Who am I? – a self inquiry
Throughout the history, one of the deepest questions mankind has asked itself is the question of its true identity: who am I?
While science refers human beings as a biological organism, western 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? Is it my mind, is it my memories or is it something else? For this question, western philosophy couldn’t find a clear answer.
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, but 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.
In the Video above, I am revealing the answer to the true Identity of the self with a step by step self inquiry, in a way that is comprehensible for everyone… Let us unfold the answer step by step as presented in the video:
Am I my body?
So let us start our self inquiry. The common answer to the question “who am I” is that we are human beings – a biological organism. In other words: “I am the body”.
But why do we limit our “I” to the boundaries of the body?
Let’s say we are in a car, Why don’t we identify ourselves as the car? Why don’t we say: “I am the car!”…? And the simple answer you would give might be: Because I’m still me, even if I’m not in the car. Even if the car ceases to exist, I remain. Therefore, I am not the car.
In other words, the thing which is me must remain constant everywhere I am.
(To deepen you understanding of the necessity of this condition, you can read about it here)
Is the body constantly present everywhere we are?
Well, let us examine this, and in order to do so, we will have to do a short mental experiment:
I want you to imagine that you have lost your palm. While doing that, ask yourself if you are still you, or whether you are someone else…
It is most obvious that you’ll answer that you are still yourself. Just as you continue being yourself without the car, you continue to be yourself without your palm.
This means that the palm is yours, but it is not you.
Now, continue to imagine yourself without a foot, a leg, a kidney, an ear and check if you are still you.
You can easily apply this test to almost every part of your body, and indeed, thanks to modern science and medicine people can lose almost every part of their body and remain alive to testify that they are still themselves.
In conclusion, we can say that the “I” is not the body!
Nonetheless, with this method, It might be more difficult to examine if we are the brain or not, but this issue is covered in a separate video called Am I the brain?
Am I my mind?
The next step in the self inquiry is to examine if I am the mind?
The mind or psyche is composed mainly of three types of impulses: sensations (coming from the five senses), emotions and thoughts. Their unique composition forms what we may call ‘our personality’.
First of all, I can notice that my thoughts, emotions and sensations change each moment, so they cannot be me. As we have seen before, the thing which is me must remain constant everywhere I am. If I can lose or change a part of me, and remain myself, this part is not me. This is valid to physical parts as well as mental parts.
Even the total sum of thoughts and memories, which we call ‘our personality’, cannot be me since it changes over time. As a baby, I did not have the memories and thoughts I have now, but this baby was still me.
Am I something else?
If I am not my mind, then who am I?
In order to go deeper with the self inquiry you can do a simple exercise:
Close your eyes and imagine a house. It doesn’t have to be a clear image – the important thing is that you’ll see something – even a blur.
Now, look at the image in your head. If you see it, ask yourselves the following questions:
- “Who sees the image?”
- “What is the thing which sees the image?”
If you do the exercise seriously, you could easily answer the first question: “Who sees the image?” And the answer is – “I”… “I see the image”.
What is the thing that sees the image? It is certainly not a sensation or emotion. Nor is it a thought. The house is a thought. The thing that sees the house is an observer, an experiencer.
So, we have found that the mind and the “I” who experience it, are not the same.
I am not the mind. I am the experiencer.
(To understand more why is there a distinction between the experience and the experiencer, read this article)
There is a word for what I have called the experiencer and it is: ‘consciousness’. But the word consciousness is often used with different meanings, like ‘intelligence’ or ‘thought’. When I use the word ‘conciseness’, I use it with a specific meaning: “That which has the ability to experience… to be aware of…”
Is there anything primordial to consciousness which is the real “I”?
I haven’t found it yet.
We can say: “I observe my consciousness”, but this sentence has no meaning. Consciousness is the observer and cannot directly observe itself.
It seems at this point that we have reached the end of the self inquiry. So this is my answer to the question “who am I?”: