Who am I?
On the path of spirituality this is a fundamental question - Who am I? To know who am I is the most fundamental question. I have asked this question to the mountains but they give me no answer. I have asked this question to the skies but they give me no answer. I asked the same question to the trees but they too give me no answer. I asked the same question to the oceans but they too give me no answer. I also asked the question to my parents but they have their own answer. They said, “We can give you the answer but that would be our answer. Our answer is not your answer. You have to find your own answer”. What a paradox? I have then asked the question to my Guru. Instead of giving me an answer, he posed a question to me. He said, “Why don’t you ask yourself?” I felt for a moment that my Guru is also like the mountains. The experiment with the mountains gave me an unique experience. The mountains were simply echoing my own question. I asked them who am I? They echoed the same question. It appeared as if they also would like to know the answer of the same question. It seemed even their quest is also the same. The skies were eluding me an answer to my fundamental question. The skies were moving the clouds here and there. The skies were indicating me that the question in my mind is like the moving clouds. The trees were telling me not to stand under the scorching hot sun and instead take shelter under their shade. The trees were telling me to take rest under the trees instead of asking the question. It appeared that the trees were telling me to relax my mind. The trees were more empathetic and caring. The trees appeared rather more relaxed and happier than me. The ocean reflected me as I am. As I was standing closer to the ocean the waves of the ocean were coming closer and closer to me. The waves of the ocean were colliding with each other and making a lot of noise. The thoughts in my mind appeared like the waves of the ocean. The thoughts were moving from one corner of the mind to the other corner of the mind. They were not only moving in the ocean of my mind but they were also colliding with each other and making a huge noise. This collision of the thoughts, this collision of the questions was a churning of my mind. And this collision creates stress and strain.
While reading some books I came across a Sufi saying which says, “I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God”. I felt at ease and remembered the words of my Guru who said : Why don’t you ask the question to yourself? I began my search. I felt that instead of searching for God it is better to search for myself. But how? This was another biggest question on the way. I can easily ask this question : Who am I? This is not a big deal now. But how to ask? What is the method? What is the process? These were other confronting questions. One basic question gave rise to many other questions. It seems the whole life is a big Q & A session. I then referred to many books of the awakened ones. They all indicated to the methodology prescribed in the Upanishads. The Upanishads refer to a method called ‘neti, neti’. Which means ‘not this, not this’. It is a method of negating oneself until there is nobody to negate. It is a method of negating everything until there is nothing to negate. Buddha called this method like the peeling of an onion. The whole process of neti, neti is like that of the peeling of the onion. It is a process of moving into all the layers of the being and reaching to the very core of the being. It is a process of removing every possible layer that is not this and not this.
When everything unwanted is removed through the process of ‘neti, neti’ (not this, not this) what is then left out is ‘eti, eti’ (only this, only this). The existential experience of this is our true self. This is our true being.