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How are you more than the 'I' you identify yourself with?

Trying to define who you are can be quite a tricky affair. Let’s try to answer the questiohn by ruling out that which you are not. And suddenly the process becomes much easier, especially as we start by eliminating the superficial and temporary roles that we find ourselves in. For instance- we can comfortably do away with positions in our career that we often become- I am a Senior Manager in a multinational company, or I am a Software Developer, or I am just an ordinary employee of an organization.

These are temporary roles given to us by the world. They are usually taken away or changed as easily as they get assigned to us. Moreover, you were existing before these roles and will continue to do so after they are taken away. Hence, how can they define you in your entirety? They are definitely important in the regular functioning of the transactions of the world, but not beyond that.

Next, let's come to the identities bestowed upon you in your private/ personal life. Even though they may seem permanent, they do tend to wither away in the course of our lifetime or at the least, keep changing their forms. A friend now can become an enemy later, and vice versa. When we are born, we are a child of our parents. As we grow old, we become parents ourselves, while our parents may, unfortunately, pass away, leaving us an orphan. We start our lives being someone’s nieces or nephews, grandsons, and granddaughters and end up being uncles and aunts, and grandparents. Hence, these identities too do not provide a solid and real base to identify ourselves with.

As the external identities wither away in the storms of time, all that is left is just us. But then, who are WE, really?

Let’s start with our own self. Are we the body? Surely, the body can be said to be an integral part of who we are, but the body is still not the entirety of who we are. Some people lose parts of their bodies and yet continue to exist quite completely. There are countless recorded instances of medical cases, wherein people come back after years from a situation like a coma, telling their experiences of being alive while their bodies were in a completely vegetative state. The body, hence, appears to be like our tool to experience the physical realm of our reality, pretty much like our thoughts and mind, which are mediums to experience our mental realm. At best, we can define a part of us as a mind-body system, but is that the end of us? Both mind and body can be trained by us. But who is this US that can train and make use of our mind-body tool system? The question still remains.

Before we reach a more definitive answer to this question, it is worth understanding where this confusion of identities started. It is while growing up that we are socially conditioned to believe that we are “thinking” and “feeling” personalities with a set of values, in other words- we are our psychological egos. Psychologists tell us that it is not before the age of 5 or so that this separate identity (ego) develops in us. Of course, developing the ego is a naturally conditioned phenomenon, and it does have its merits, primarily- for our survival. “You would be crushed and dead if you come under a bus,” our parents would say when we were young. “And hence, YOU have to be careful while crossing the roads”. “You must eat and exercise well, else you won’t be strong”, told our teachers. In a way, all of this conditioning was for our own benefit. But again, in one way- they are relative truths. Why? Let’s explore.

Let’s go back to the time when our ego or sense of identity was not yet formed. Remember the day when you went out to play, you fell and got injured? You bruised your hand a bit. It bled a little too. Probably you cried and showed your injury to your parents. Your mother, seeing you such, hugged you lovingly, and said reassuringly after doing the first-aid, “Don’t worry! It will heal.” And within a week, it would! Like magic, new skin, slightly pink, would cover the bruise and all would be well again. Now ask yourself this question: “Which part of YOU, of the narrow ‘I’ did the healing?

Let’s come to a more recent example. Let’s take into consideration the dinner you had last night. Did you know you produced a set of complex chemicals, like acids, peptides, etc. to digest the food, and rhythmic sensations throughout the Gastro-Intestinal Tract, making the food pass a long way of 30 feet, selectively absorbing the nutrients necessary and eliminating everything that wasn’t needed by the body, in the morning stool? Which part of your thinking, analytical, intellectual personality worked like the best food scientist in the world last night to confirm with your parents' loving advice- YOU must have proper food for good health? All I mean to say is that we are not only much beyond our external identities but even our mind-body system.

Once again, if we start analyzing the truth of who WE really are, we can at least confirm that we are a system of organs that have come together to form the organisms that we are. But there is one specific thing about these organs that I want to highlight. The heart “knows” how to pump the blood. The stomach “knows” how to digest the food. The lungs “know” how to absorb oxygen from the atmosphere and remove the unwanted CO2. Extending the same logic, the brain too “knows” how to send and receive information, through its network of neurons, and to think and plan. Don’t they sound like individuals/organisms in their own right who have come together to co-exist as an interconnected system that’s us? Why, you ask? Because again, each organ is made up of still smaller cells, who just happen to “know” what is to be done as a community.

The cells are a city, or again an organism as they contain further smaller organelles who just “know” their specific roles and carry them out on their own, without our active involvement, instruction, or even knowledge. So the aspect of all of these units that I wished to highlight was this “knowing”, or awareness, or consciousness. And this is who we intrinsically are- Awareness.

Even at an atomic level, this entity of awareness or consciousness exists. An Oxygen atom “knows” that it has to form an Oxygen molecule when it combines with another Oxygen atom, and a water molecule if it meets with 2 Hydrogen atoms, behaving in very specific ways under defined conditions. In other words, they all “know” (at their own levels of existence) how to exist in a very specific manner. All of these atoms, molecules, minerals, vitamins, nutrients, organelles, cells, and organs show this state of “knowing” or consciousness.

But does this system of awareness/consciousness stops at us individually?

No. It keeps extending. In the organism of our city, we become the organs- the heart, stomach, or brains of it. In what we call a “country”, we collectively come with our individual consciousness and become identified as a nation. And just as we get affected if one of our organs doesn’t work fine, like in a stomach upset, we also get affected by the news concerning us as a nation- like that of rape or corruption, just as we feel proud or elated as “our” country (through some individuals) bring us some medals in the Olympics.

Again, extending with that logic, we, cummulatively also form the global consciousness, including not just all the humans, but also all the beings that reside on our planet. And just like that, we also form a part of the Universal “knowing”, the Universal Consciousness.

This Universal Consciousness is what we religiously or culturally call God, the Almighty, or the All-Knowing Being. In Hinduism, this pure and All-Knowing Consciousness, which they say existed before even the existence of the universe and shall remain so after its annihilation, is referred to as Shiva.

So that’s what we are- Pure Consciousness, in the variety of forms of the Divine Manifestation. Just as the colours of the VIBGYOR all come out from the same white light, we are also different beings, vibrating at different frequencies, but coming from the same source.

It is worth noting that the nature of any system, from that of the cells to the organs, to organisms and beyond, is to keep knowing, evolving, and expanding the length, and breadth of our awareness. It is in knowing who we are beyond our separateness that is innate in us. That’s the reason we are curious, and we try to make connections or friends, who basically become the extensions of our knowledge/awareness system.

So that’s how we are much beyond the identities we are given by the world by social conditioning or those that we bestow on ourselves based on our thoughts or feelings. Who we are is a phenomenon, beautiful and undefinable, and limitless. And as awareness, our forms may change, but WE never die. The awareness just is, and it remains. Our bodies may disintegrate from what they are now, but we continue to exist through the small constituents that form us before they unite again to come in another form for the sole reason of expanding our consciousness, till we know that we are the ONE that exists- ie- Shiva!

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