Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

"Who Am I?"
Madathil Nair

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(This material was posted to the Advaitin Email Group, Nov 2007 )

In his upadesha sAra, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi equates self-enquiry to a continuous sort of reflection (sarala-chintana) which is like the pouring of ghee in an unbroken string or the smooth flow of a stream. Self-enquiry, therefore, is not simply sitting and repeating the question "Who am I?" without doing anything.

Such reflection is the traditional neti, neti (understanding the body, mind, ego etc. for what they really are) which leads one to the non-negatable substratum of "I am" that answers the "Who am I?" enquiry.

This reflection is something that can be practised during free time. After a while, the practice naturally grows on the seeker to grant him an awareness of himself that is quite contrary to his erstwhile assumptions of himself.

From then on, the awareness remains an evident background whatever one does in his mundane roles, i.e. despite the innumerable demands of the roles, the role-performer remains awareness - unperturbed and untouched. That is the "I am" default of Nisargadatta Maharaj if I understand him right. I would even venture to say that constant reflection would let this awareness percolate into dreams and enlighten the darkness of sleep so that ultimately the seeker metamorphoses into eternal wakefulness, which is his real nature.

You can engage yourself in algebra problems or in conversation. But, if you practise the reflection so kindly prescribed by Bhagavan, a time will soon come when you will be yourself despite the demands of algebra and chatter on your brain and tongue, which you are not in any way and with which you don't identify any more.

Attention is a limited commodity. You cannot attend to or concentrate on more than one thing at a time.

Here is a way you can walk back to Yourself from the above statement. When you concentrate on something, you are not aware of yourself because attention is a limited commodity. So, when you are attentive to things one after another in a continuous stream, do you exist or not? You definitely exist. That is why you are aware of other things. So, the awareness of things other than you validates only your existence - "I am". You are every bit of what you are aware of. If that is the case, you are the one appearing as this multiplicity. You know that you can't be a multiplicity because you are One. So, the multiplicity is simply negatable. What remains is then "I am". You have now answered the "Who am I?" question of Bhagavan and found the Unity in diversity.

You are the twinkle of the stars, the peal of thunder, the roar of the oceans. Yet, you are "You Are" - the "I am" which is the only answer there to the question "Who am I?"

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