Look around, we all seem so busy. Lost in our world, constantly running towards an elusive future. Do we ever pause, and ask, “Who am I?” Do we carry that itch to really know ourselves and the meaning of our existence? Some of us do, but get utterly lost in the world of delusion that we have created around us. It is like Neo’s Matrix, where the brain is numbed into believing a certain existence. Do we question it? Do we ask, why we are all running the rat race? Are we not aiming to reach a destination that has no meaning? Most importantly, do we really have the courage to unplug from the system like Neo did?
The all encompassing question—Who am I? starts our journey to self introspection, to find our true self— the true self which we keep veiled under layers of masks. And, these pretensions and deceptions become our identity.
Question is, are we ready to accept the churning that comes along the path to self-realisation? Are we up for the challenge?
As daunting as the task may sound, it is worth a try. And, once you are on your way to finding yourself, there is no turning back. It is like Neo taking that red pill, that one life-altering pill, which will make you stay in the wonderland, while showing you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Ages ago didn’t the Buddha do the same to attain enlightenment? So, what stops us from following his path? Let’s begin a journey to find our true self as there is nothing greater in the world than finding oneself!
Where do we begin? What should be the first step towards reaching the higher truth? It begins with a question, ‘Who am I?’ which, in turn, creates a dominoes effect, and we keep asking questions, one after other. Some questions result into answers, while some lead to many other questions.
Connect the dots
Everything is dependent on other things in the universe. As per Buddhism, the concept of life is like a series of cycle based on dependent origination that states nothing exists in isolation. This means, that every other living being or phenomena is in existence due to its relationship with other beings or phenomena. There is an intrinsic mutual interconnection we share in our relationships with other individuals, society and nature.
However, we are losing this essence of being inter-connected with each other. Instead, we are constantly feeling lonely and isolated, resulting into suffering. To become calm in our lives, we need to connect the dots, and become a part of this entire cosmos. Here’s how.
Connect with inner self
“One is one’s own refuge, who else could be the refuge?” said the Buddha. He taught, encouraged and stimulated each person to develop himself and to work out his own emancipation.
To connect with your inner self, you need dedicated effort to be with yourself. Get away from the noise, the conversations, the expectations, and the ‘rat’ race to succeed in this illusionary world. Instead, take some time out for yourself, take a long walk, or a road trip, or just sit on a bench in the park.
Contemplate about your life and find out what you want to do. But, do not judge yourself by the answers that you may get. Don’t let the societal condition dictate what you feel about yourself or what you want to do with your life. As you slowly peel the layers of your life, you will no longer feel lonely or needy. You will be self-sufficient, independent and whole in your own existence.
Abhinav Jain, a young graduate, shares his experience with Wisdom Winds on how connecting with his inner self helped him in finding his path. “It was at the time when I was at home for around 6 months after completing my BBA, doing nothing. In my solitude, I started questioning myself. I started questioning the past events, the mistakes I had made in my life. I had been lucky enough to survive an accident last year, but my true moment of reckoning only came when I had the time to think over my life. That churning helped me in connecting with my inner self, making me more mature to handle life. Now I am setting up my own venture and I can feel a palpable change in my life too,” says Abhinav with a calm smile on his face.
The Buddha himself encouraged his followers to question everything, until they were able to find a satisfactory answer.
Ask questions, not just easy ones, but difficult and probing ones as well. Write them down. Find those answers, they might be lurking in the corners, you might want to write them down too. And then reflect upon them in solitude. Those will become you source of sustenance or the yardstick to measure your growth, and finally a path towards enlightenment. After all, the Buddha also started his journey by questioning the true nature of life.
As Bhante A Pannasara from Arunachal Pradesh says, “Human beings have a heightened power to think, and Buddhism’s main purpose is to promote thinking. It is open to all, and it is up to an individual as to how much he can think and expand.”
However, one question that will always remain dynamic is, “Who am I?” You need to ask that question to yourself throughout your life. It will help you reinvent yourself, realign your perspective and mould as per the changing order of the day.
Teerth Pratim Dey, a Tai-Chi practitioner and a spiritual seeker, who believes in the adventure of life, says, “Who am I? I am still in a quest. Maybe, I would be able to answer that just before my life ends and the body rests. As of now, I am all about paradoxes, certain and uncertain, at times very clear, at times utterly confused. In love with the adrenaline rush of matters and materialism, while being overwhelmingly happy alone in the lap of nature. I am all about adaptations to time, place, people, and situation, all summed up as experience. But, there is somewhat a flash of sporadic consciousness of the real me when there is a pause after the conflict between heart and head or when both act in coherence.”
