this logic and say `It is my body, I’m aware of this body, I’m intimately connected with this body’, but it is an object of my awareness. Now if we go with the argument that the body is not me, then what am I?

The mind?

The next answer would be: my mind. It is with the mind that I am aware of this body. Now when you say `mind’, then you look at the emotions. All your emotions you are aware of—whether you care for somebody or you don’t care for somebody, you love someone, you hate someone, all these emotions that come up in the mind you are aware of. That is why sometimes you say, `I’m angry’, but actually `anger’ is used as an adjective for yourself, it is not used in the sense of the self. Or you will say, `My mind is agitated or my mind is restless’;  here you are using it as `mine’. So the mind also falls into the same category as the body . It may be more intimate to you than the body, but you are aware of the mind…..But you are not that mind, you are not your reasoning, your thinking.

You are not your knowledge because even when you use the word `knowledge’, you will say `my knowledge’. But you existed before you gathered that knowledge, you were there as a thinking person and you gathered that knowledge, therefore, you are not your knowledgeYour thinking you are not, your emotions you are not, your memory you are definitely not because memory is only the experiences you have undergone and how you remember them, and not like how somebody else remembers them; it’s highly subjective. Therefore, what is left is only ignorance, but your ignorance also you are not because you are aware of your ignorance. In fact, only if you are aware of your ignorance can you study a new subject. You can get rid of your ignorance if you so choose to, you can study that subject and gain that knowledge. So all this you are not. And the fundamental question still remains: `Who am I?’ If I can say that I am not all this, I have come a long way.

 All I can say after all this is that I am the one who is aware of all this, the sakshi, the witness of all this. Therefore, I can call myself as a sakshi, as a witness, or the `awarer’. (This is only a halfway house when it comes to Vedanta. This is the being, the one who is aware of all this, that Arjuna, as a warrior, was centred on in the battlefield. Such a person is a great student of Vedanta, that is why Arjuna used the word `shishya’ to describe himself, he believed he deserved to be taught.) I know that I am the one who is aware of all this, I am none of these. In the course of my functioning I take all these as me, but I know I am independent of all these. All these—from my thinking to my body, all these roles, are dependent on me, but I am independent of all of them. This is known….Vedanta has not yet started, Vedanta is only helping a person to understand this.

So with this `I’, what is the nature of the one who is aware of everything else? Here is where Vedanta comes and says that this sakshi, this witness that you are, this `awarer’ that you are is with respect to an object of awareness. Therefore, with respect to yourself, you can be nothing but pure awareness, objectless awareness, or simple consciousness. Both the words are used to indicate the `atman’, which in Sanskrit would be `shudh chaitanya’.  This is what the `I’ is. Now what we have to examine is: What are the limitations or imperfections this consciousness suffers from? Does this consciousness or awareness have any problems? Because any problem that you tell me—the problem of birth or death, the problem of relationships, the problem of stress of living etc will belong either to the roles or to the body and mind. I would like all the people who are reading this blog to take a minute off now and think of the fact that any problem of theirs will belong to the body and mind or to the role they are playing with the body and the mind, not to the consciousness which is free from it itselfThe awareness, only witnessing the whole thing, is what you really are.


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