Every human being, at some point in their lives, will come up with the same questions... Who am I? What is my purpose on earth? Why am I here? Why did this thing/event/situation happen to me? Why ME??
For some people its a natural state of thought process to be contemplative. For some people these questions arise after retirement when they have plenty of free time to think about life.. and for some people these questions only come after a traumatic experience in life; when suddenly they realize, life on earth is delicate.
In Sanskrit the term for such inquiry/ exploration is called विचार vicara (pronounced Vi-Chaa- ra). Doing vicara about the self helps one to understand, and realize, who we really are. I intend to guide you along atmavicara over the next few posts, to see where we commonly get stuck, and how to come out of it.
We are born with natural identification to different objects and things, which we believe we are. We can't help but think differently actually, unless we do vicara and discover the reality behind it. We grow up placing our sense of "I" in the body. However the body is, I am. If the body is in great shape, attractive and beautiful, I naturally feel the same. But if my body is overweight, weak and feeble, I also feel the same. My entire sense of well being, my sense of existence, confidence, and place in this world, seems to depend on how attractive my body is!
And to top it off, as much as placing our "I" in our bodies, we also place your "you" in your body! I saw an inspiring clip today which beautifully presented this, as said by Dustin Hoffman talking about the film Tootsie. He was to be dressed as a woman, and was surprised to see that he was physically not as attractive as he felt inside:
""Now make me look like a woman. Make me a beautiful woman"... Cause i wanted to be as beautiful as possible. They said, "this is as good as it gets" [...] It was at that moment that i had an epiphany and I ran home and started crying talking to my wife. [..] I think i am an interesting woman, when i look at myself on screen... but i know that if i met myself at a party i would never talk to her cause she doesn't fulfill physically the demands that we are brought up to think women have to have, in order for us to ask them out. [..] There's too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because i have been brainwashed."
(See the whole clip here)
Like him, all of us have been brainwashed. Your beautiful existence, brilliance and sense of completeness definitely does not lie in the body. This is an extreme superficial layer which we have to penetrate, to see who the person really is. But this is difficult. It requires a lot of maturity and understanding. One way to see it is; our bodies are always changing. We are born into tiny little bodies, grow over time, reach a stable condition, and at old age, the body slowly starts to decline. But the "I", the indweller of the body, does he also change? When you think back about an event that happened when you were a child, is it not that the "I" of 1980 is the same "I" of 2013? Even though the body has changed, and may not even look the same at all, the "I" always remains the same.
So the first step in vicara is to disconnect our strong identity with the body, and realize that we are MUCH more than that! (Note: this is not to say that the body is not part of us. Some teachers will be preaching recklessly "you are not the body". You may not be the body, but you are the indweller of the body.. And the body is totally a part of you, thus needs to be nourished and cared for. Consider it your vehicle for your journey on earth!)
So then, what is it that we are? If its not the body, is it the mind? The emotions? The question still remains....