Connect with environment
The Buddha always emphasised on the importance of nature. It was not a coincidence that he was born under a tree, attained enlightenment under a tree, and even took mahaparinirvana under a tree. It simply showed us the importance of nature in our life.
Connecting with the environment does not end with getting fresh air in the morning. Instead, it focuses on our individual choices that create larger ecological impact. When we make nature an essential part of our lives, it also changes our perspective, making us more calm and peaceful. And, in the current day order, with urbanisation at its peak, we need to connect with nature, by becoming conscious about our surroundings.
Daisy Tanwani, founder of Pinklay, an environmentally-conscious home décor and furnishing company, shares her thoughts. She says, “This earth is our home. Literally, we eat-off it. These days, the law of nature is completely off-balance, animals are becoming extinct, ice is melting at the Arctic, respiratory diseases are on rise, while our dependency on medicines has increased manifold. We might sit back at our homes and not worry about it, but the truth is, it is catching up with us. We need to understand that this is our only home and we need to save it. Together, even through small ways, we could make a difference. At Pinklay, we do not use plastics or synthetic fiber. Although, commercially it does mean losing out on a lot of business, it is our way of giving back to the world we live in.”
We need more entrepreneurs like Daisy, to save our environment and minimise our impact on the earth. It is the natural way to reclaim our physical and emotional health.
Connect with society
As per legends, the Buddha had convened his first group of disciples and instructed them to undertake separate journeys for their missionary work. He emphasised that this will result in helping the world and creating happiness in the lives of many people. Serving the society by helping others creates a better environment for all of us.
Being interconnected with each other, we live an integrated life, and to create a peaceful self, we cannot let self- interest predominate loving-kindness.
Mrs. Shreelata Rudra, associated with the Servants of the People Society – founded by Lala Lajpat Rai – for the last 20 years, shares her experience with Wisdom Winds on how serving people helped her in understanding her inner self. Mrs. Shreelata says, “Years ago I walked into the Society’s office with a blank mind and a few possessions to donate, but when I walked out, I had an agenda at hand – to help slum children receive good education. That was the start of my journey. Through one of our initiatives at the Society, we help slum children aged between 3-5 years receive pre-school education so that they are able to get admitted into good public schools as a part of the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota. We ensure that these children get their due place in the society. Currently, we have around 1000 students in 18 locations throughout Delhi.”
She further adds, “Although, I work on a volunteer basis, the joy that I derive out of my work cannot be equated with financial gain. Over the years, I have gained peace of mind, feeling of accomplishment, maturity as an individual, while accepting my personal s pace and finding a meaning to my life.”
Take the plunge
To find your true self is a difficult, although, an enlightening experience. It is not about who you ought to be, but focuses on who you actually are! It is also not a one-off effort, but a constant endeavour to realign and re-calibrate your inner self, to realise your true potential.
“Being enlightened means to be awakened to one’s life’s potential, to create happiness. When we become enlightened to the potential of our life, we empower ourselves to face challenges and change sufferings into joy and happiness. The daily problems that used to weaken us become a factor for making us stronger. It is about imbibing the qualities of eternity, happiness, true self and purity,” says Aarti Kapoor, a homemaker who believes in the philosophy of Buddhism.
And, when you are connected with your inner self, when you undertake the journey to find yourself, you feel an unexplainable happiness. Kovacs Beatrix, from Hungary, who is traveling to India and staying at the Mahabodhi Temple, Delhi, beautifully explains her views on happiness. She opines, “Enlightenment, for me, is a moment when I experience such a joy and light that it even makes me bright and happy from inside. But at the same time, I can share that happiness and brightness with others as well. It’s a kind of feeling, when you are sitting outside in silence and can feel the sunshine on your skin and want to share it with others. This for me is enlightenment and happiness.”
However, enlightenment cannot be served on a platter. It is through our own endeavour, churning and quest, that we find the real ‘me’. Even the Buddha attributed his realisation, attainments and achievements to human endeavour and human intelligence.
Go ahead, take the plunge. Bite the red pill. Get ready for the unexplored journey into your inner being.