Throughout history, one of the deepest questions mankind has asked itself is the question of its true identity: Who am I?
While science refers to human beings as a biological organism, philosophers understood that this perspective isn’t sufficient. Our body is changing continuously, yet we remain ourselves.
For example, it is claimed that every seven years all the cells of our body are being replaced. So the body I have now is not the body I had seven years ago, yet I remained. So what is this “I” that remained?
Western philosophy is clueless
The philosopher Rene Descartes suggested that our mind and thoughts are our true identity. An identity, he called a “soul”. The philosopher John Locke argued that momentary thoughts are not consistent and change over time. They cannot be our identity since identity is something that must be consistent over time.
He suggested that what makes a person himself is a minimal amount of memory that must remain constant throughout his life. For example, I am myself and not another because I remember being myself as a little child, as a teenager and as an adult. He termed this consistency of memory, “sameness of consciousness”.
But also, Lock’s suggestion isn’t sufficient since very young babies don’t have a self-memory. The distinction between “myself” and “other” develops over time. Furthermore, most of us have no memories prior to a certain age (usually before the age of two years) yet it is absurd to claim that the baby I was and the adult I am today are not the same person.
So mind or memory cannot be our true identity, and this is the spot where western philosophy got stuck.
The answer to the question Who am I? is found in the east
Yet the question Who am I? does have a clear answer. An answer that was known to several eastern philosophies, such as Advaita Vedanta and Jnana Yoga. However, this answer was reached through a meditative process of self-inquiry, and therefore, couldn’t be easily explained to someone who hasn’t experienced this process by himself.
They claim that in the background of our mind exists an “observer” or “experiencer”, which is constant and never changing. It observes and experiences our mind (our thoughts, emotions and sensations) but it is not the mind. This is truly who we are.
Can we be certain these claims are true? Simply accepting them would be just like accepting any other religious belief.
The following video reveals the answer to the true identity of the self with a step by step self-inquiry. It uses our day-to-day experiences to reach the same conclusion the ancient Yogis reached using meditation, in a way that is comprehensible to everyone, even without any meditative experience.
Copyright © 2012-2024 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.