Who are you? Sage Ramana Maharishi of Tiruvannamalai would often ask this question to those who sought his teaching.
The visitor would always answer by giving his/her name, to which the sage would reply, “But that’s just your name; who are you?” The query was meant to make the seeker stop and ponder on the realities of life and his inner-self. And then the saint’s next question would be, “Do you accept that you exist?”
“Yes Sir, there is a constant feeling in me that I am”. To this, the sage would say, “If you agree that ‘I am’ is a constant realisation, then become aware of all that in your life that is not constant, and you will understand who you are.
Your body is always changing, your mind even more so; so obviously these are not ‘you’. That which is always constant within is the sense of ‘I am’. Realise and sink into this real identity which is beyond name and form but which is the very basis of your life.”
Most of us don’t realise that the self-identity we carry is only a product of the mind, a sum total of all our experiences till now.
These experiences are bound into our consciousness through memory and what we call ‘me’ is just this bundle of memories of past experiences.
As we live on and our experiences increase in volume, this self-identity or the alter-ego takes on a life of its own and starts reacting to every new situation on its own terms.
The alter ego takes over our perception and makes us a prisoner of our own conditioning.
To be free of this narrow self-identity is the spiritual liberation that every human must seek.
But to awaken into such freedom requires tremendous energy; and it is not possible for most people to invoke it by themselves. For them, what is needed is a Guru who can impart the energy boost required for the journey.
Until one realises that individuality is an illusion, one is not free.