What would you say if I ask you who are you?
A fictitious conversation explaining the deeper meaning of our identity based on Gita -by Bhaskarananda Das
Devotee: Who are you?
John: “I am John”
Devotee: Well, that’s your name. You existed before you were named. If you were born in India, you could be named after three months. What about that?
John: Thats interesting, funny. Alright. Well, I am an American.
Devotee: Well, you grew up in America. That’s what made you American. If you were to be born in Russia, you would be Russian. Isnt it?
John: Yes. I would like to eat chocolates.
Devotee: That’s your taste.
John: I like sports,.. OK my hobbies, got it. I am very cool guy. I can do flips.
Devotee: That’s your activities/talents.
John: I am a sober person.
Devotee: That’s your nature.
John: I am a father.
Devotee: Thats your role. You existed before being father.
John: I was a boy. I was young. Now I am in forties.
Devotee: Good we are getting somewhere. Again that’s your body growing. But you are the same person.
John: Well, my personality has changed.
Devotee: Of course, your knowledge, intelligence now is different from child’s. But you are still same person because you are the connecting link between all the phases of life. Your mother will see you as same person. She will not kick you out of home because you look different now. Isn’t it?
John: I hope not. She loves me more than anything else. Well, I give up. You tell me who I am?
Devotee: Come on, are you saying you don’t know who you are. OK I will help you out. Are you this body?
John: Yes, in one sense. People recognize me.
Devotee: Thats true. Lets say, God forbid, you loose two legs in accident , you would be still alive and your friends will be shocked but they will treat you friendly, right?
Devotee: That means you are not just bJody parts or combination of body parts. Your thoughts, your desires make you right? You are more than that. What about your mind? Does it define you?
John: Yes. I got it now. I am what I think. I am the mind. That should be the answer.
Devotee: Nope! You say your mind or your thoughts. That means you have mind but not that you are mind. Besides, mind is place holder for all your desires, beliefs, convictions, fears, likes, dislikes, emotions like love, hate etc. Someone should experience them or access them and it has to be beyond mind.
John: Agree. That applies for intelligence also, right?
Devotee: Yes. Intelligence is a tool for planning, weighing different options, deciding the best options. etc. Thats someone is doing intellectual work beyond intelligence. What is the most basic quality everyone has?
John: Everyone is alive for sure!
Devotee: Yes. That’s exactly the point.
Devotee: Yes, everyone is alive and conscious, aware of themselves. Awareness, consciousness are the symptoms only for living things. Not for dead people or matter. Not even sophisticated computers. They don’t feel the happiness if they beat a human opponent in chess. They don’t dance in ecstasy Unless, you program it to do few steps. But does machine really feel the joy?
John: No. They are are just dumb. They will do whatever you program to do.
Devotee: That’s exactly right. That means a person is aware and he can do few things without being told by anyone or so called programming. Its free will. We can decide. The machines cant do that unless they are programmed.
John: So, what are we? simply some free will persons?
Devotee: Isn’t it great. We can have choice at any point of time. Isn’t freedom worth it?
John: Yes, definitely. I don’t want to be dumb like machine. So, we are persons with freedom, aware and conscious?
Devotee: Yes. And more than that.
John: What else?
Devotee: This consciousness comes because of the presence of soul. The soul is one ten thousandth tip of the end of hair.
John: That’s so small. Are you saying we are so tiny?
Devotee: Yes, but that doesn’t mean we are less. When the soul leaves the body, the body is dead.. Nothing can bring it back. So, in one sense its much more valuable than millions of dollars or even the Sun. The sun can burn but he cant bring a dead man to life.
John: Got it. But, doesn’t scientists say that they are going to discover the secret of life? Then we don’t have to die again.
Devotee: Well, they have been saying it for many years. I would believe only if they can prove it. Without proof, I cant listen anything.
John: Thats true, its all just talk.
Devotee: Yes, we are talking now! Although the soul is so small, consciousness is spread over one’s body.
John: Does it mean elephant has bigger soul?
Devotee: No, the soul is same size. But the consciousness is spread all over one’s body.
John: I guess, each one of us is soul and the consciousness is spread over one’s body separately
Devotee: You get five stars. That’s true. Each one is conscious of his or her own body.
John: Does it include animals, fish, birds etc?
Devotee: Why not? They are also living like us. They also grow, reproduce, get old and die and we cant bring them back to life after death. At least I have not seen any scientist bringing any cat or dogs life back. It happens only in Hollywood movies!
John: So, we are souls with consciousness, awareness, and have free will. So, what does it mean by be oneself?
