What am I?
This is a better question than ‘Who am I’. Many wise people suggest asking ‘who am I’ as a way to deflate ego, develop humility, and become more agreeable with others. However, the most reasonable answer to this question is a bunch of roles. Like being a human being, citizen, father, son, worker, etc. But then the suggested answer would be that I am a soul!
The question ‘what am I’ is a more direct way of knowing oneself or perceiving oneself. The correct answer would be ‘pure existence’. i.e. I am pure existence, which is an awareness of existing, or just pure Being, in no particular framework of any kind. I am pure Consciousness, which is conscious of itself. I may have many names and roles and assets and talents and feelings and whatever else. But I in itself is just pure existence, or awareness or Consciousness.
Meditation helps me become aware of my being pure awareness. Everything else falls away like scales from eyes. Nothing matters. What am I? Same as What is You! Same as What is everything else. We are all the same … overall Awareness, the Consciousness.
The right question goes a long way!
Today we moved into a beautiful Vastu house in Maharishi Vedic City. A Vastu design follows a branch of the Vedas called Sthapatya Veda. Vastu houses are supposed to be completely aligned with all the laws of nature, and are considered health- and fortune-giving. Vastu is named after Vastu Devata (god) who is supposed to give health and wealth. Vastu houses are distinctive in how they strictly align with nature, and with the movement of the Sun, with East being the most favored direction.
Maharishi Vedic City was incorporated in Iowa by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as a township in about 2001, with the express purpose of establishing a Vedic way of living. Said to be the first Vedic village since the Vedic times, it is a small city with its own mayor. It is an experiment in government by natural law. The layout of the town is designed completely according to Vastu guidelines. Most of the residents of the city are white. These white desis, as I call them, are completely Vedic at heart. They are all long-standing practitioners of Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi techniques.
We are a rare family of Indian origin living in this Vedic city. It will be a nice experiment for us to discover the health and wealth giving power of Vastu homes, and Vastu devata! Stay tuned!
In the last couple of weeks, I had long fulfilling conversations on spirituality and Moksha with two young people in their 20s. Both are Computer Science students, with one doing a bachelor’s degree and the other doing a master’s degree. One is a male and another is a female. One is a student on my own university campus and the other is on another university where I had recently visited to give a technology seminar based on my Data Analytics book. Both students happened to be from Hindu backgrounds, but neither is from India.
Both said that they were deeply spiritual people, and they were always concerned about how might technology and spirituality co-exist. I said I was a living example, and they felt reassured. Of course, there are many other IT people who have even become full-time spiritual people. I also said that spirituality is all encompassing, and it includes everything including technology, management, society, and all other fields. In fact, spiritual technologies can accelerate the path to moksha.
Both also said their conversations with their classmates and friends were not too fulfilling since others could not communicate with the others at the level that they found fulfilling. One described the conversations as being more about questions and answers about manifested things, and it was difficult to describe to their friends their deep spiritual experiences that had changed their view of the world. The charm they found in their inner journey was very enjoyable, but not necessarily describable. The other student was curious whether spirituality could help technological solved problems more creatively.
I wished them great progress in their spiritual journey. Enlightenment is very easy to achieve if one innocently wished for it, but does not obsessively try hard to find it in the world outside. It will come when one is ready. This is the same message I gave my two friends in the summer when they said that don’t give me this Bliss s**t.
Who are we?
That is a perennial question asked by all philosophers and seekers of life. The question can be best answered at two different levels.
At one level we are all Pure Being, the unbounded absolute infinite Consciousness that pervades the universe. At another level, we are all discrete and unique beings, differentiated by mind, body, ability, DNA, ethnicity, and so on.
- At the first level we are pure unbounded existence while the second level we are doing and thinking machines or entities clothed in our physical bodily existence.
- At the first level we see ourselves as living in bliss consciousness, while at the second level we seek happiness in exchanges of mental and physical products with other entities.
- At the first level we are eternal spirit – unborn and undying. At the second level we are born and then we die. At this level, we can become afraid of death. So we worry about many things, become greedy, and save resources to better guard against death.
- To live at the first level, we transcend our mind and senses using any of many techniques such as meditation. Living at the second level seems simple and easy, as we can access our mind and body through the use of our ordinary senses and supporting instruments.
- At the second level we are all separate and each defined individually by our ego- consciousness, while at the first level we are all one together as nature and defined by our eco-consciousness.
This is a primary distinction in life. Ignorance of this basic piece of knowledge of who we are is a source of many challenges in living life properly. How we see ourselves depends upon our state of consciousness. From an ego consciousness, we appear to be this body and mind and others, just as others too have their own body and mind, and we interact with them to exchange materials ideas and so on. However, we all have a higher self. Not knowing it is the first and biggest fallacy. There are techniques to learn about the higher self just as there are techniques to learn the bodily and mental self. Our trained and disciplined mind is the biggest instruments for learning about the higher self. What we pay attention to grows in our consciousness.
