Nan yar ? Who am I ? This one question was Raman Maharishi‘s constant advice to everyone who sought their way to identifying with the supreme truth.
One implication in what the master suggests is obvious. To ask, “Who am I ?” of myself is to admit that I am not what I think or believe I am. But before we broach upon the positive and unspoken content within that suggestion, there is a need to understand the whole method by which our questioning and reasoning about the truth also leads us to the experience of the supreme truth. It is the summum bonum of all yoga practice — karma, bhakti, raaj and gyan.
1 Dreamed In
A man’s life, his daily and extraordinary experiences, are his mind that sucks the person into itself and keeps him, like the dreamer inextricably absorbed in his dream. The dream and the dreamer are inseparable until the dream is suffused with his subjectivity, lending reality to people, things and events occuring in the dream, making them really happen to oneself. One then eats the mango in the dream and feels happy of its flavour. It fills our appetite. Or, one would walk miles and feel tired in his bones. One would take care at a river bank to avoid slipping into the water and getting wet. And we would be frantic, miserable with fear facing a lion staring at us while letting out a bone chilling roar. Our cries for help and our prayer to be saved would be real. The suffused subjectivity is psychologically viscous enough to absorb us into the dream, trapping our self in the thick of the dream.
2 Dreamed At
Sometime, I or someone will find this dream defined being unsatisfactory. We would make an effort to reclaim ourselves for our own self, perhaps at creating an objective way to be in, and as I choose for myself, or be at our own leisure without anything or anyone other than myself to qualify my being. While thus applied, one of the first result of our effort gathers our subjectivity back to oneself, as it happens in a half dream state when we know we are the audience to this objectively perceived dream playing out before us, like a moving picture on celluloid screen or a drama enacted on stage. Then, just then, I know that I am apart from the dream, which however affects me because of habitual associations I passively allow to remain in effect, to continue to lend reality to the play, until I hear the alarm or otherwise decide to heave myself up.
3 Dreamed Out
Our self effort to reclaim ourselves would one day result in us being adequately empowered against every cause affecting our self, every effect they might impress on myself, feelings, emotions and will, thoughts or ideas, and potential to resurface as memory at a moment in future. to qualify my feelings once again. But no more. As a result of my self effort, I am sharply aware at all times of what is I, me and mine, and all that is non-I. I can feel and watch the latter come in every one of their myriad forms and it particular power to affect me. There is never a time when I am un- or ill-prepared to deal with their approach, their power to claim my subjectivity and decide for myself. As a result, I am fully awake to myself and every thing or person in my environment, what they truly mean to me in terms of value, relevance and irrelevance, and obligations due to each. The critical eye is all time open, awake and available to me. There is never a possibility, even remotely, of an error on my part in setting my priority or of failing to act as appropriate when due. I am not assailed by the thought of any happening or event in future nor does the past mean anything other than what I choose for it to be. There is never a dream in my life anymore. There is a mind I constantly watch over, and use as I will, but not a faintest chance of me being sucked into it.
4 Dream Free
Finally, I am ever away from all things and people, feelings and emotins, mind and will and thought. Even the thought of myself, of being local to a body form, disappears. There is nothing dead anymore, nothing alive, nothing other than I, which I am pervading all, being all, and immanent. I am the Self, being and witnessing the Self. I am One without a second.
* * *
To illustrate the method…
There was a time when I’d concentrate on a hypothetical situation : say, travelling at speed of light.
One, I — the observer — would have a rest mass extended to infinity, regardless what I weighed on earth.
Two, I would be a photon — light — for nothing else is known to move at the speed of light.
Given one and two above, I would be diffused all over the universe, illuminating every point of space (and every speck of matter) in it.
But where then would I be moving from or to ? Since I would be already be everywhere, my own speed (at that of light) makes no sense just then, even while the hypothesis has ordained that phenomenal event.
Reasonably, one, I would be in a state of infinite rest, forever exceeding all bodies that would have disappeared into irredeemable past.
Two, I would ever precede all forms that now fill the universe and all events which then seemed to be in endless future.
Thus, there is I and nothing other than I; never was otherwise, ever will thus be.
I immanent, without a second.
* * *
Well, what do I apply the method on ?
I What am I when I am dead ? It was famously the first realisation of Raman Maharshi, in his actually simulated experience while chose to lay dead, breathless and totally withdrawn, without sense, feeling or thought. Dead yet conscious as a witness but without a sense or even the faintest of memory of what or who I thought I was.
II What am I while I am deep asleep, without a sense or a dream ? I am one with Vitality Universal, Prana, of which all body is infused with life, the heart beats and organs works, and of which every life is powered. It is I, all life, exceeding each and all collectively, making time in the biological clock ticking in every being.
III What am I while I dream in ? I am the lord of this body-mind-karma complex unit, creating all by myself these animate and inanimate forms in the dream for karmic experience of the one who is caught in the dream. I am the Soul or Atman, the reflection of One Universal in this body mind unit, witnessing and aiding the entrapped ego-for-itself-being to experience, learn, and liberate itself.
IV What am I while I am dream at ? I am the ego-for-itself-being, then caught while dreaming in, with the sense of who I am in this body, with this mind, these thoughts and impressions of experiences from before. I inexhaustably desire to be happy, joyous and pleased, and am forever daunted by the electable task of attaining resolute equanimity, fixed calm and abiding peace. I bring my disquiet and my dissatisfactions to this being, this world of mine, while I am awake. I tire of them and go back to dream and fall deep asleep but begin anew when I am awake with the same desires, same thirst for more of the same.
V What am I when I have dreamed out ? I have empowered myself against the hold and power of desires upon myself, against passing frames of affections, emotions and wills. I have acquired the capacity to unwaveringly focus on chosen goals, values — justice, beauty and common good than personal pleasure or indulgence — and I firmly keep a clear perspective of life in view to direct myself to the right path, with decisions proper by my moral and ethical expectations.
When we stand beside our new, gorgeous looking car, beaming with pride, to pose for the camera, we identify ourself with our valuable possession saying to ourself, “I am the owner of this beauty.”
The onlooker can see the car and the man, err, the clothed body of the man. He is not able though to see the “I” the man is silently alluding to.
Where is the I ?
What is the stuff it is constituted of ?
Admittedly, it impossible to place it on the table in order to study it. It will still prove elusive even after the man is carefully disected into pieces. Yet, as sure as sunrise on eastern horizon in the morning, there is this I we are certain of before all else, of this mind, its feelings and thoughts.
Happy discoveries !