It is a nice day outside, you’ve got a lot of options of things to do today, so we appreciate you choosing to come here. So we’ll be talking about our identity today. This is all part of the yoga system, knowledge coming from these teachings of yoga.
Before I begin my presentations I always offer my respects to our spiritual teachers, our masters, who bring this knowledge to us. All the information I’ll be presenting comes from the Vedic scriptures. The Vedas are very ancient scriptures, they were written down 5 000 years ago, but the knowledge itself is eternal. So prior to being written down it was passed down orally from one perfect master to the next. Such a line of perfect teachers is known as a disciplic succession or a parampara. We are in the parampara known as the Brahma-Sampradaya. And we feel very fortunate to receive our knowledge through this linage. So this is not my opinion, I am just passing on this eternal science.
I heard a story one time that is quite amusing. There was a simple village man who never left his village his whole life. One day he went to the city and got completely lost. There was a very wealthy aristocrat standing right there in very fine clothes, the village man was dressed in village clothes. The little village man went up to him and said, “Excuse me sir, can you tell me where I am?” This very puffed up aristocrat was offended so his response was, “Do you know who I am?” The simple village man didn’t understand and said again, “Excuse me sir, but can you just tell me where I am?” The aristocrat replied, “Do you know who I am?” The simple village man said again, “Please, sir, just tell me, do you know where I am?” The angry aristocrat said, “Do you know who I am?” Then the little village man said, “Oh, what a mess, I do not know where I am and you don’t know who you are!” (Laughing)
So actually it’s really like that. We don’t really know who we are and that is the problem, you see. But we think we do. So we go through our life living a false identity. The Vedas say we should all ask ourself the question: who am I? But, unfortunately, we never ask that question because we think we already know the answer, “Of course I know who I am.”
We all have our identities. We have had them our whole life. We have them in our minds, we have them on our lips, we even have them in our pockets meaning this is who I think I am, this is who I tell others I am and I prove it: here is my passport, my documents. We accept this and so does everyone else. But is this our true identity?
So upon close examination we discover that this is only a compilation of many labels. And this labeling process begins at birth. So all of us here right now as soon we as took birth received one of two labels: male or female. And we still identify like that today: I am a man or I am a woman. At that same time we get another label according to our race: Caucasian, Negroid, whatever it is. Our national identity can be very strong: I am Ukrainian, I am Russian, I am American. Our family identity: we belong to this family. And actually this identity is so strong that every day on this planet one person kills another person simply because they have a different label. And this is just a beginning.
Many labels come and go through our entire life. So, once again, at birth we are known as babies, then kids. We start school, now we are students. A few more years go by we become teenagers, and finally adults. We take up some profession in life and we are known accordingly: doctors, lawyers, secretaries, nurses, military men. That is who we are, “I’m a military man.” Then we get married, immediately I am a husband or a wife. We have a child, now we are parents: fathers, mothers. A few more years go by: grandfathers, grandmothers. This is how we see ourself. This is me, this is who I am. This continues on and on until we finally get the last label: dead.
But if we look closely we see this is all in connection with our material body. Yes, it is true, the body is male or female, black or white, old or young. Whatever the body is it is, that is true. The question is: is this who we are?
Every day we take our pilgrimage to the mirror to see how we look. Sometimes we are a little disappointed but we always go back the next day, “Gee, maybe there has been some improvement.” So do we really see ourself? Am I this material body?
If we want the most authoritative answer we should go to the revealed scriptures of the world. And there we find: no, you are not the material body. But this is the modern world. Rarely does anyone go to scripture to find the truth in life.
But we do readily accept the conclusion of the scientists. See, we like the scientists because they prove things. Well, in this case the scientists have actually proven in the laboratories that we are not our material bodies. They have discovered there is no cell in the human body that lives more than 5 years. Some cells have a very short life. The lining of our stomach, those cells live only 5 days. Our skin cells – one month, liver cells – six weeks, etc. So in 5 years everything has changed. If I am looking at my photograph taken 10 years ago the eyes in the photograph are different than the eyes I am looking at the photograph with. They are not actually the same eyes. So according to the scientific formula if I am 35 years old, I have had seven bodies. But, of course, we all know we are not seven different people. Everybody knows: I am still me. So the changing factor is the material body, the constant factor is ourself. And we are not these material bodies.
Now at this point some people become meditative or introspective. They begin to look inside to find out who they really are. And when we do look inside what do we find? Emotions, desires, feelings, will. This is all very real. And so it is easy to conclude this is who I really am.
But we must confirm this with scripture and especially the Vedic scriptures, because they are very detailed in this knowledge. And when we do we find we have made another mistake. This is not who we are either. This is actually another material body. It is called the subtle mental body. Sometimes it is called the austral body. I am sure some of you out there have heard of the austral body. So really we have two bodies: our physical body and our mental body. Just like having two layers of clothing: an outer layer and an underlayer. But the question remains: who am I?
So once again we go to the Vedas. And there we learn that we are in a different category of energy. Everything is energy. Our bodies are material energy though we learn that we are spiritual energy. We further learn that we are tiny little spark of spiritual energy.
We learn that material energy is temporary. That is easy to see. We know all too well our bodies are very temporary, so much so we do not even want to talk about it, “Do not talk about it!” But even more permanent things like this building, come back here in 1 000 years, “Gee, where was that lecture?” Temporary. However, we learn that spirit is eternal. Eternal means no beginning and no end. So, we are eternal.
We also learn that material energy is non-living. And again, easy to see, this table, this microphone, there’s no life here. However, we learn that spirit is life itself. There is no such thing as live matter. There is no such thing as dead spirit. We are the life force in the body. As long as we are present in the body the body is called alive. But actually this is not true. The body is dead and we are alive. That becomes very clear at the time of death. At the time of death we leave the body. And at that moment the body reveals its true nature, cannot even sit on a chair, falls on the floor.
So we are the life force in the body. Therefore, our true identity is spirit soul, spirit meaning we are spiritual in essence, soul meaning the individual spiritual sparks that we eternally are. We never become someone else. We never cease to exist. For some people this is very depressing news, “What? I will always be me? Forever? Gee, I thought it was going to be over soon.” Sorry, it is never over. But when we learn the truth in life this becomes wonderful news.
So, once again, we are spirit souls. We further learn we are part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. There is a Supreme Soul from which we all come. We are known as the atma, the Supreme Soul is the Paramatma. So this is who we really are. Not our bodies, not our minds, we are spirit soul.
And this is the most important thing you can understand in your life. If we don’t know who we are, we don’t know what to do with our life and then life becomes very confusing: what to do?