We use the word 'I ' a
number of times a day, but we have never tried to think what is the real
meaning of this word. What does this word I' signify ?
Thinking ordinarily, you
can say that there is nothing in the word requiring deep thinking. Do we
not understand who 'I' am? You can also reply, "I am a child or a young
man or I am a man, a woman, a scholar or a rich merchant." But my question
is, "Are you not something else than these ?" All these are only synthetic
accidental modifications of various objects, only externally visible.
What I mean to say is
this. If you are a child, childhood is to come to an end some day, but you
will continue to exist even afterwards. Therefore, you can't be a child.
Likewise, you cannot also be a young man. Childhood and youth are the
changes of the body and the word 'I' does not indicate body. I am sure you
do not regard your body as your own self.
Same way, you are a rich
man, because of your possession of wealth, but wealth and riches are going
to disappear. When wealth disappears, will you also disappear ?
Scholarship is the name of knowledge of a few books. Did you not exist
when you had no knowledge of such books ? If you did exist, it appears
that you are different from riches and scholarship i.e., you are not a
rich man or a scholar.
The question then arises
"Who am I"? It is not difficult to find an answer to this, if it rises in
the depth of the heart and you are really inquisitive about the solution.
This 'I' has forgotten the self in his pursuit of all else. How strange
that the seeker has forgotten the seeker himself ! The whole world is so
busy in taking care of others that it has no time to think "Who am I" ?
Different from body,
mind, speech, delusion, attachment, aversion and even from the intellect
aiming at others, I am an everlasting, pure, eternally conscious being
having all bliss and sentience, and never changing.
For example, a man
forgets that he is an Indian, in the thick cover of provincialism and
thinks that he is a Bengalee, a Madrasi or a Punjabi. Indian nationalism
thus stands divided in the deep feelings of provincialism. In the same
way, the soul sinks deep in the clouds of oneness with the realisation
that one is a man, a god, a masculine, a feminine, a child or a yougeman.
Why should, therefore, we forget that we are animate sentient beings,
amidst the cries of being possessed of wealth or learning, or being a
child or an old man, just as our leaders ask us to remember that we are
Indian first, Madrasees or Bengalees afterwards ?
Just as every Indian
should strongly feel that he is an Indian in order to preserve the unity
of Bharat, for such a feeling is the only way to protect that unity, in
the same way the strong feeling of being a soul is very necessary in order
to get a correct answer to the question "Who am I" ?
So I am only an animate
being different from wife, son, house, riches, money and even my body.
Delusions, attachments and aversions, that rise in the soul, being not
part of its nature and transitory, do not come within the limits of the
soul, and the petty development of our knowledge depending upon other
objects, is not able to throw light on our perfect supreme consciousness.
The fully developed manifestation of our consciousness, too since it is
not eternal, cannot be accepted as our everlasting, perfect and
indivisible soul, because soul is a substance, while this fully developed
state is only a modification of the attribute of consciousness.
The real meaning of 'I'
is an eternal indestructible element existing in all the three divisions
of time i.e. past, present and future. So long as we do not develop the
feelings of sameness with this sentient indestructible everlasting element
i.e. our soul, to the question "Who am I" ?
The soul that we
describe with the word 'I' is a subject of our inner vision and a matter
of experience. It cannot be achieved by external activities of any kind.
It cannot be bound with mental thoughts, because it is a matter of our
soul awareness. It cannot also be achieved with the help of sensual
perceptions, because senses only feel touch, taste, smell, colour and
sound and can only be instruments in the knowledge of inanimate objects.
These senses cannot be even passive causes of the knowledge of our souls.
This soul substance, an
object of our experience, is a solid mass of consciousness and bliss. It
is all purity, different from the subjects of senses and other feelings.
Its separateness from other external inclinations and oneness with
consciousness and other supreme attributes are its purity. It is one and
the oneness of its countless attributes is its unity. Such a soul is soul
alone, nothing else, all alone and self-sufficient. I have nothing that I
can give others, and being perfect in myself, I do not stand in the need
of cooperation from any external being.
This soul is above the
intricacies of the spoken word, known only to our own experience. The
first step towards its realisation is the study of the elements, but that
realisation will arise after discarding all the thoughts about the soul
Who am I ?" is a matter
of our awareness, and our answer to this question has to be received from
our own inner realisation. It cannot be expressed in words or writings.
Words and writings can only make indications about this supreme being,
they can point towards the direction, but cannot bring about its
Dr. H.C. Bharill