Human beings have a very blurry definition of their own identities.

I am certain that I don’t know what this “I” means and the more I try to understand the I, the I changes to something else. I know that the I doesn’t matter but an inquisitive mind will always try to understand what I is or could be.

And during this pursuit, it shall fail.

We turn to Kenopanishad and find this shloka

Kaneshitam patati preshitam manah

In this shloka, the Rishi is saying

By whom is the mind activated? When I say, I think, who is it that says “I think”? What is this I? Who sits behind the mind and gives it the command to think? Where does this thought of I originate from?

There is another Shloka related to this thought

Deham Naham Koham Soham

  • Deham Naham – I am not the body.
  • Koham – If i am not the body, then”Koham?” (Who am I?)
  • Soham – I am That!

What is this that? Will I ever know what is this “that” which is being referred to me as my identity?

This same question was asked to a Rishi by his student. The Rishi said

There is an eye of the eye, there is an ear of the ear, there is a mind of the mind.

The student wanted precise and specific answer to his question. The rishi asked the student to get him some water. The student took a pot, went to the river and returned with the water. The rishi said

Rishi – Who told you to bring the pot? Go bring only water and nothing else.

Student – How can I bring water without the pot?

Rishi – Therefore as we can see, some instrument is necessary to bring home the object of the exercise, is it not? Your body and mind are the instruments. You are not your body or what you think yourself to be. You are the instrument but by “You” I mean not you. I mean “That”.

The rishi further explained

Deham Naham koham soham. I am not the body and neither the thoughts that I think. I am not my own imagination, I am not who I imagine myself to be. I am that being which cannot be grasped by even the mind. That being is the “eye of the eye” and “ear of the ear”, the “mind of the mind”. The wise men give up in the pursuit of knowing the I.

This is important.

When does someone give up something? When one understands there is no value left in the pursuit. Here the rishi is referring to something which cannot be grasped or touched by the senses, which cannot be referred to, which is beyond the scope of human understanding.

From the time you are born, parents gave a name, and everyone around addresses you by that name. As you grow, teachers and friends address you by that name. Then you become an engineer, a doctor, a scientist, a writer or whatever. Note that as you grow, you keep adding more and more qualifications, attributes and parameters and think that these are your identities. These are all descriptions of you but NOT you. What you are referring to is the Pot, not the water.

Anything you are aware of, You cannot be That

You are aware of a computer. So you are not the computer. You know this very well that you are not a computer, a chair, a car, a building, a tree or any other gross object. If someone calls you a “Donkey”, you feel irritated. This is because you know you are not the donkey. You are aware you are not a donkey.

Similarly, you are also aware of your body. This means that you are not your body. You are aware of your mind. This means you are not your thoughts, imagination or intellect. You are aware of your job or whatever you do to make a living, which means you are not what you do. You are aware of your education, which means you are not the mere degree which you have earned or have failed to earn.

Your body is changing, your mind is changing, your thoughts are changing. Something inside you is observing this relentless change, yet that very thing itself cannot be observed. How interesting is that?

Now the immediate question is –

Can we ever reach or understand “That”?

Can we ever understand what is the eye of the eye, the ear of the ear and the mind of the mind? Can we understand and observe that “Being” which observes our mind, body and soul, witnessing everything?

The Rishi gives the answer in the form of another shloka

Na tatra chaksur gachati, na vaag gachati, na manah
Na vidmo na vijaaniimo yathaitad anushishyaat
anyad eva tad viditadd atho aviditaad adhi
iti shushruma purveshaam ye nas tad vyaacha chakshirey

Let’s understand what this shloka is trying to say.

  • Na tatra chaksur gachati – The eye cannot reach there.
  • Na Vaag gachati – Neither it can be described through words.
  • Na Manah – The mind cannot reach there.
  • Na vidmo na vijaaniimo yathaitad anushishyaat – Nobody can teach this to anyone, it is impossible to convey the definition of “That” based on human understanding.
  • Anyad eva tad viditadd atho aviditaad adhi – It is indeed other than the known but it is not the unknown either.
  • Iti shushruma purveshaam ye nas tad vyaacha chakshirey – it is not divine, neither human, not something which people worship. The understanding of this is the goal of life, death and beyond.

The understanding of something where the mind cannot reach, is the “That” that is being referred here. Your real identity cannot be defined, understood or described through words. None of what you think about yourself or what the world thinks about you is the truth – understand this.

You are not the You, you are That! That which the mind cannot understand, grasp or express but because of which the mind exists. You’re That and That alone is the truth.

Further reading – I am That!

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