Recently I recommended one of my coaching clients read this short text by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi called “Who Am I?” Our conversation got me thinking and I decided to revisit it. In today’s “digital age” we constantly have information flung at us from every direction. It can be more work than it feels worth to separate what has value for us from what doesn’t.
It’s for this reason that I often like to revisit or discover older texts to help contextualize my personal experience beyond the confines of our contemporary age and connect to a historic lineage of inquiry and discovery. Below are five passages from the text that can be applied to our situation today.
The gross body which is composed of the seven humors, I am not; the five cognitive sense organs, viz. the senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell, which apprehend their respective objects, viz. sound, touch, color, taste, and odor, I am not; …even the mind which thinks, I am not…
This text on the power and importance of self-inquiry begins with a lengthy negation of defined identity and I think this line of thinking can be helpful for many of us. Remember that you are not the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the job title you hold, the tax bracket you’re in, etc. Your value is self-determined and happiness isn’t always linked to the things we expect it to be linked to.
There are not two minds – one good the other evil; the mind is only one. It is the residual impressions (thoughts) that are of two kinds – auspicious and inauspicious. When the mind is under the influence of auspicious impressions it is called good; and when it is under the influence of inauspicious impressions it is regarded as evil.
Don’t take negative thoughts so personally, even if they are directed at yourself. You may well be complicit in creating the conditions that allowed such thoughts to grow but you are equally capable of bringing engendering positive thoughts and actions in their place. Remember that a fractured mind is not a fact but a perception you can change.
All that one gives to oneself is given to others.
Eschew desire and hatred for others. These feelings distract you from the actual origin of those feelings. If you want to show love for your friends and family, even strangers, show love to yourself first. You will be more capable of giving and your gifts will be seen and received easier and more naturally.
Since the supreme power of God makes all things move, why should we, without submitting ourselves to it, constantly worry ourselves with thoughts as to what should be done and how, and what should not be done and how not?
To a certain extent, we need to learn to trust the ground beneath our feet. Maharshi’s example following this quote is that, boarding a train, we decide to carry our luggage on our head instead of trusting the floor of train to get the job done. How often could we be unknowingly acting on this kind of irrational fear in our daily lives?
Just as the pearl-diver ties a stone to his waist, sinks to the bottom of the sea and there takes the pearls, so each one of us should be endowed with non-attachment, dive within oneself and obtain the Self-Pearl.
Certainly fastening a stone to your waist and sinking to the bottom of the sea does not sound like a fun, or wise thing to do. But perhaps we’ve been made to think that we can get our pearls by walking into any jewelry store and swiping a card? To really dive deep and ask difficult questions is often not fun, glamorous work. But I would argue it is necessary in today’s loud, hectic “digital age.”