We are all human, that we agree upon but is there something more to us than the muscle and bones. We have a mind, the entity which does all the thinking and feels the emotions. Though we can never touch our mind or thoughts physically we know that they exist through our direct experience. We then wonder where the mind comes from. What happens to the thinking entity after we die? What remains of us after death? Is there a similar entity in animals and plants? What is the purpose of this existence?
When we ask ourselves the question “Who am I”. We may initially answer with things like name, profession, religion, creed, relationships etc. but we soon realise that all these are temporary details and there is more to us than what meets the eye. All these things can be compared to being the parts of a painting on a canvas. Who we are is the canvas on which our life events happen. Just as silence can’t be heard and the empty space can’t be touched, our true essence cannot be described. Every description we give to our essence are just words and explanations ultimately come under some kind of form, where as our essence is formless.
Since most of us humans don’t know the true essence we behave with a constricted idea of who we are and continuously act in ways to sustain our limited sense of self.—“Self-ish”. This state of consciousness is generally called the Ego in spiritual teachings. In egoic state we look for things to identify with ourselves. Making enemies and holding grievances builds our ego as the ego needs a “Me against him/her/them” or “Us against them” scenario to give itself energy.
The below excerpt from the Kena Upanishad sums up the essence of who we are;
Not that which the eye can see, but that whereby the eye can see;
Not that which the ear can hear, but that whereby the ear can hear;
Not that which speech can illuminate, but that by which speech can be illuminated
Not that which the mind can think, but that whereby the mind can think: know that to be your true essence.
In fact all the religions and spiritual teachings point to the same dysfunction in our thinking and point the way towards freedom. Our essence is divine and can be termed the Divine child within.
The egoic state is spiritually unconscious and the different behaviours we manifest in this state lead to suffering for ourselves, other humans, other creatures on earth and the earth itself. This seems to be part of a divine plan as the suffering itself will make us question our thoughts and behaviours and look for ways to become free. Since these behaviours are just repeated thought patterns, they are not part of our true essence.
The way to become free of our suffering is to be who we truly are by observing our patterns non-judgementally as any form of judgement is a thought and we are back in the play of form.
Anthony DeMello sums this practice beautifully in his book “Way to love”.
What you attempt is not to change yourself but to observe yourself, to study every one of your reactions to people and things, without judgment or condemnation or desire to reform yourself, your observation will be nonselective, comprehensive, never fixed on rigid conclusions, always open and fresh from moment to moment. Then you will notice a marvellous thing happening within you: You will be flooded with the light of awareness, you will become transparent and transformed.
Jesus also conveyed the true essence in us by saying “You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already within you.”
So the way to freedom not through effort and struggle but to watch the entity and the thoughts that are struggling to achieve what is already here and now. The way to go beyond our limiting behaviours is not a strife to overcome them but to watch them through knowing ourselves and then the change in our behaviours will happen on its own.