However, this distinction may be of little interest to the poor who do not get even two pieces of bread every day. Meeting their basic physical needs becomes their primary challenge in life, and they do not have the time or energy to transcend. Similarly, this knowledge may be of little interest to the super rich for whom material abundance and physical pleasures have become intoxicating, and who do not believe in the transcendent. This knowledge is perhaps most useful for the middle-of-the-roader , the seeker of a blissful life, free from pain and miseries. If interested, one can learn more at tm.org.
A good friend recently said,”do not give me this bliss s**t”. It is all a mind game, he said. Another good friend said, “you say you live in bliss, but I don’t see you so.” Both of these people are longtime friends from India, intellectuals with PhD degrees, who are comfortably settled in the US.
To the first friend, I said that there are over 700 scientific published studies that show the benefits of meditation, and that one can enjoy good health, happiness and bliss. That did not convince him. So, I spoke from personal experience, and how my moksha experience led me to write my book ‘Moksha’. That did not convince him. Come to our town and if you do not feel peace in your heart, I will pay you a substantial sum of money. That got him going. In essence, he said that Moksha is a very big thing, and it cannot be achieved by a simple process. He said he had been meditating off and on, and he did not get any benefit. His mom meditated all life and did not reach anywhere near there. I said it also depends upon the strength of desire, and one cannot will the desire. He said that desire alone cannot produce anything. So, I felt best to let go of the argument, and let him take his own time to be ready.
To the second friend, I said that bliss is an intensely subjective experience, and there is no way another person can experience it. One just have to believe it or feel it. Also, that bliss experience can come and go, depending upon continued practice of meditation. I also said that I was given the Maharishi award recently for bringing bliss to the community. I could see that he did not believe my story on Moksha and therefore had not bothered to read my book even though he had it.
I feel that most people are completely conditioned to no-pain-no-gain theory. If bliss is that good, it must take a lot of time and expertise and effort, they argue. However, bliss is an effortless accomplishment. Bliss is our true nature. One does not need a complicated process to achieve it. However, one does need a strong desire for it, which would overshadow other worldly desires. I feel that not everyone has the desire to escape the stresses of modern life, and reach out for their god-given gift of bliss. The book is an attempt to inspire that desire in others.
A really enlightening but imaginary conversation.
God: Welcome to God’s house. What do you want?
Bernie: Please make me the democratic candidate for President.
God: That is a good idea. But why do you want to become President?
Bernie: The country is up for sale. All politicians are corrupt. They are busy filling their own pockets. We have to save the country. We have to give hope to the people.
God: That too is a good idea. But do you really want to become President? It is a tough job.
Bernie: I have been a mayor. I can run the country too.
God: Ok. How will you run the country? The entire political establishment is against you.
Bernie: This is a political revolution. It will throw up new leaders. The Constitution does not give any political establishment the right to power forever.
God: Logically you are right. But your revolution will create a lot of uncertainty. Who knows what will happen. Even we Gods see a danger in this. People may even refuse to follow us.
Bernie: People power is absolute. Anything is possible.
God: What if robots take advantage of this power vacuum? They can snatch power from the people!
Bernie: Right now, there is little chance of that happening. But you are right. Anything is possible.
God: Will have to think some more. Meanwhile ask for something for you personally.
Bernie: I have heard these days you are easily giving away long life to people. I am already 73 years old. Give me 30-40 more years, so I can take this revolution pretty far.
God: So shall it be.
Identity (of the self) is a fundamental concept that one develops about oneself that evolves over time. A fixed identity composed of name, relationships, and belongings keeps one locked in small self.
How can one proactively evolve or transform one’s identity? First step would be to locate and unfreeze the current identity. Research has shown that there is a part in the brain that is responsible for one’s memory and identity. That part is hippocampus (seahorse-shaped) in the middle of the brain. To transform one’s identity is to change the flexibility of that part of the brain.
Yagyas such as AtiRudraAbhishekam when done properly are a great way for self-transformation. Ashwamdetha yagyas are another way to achieve that. Coming from the Vedic tradition, the Ashvamedha is a ritual used by great Indian kings to expand their imperial sovereignty. A stallion would be released to wander for a period of one year. Whatever area the horse would cover in a year, unless challenged, would belong to the king. Then the horse is sacrificed.
There are two ways to explain the change in identity: Imagination and Transcendence.
Ashwamedha yagyas lets the king’s horse roam freely to as far as it can. Similarly, if the mind is free to imagine itself in the most expansive terms, it could be the broadening or expansion of identity. All of that territory becomes the mind’s. That is the way to understand it from an object-referral method.
Ashwamedha yagyas is also seen as the sacrificing the horse. Sacrificing the specificity-oriented mind to give way to a wholeness-oriented self, is the self-referral way of explaining self-transformation. That identity of specificity has to be erased and identity of wholeness has to settle in.
Transcendence is the forgetting of specificity and stepping into wholeness. Transcendental Meditation is an effective and proven method for self-transcendence. While both are complementary concepts, Self-transformation through transcendence may be more desirable than self-expansion through imagination.