Devotee: Be oneself means, act like soul. Not the one who thinks he is American or Indian or European etc.
John: Is it wrong to think oneself American?
Devotee: Nothing wrong but that’s not what we are. We are souls who happen to take birth in America.
John: So soul takes birth?
Devotee: What do you think?
John: I think so, Soul is conscious from the baby, so I guess soul is taken birth.
Devotee: Is consciousness material? or made up of chemicals? No, we already discussed. No scientist can bring life back. So, its not made up of matter or chemicals. It has to be something non material.
John: What do you mean by non material? We should have been made with something special material element, which we don’t know!
Devotee: So, are you saying we are made of some material element that can be self conscious like human being? I have never any material element that’s self-conscious and self-aware.
John: OK. my bad. I got it. It has to be non material.
Devotee: Yes, its non material or we call it spiritual.
John: Wow, so, we are not material. What a relief! I have been thinking my whole life I am just bunch of chemicals or thoughts or IQ. I feel good about it already.
Devotee: , knowing is only half the equation. Being soul is another half equation.
John: Hmm. how can we be soul?
Devotee: Well, being soul means, be yourself. Not depending on the ideas that come from mind or some other identity like wife, husband, son, daughter, Indian, American etc. We are conscious living beings.
John: So, how can we be on that platform all the time?
Devotee: Well, that needs some training. We need to practice being ourselves by not identifying ourselves or getting attached to those identities.
John: Well, at least I am not attached to those identities.
Devotee: OK. You know whether you are attached or not if anyone criticizes you or praises you.
John: So, whats wrong with being elated if someone praises?
Devotee: Nothing wrong. But we are affected by praise means we identifying with something and we got approval for that identity. Similarly, we feel little sad when someone criticizes us. That means we are not on soul level.
John: OK soul level means no feelings or emotions?
Devotee: No, I didn’t say that. That means not being influenced by praise or blame or loss or gain or acceptance or rejection etc. We can have feeling, emotions but at end of day we should not be hung up on those ideas or influenced and act up on those identities.
John: What happens if we act up on those identities?
Devotee: We will make wrong decisions. And wrong decisions cause troubles. Like, if we think we are Software Engineers, we become attached to it and when we get fired or retired, we feel like our life is done. We take long time to get rid of that identity and take some other identity. If we were to be on soul level, then we know that its only temporary role we are playing and we are actually beyond all these temporary roles.
John: So, what do we do then?
Devotee: We do things what we do now but we will be doing with better knowledge. Because of being neutral, we will not hooked up to those identities and not disturbed when something happens.
John: OK. So, we will be happy?
Devotee: yes, soul is conscious and blissful by nature.
John: How can it be blissful?
Devotee: Because its conscious and with out any false identities and being one real self can make us really be blissful and then no miseries can affect your consciousness.
John: So, are you saying our consciousness can affected by somethings?
Devotee: Yes, very much so. It can be affected by material objects, gadgets, Internet, sports, anything for that matter.
John: So how do we live this world?
Devotee: We live in this world without being affected by them. That’s the success.
John: That seems impossible to me.
Devotee: Nothing is impossible. It takes time and patience to practice to be in that consciousness.
John: Is there any secret to this?
Devotee: yes, its regular practice of mantra meditation.
John: How can mantra meditation help us?
Devotee: Because mantras are certain sounds that affect the soul. Just like, a certain frequency of sound can make us awake, scared, or even deaf, similarly certain sounds can make soul to be soul.
John: Wow. Thats awesome. What’s that mantra?
Devotee: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. This mantra sound slowly puriies the soul and it will enable us to realize who we are.
John: Thank you. When can I chant?
Devotee: You can chant any time, no hard and fast rules. Thats the best part of this. No need to learn complicated postures or breathing exercises. Just chant before eating, after eating, before sleeping , when you wake up, while sitting, while standing, any time.
John: Do I have to give up anything?
Devotee: If you want to get best results, its better to stop few things like, eating meat, drinking, smoking, drugs, gambling, illicit sex (outside marriage).
John: Why these rules?
Devotee: Because as long as our mind disturbed by these sinful acts/reactions, we cant focus fully on chanting. It will help ourselves free from sinful reactions which bind the soul to material influence very strong like being tied up with rope.
John: OK. Got it. What if I can’t stop?
Devotee: You should try your level best. Its possible. It may take time but its worth it.
John: I will try Thank you for sharing the wisdom.
Devotee: Thank you. Hare Krishna.Its all there in Gita. Chant Hare Krishna and try to read Gita. Everything will be revealed slowly.