Friday, July 18, 2008

Who Am I ?

It has occurred to me a number of times that --- if we were somehow able to "forget who we are" --- we might have a much better chance of finding out our truer identity.

This may seem like a strange idea, but I don't think it is.

Who we think we are is a construct of our minds. It is said that we wear different "masks" depending on whether we are acting as the father of the family; the manager at a company; a member of a sport's team.

Underneath these masks is what we believe to be a "true" identity, but this is not so. We are a product of genetics, our environment throughout our lives, and the way we adjust to these things. This adjustment is unconscious, semi-conscious and conscious at very times. We form concepts of who we are and then we "live" up to them. One concept or a group of them gives birth to new concepts --- all of which form the construct of our identity, which may be aptly called our "ego" or perhaps not. Whatever we call it --- it is who we think we are.

The idea of finding our true self is found in many religions.

St. Paul spoke of the "old man" (the ego?) being crucified with Christ, and as a result a "new man" (new self?) would rise with the risen Jesus.

Jesus, himself, in Matthew says -- For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. This can be interpreted as forgetting or losing one's construct of one's self -- so that another may be discovered and absorbed. When this occurs, it is not as though the individual "born again" has no connection with what came before --- but the self image has been shattered in order than a new a more correct, more life giving will arise. In this case it might be called the Christ image or self.

In Shin (Pure Land) Buddhism, the person discovers that he/she can not through self power be "saved", "liberated" -- orwhatever term you wish to use. This individual turns to Amida, the Buddha of Compassion (and Wisdom) --- and relies solely on Amida's grace to create a inner transformation. The individual "steps aside" and allows Amida to "be in the driver's seat". She/he from then on lives a life without pretense, simple, natural --- not attempting to be this person or that, i.e. to live with an eye on his supposed "construct" or image. No longer required to be "this way or that" the human being can allow a new and truer self to emerge.

In Hinduism, especially in its Vedantic teachings --- an individual's true Self is not the constructed self or ego --- but a spark of the divinity, absolute or Brahman -- which is within us and simple called The Self. In this case, the process is allowing the constructed self to weaken so that the essential Self can take its place. Through some type of spiritual practice (sadhana) the devotee scrapes away or disperses the mists that obscure her/ his real Self.

Again, though, one person will not be the same as another in non-essential or relative ways.