Who am I ?
The question occurs to most of us at one time or another, and to spiritual types, the philosophically inclined, and teenagers perhaps a bit more often.
Having spent decades in one kind of spiritual practice or another, this question recurred with the frequency of a metronome, increasing as the years passed.
At first, the answer to the identity question concerned morality /external activity.
A spiritual person does not act like _____.
As time passed, the emphasis felt more internal.
Less about action, more about the imagined doer of the action.
I am a ________, so therefore I _______.
In all cases, the identity was a label, mind created, fleshed out with imagined attributes, tendencies and values.
For example: ” I am a vegetarian. I do not eat oppress sentient beings by consuming their flesh gleefully.”
Then one day you are at someone’s house for dinner and the main course is a meat dish.
There may be a way to skillfully get around eating the meat ( have extra vegetables and salad) or likewise to justify eating the meat. ( good manners )
Either way, the crux around which the experience revolves remains a mind-created identity.
How does anyone know you are vegetarian, unless you tell them ?
How do you know, unless you say ” I am a vegetarian ” to yourself ?
Or remember a desire to eat a meatless diet ?
Memory is merely thought.
Identity exists in memory.
Long before getting to Ramana Maharshi’s “Who am I ” as the classic inquiry into ultimate nature , there are lots of intermediate “I”s that will pop up.
I am a Freemason.
I am a Libertarian.
I am a great bowler/angler/cook.
I am a lousy dancer/card player/mechanic.
It was my experience that the interaction with the Sangha jewel helped to get these identities out into full conscious awareness so that they could be seen through and allowed to evaporate.
The process might be quite embarrassing.
For instance, supposed you are good at ” x “.
Someone needs help with ” x “.
You offer to help them with ” x “.
You have knowledge, training, experience.
They decline the offer of help.
You feel … what ? Put off ? Stifled ? Unappreciated ? Unrespected ?
Don’t they know WHO YOU ARE ?
There it is. Right there.
The manufacture of identity.
Who. You. Are.
Identity = identification with any thing, in this case, with the imagined owner of certain values, practices, or abilities.
This actually happened while attending a week long retreat when one of the teachers announced that she felt ill.
I had both a remedy for her on hand as well as a treatment for her condition.
She cheerfully rebuffed both.
The ballooning of identity following that rejection was the most valuable element to arise in that week’s practice.
I got to clearly see how I had created an image around the complementary health care training I had received over the years.
“The Healer Guy ” identity had to be seen through and dissolved, as had other identities before.
The Gateless Gate stands ready for the dissolution of the last identity.
Until then, there could be any number of identities we wear for a while
( all with various degrees of unconsciousness ) until reality raps us on the noggin and reminds that none of them are worth more than a pile of chicken feathers.
Who are you pretending to be ?
What are you getting from wearing that identity ?
The answers always lead back to self-imagery and self-gratification.
Keep seeing through and dissolving.
At some point, if you are like I was, you will get exasperated with the whole process, and turn attention toward dissolving the seeker/practitioner identity.
After that, there’s just one more identity left to go ….
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Thanks to this url for the feathers photo:
And to this url for the balloon: