Now, so far I’ve referred a lot to ourselves. I sit down, we receive the benefit. And this brings us to the next topic. This is the topic of identity. I talked about this last night but we’ll go over it again for those who weren’t here, and also it’s good to hear this many times. In the Vedas it says that this is a very important topic. And it comes with the very important question. And the question is, “Who am I?”
But, unfortunately, we almost never ask this question. The reason is because we think we already know the answer. Of course, we all have our identities; we’ve had them our whole life. We have them in our minds, we have them on our lips, we 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 with my passport, my driver’s license, my documents. We accept it and so does everyone else.
But is this our true identity? Upon close examination we find that this is just a compilation of many labels. And the labeling process begins at birth. So all of us here now, when we took birth, received one of two labels: male or female. And we still identify like that today: I’m a man or I’m a woman. At the same time we get another label according to our race: Caucasian, Negroid, whatever it is. And our family identity is very strong: we belong to this family. And our national identity: “Oh, I am Russian,” “I am American,” “I am German,” “I’m French.” See? Actually this identity is so strong that every day on this planet one person kills another person just because they have got a different label.
And this is just the beginning. Many labels come and go throughout our life. So, again, at birth we are also known as babies and then kids. We start school, now we’re students. Few more years pass and we’re teenagers, then adults. We take up some profession in life and we’re known accordingly: doctors, lawyers, secretaries, nurses. The moment we get married now we are a husband or a wife. Then we have a child, now we are parents: fathers, mothers. Then a few more years: grandfathers, grandmothers. And this is how we see our self, “This is me.” And it continues on and on until we finally get the last label: dead.
But if you look closely, again you’ll see this is all in relation to the material body. It’s true: the body is male and female, black or white, old or young, big or little, whatever the body is, it is. Yes, that’s true. The question is, “Is this who we are?”
Every day we take our pilgrimage to the mirror to see how “we” look. Anybody didn’t look in the mirror today? Oh, one person. Her mirror’s broken. We even carry them with us, “Oh, how do I look now?” Every few minutes. But do we really see our self? So the question is obvious, “Am I this material body?”
If we want the most authoritative answer, we should go to the revealed scriptures of the world. It can be any scripture: the Holy Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam. And we find very quickly: no, you are not the material body. However this is the modern world. So it’s very rare we go to scripture to find the truth in life. But we do readily accept the conclusion of the scientists. We like the scientists because they prove things. And, uniquely enough, the scientists have proven in their laboratories we are not our material bodies.
They discovered there’s no cell in the human body that lives more than five years. Some cells have a very short life. For instance, the lining of our stomach, those cells only live for 5 days. Our skin cells – 1 month. Liver cells – 6 weeks. But in 5 years everything has changed. So if I look at a photograph of myself taken 10 years ago, the eyes in the photograph are different than the eyes I’m looking at the photograph with. They are not the same eyes. According to this scientific formula, if I’m 35 years old, I’ve had 7 bodies. But we all know we are not 7 different people. Everybody knows, “I’m still me.” So the changing factor is the material body, the constant factor is our self. We are not this material body.
At this point some people become meditative, they look inside to see who they really are. And when we do, what do we find? Emotion, desire, sentiment, will. And it’s very easy to conclude, “This is who I really am.” Maybe we even have an experience that reinforces this. Let’s say that we’re very emotionally upset. We recognize that when people look at us, they don’t see us. All they see is the outside cover. We may feel very lonely; maybe we say, “Nobody really knows me.”
But, again, we must confirm this with scripture. And especially the Vedic scriptures because they are very detailed in this knowledge. And when we do, we learn we’ve 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’s called the astral body, probably some of you’ve heard of the astral body. So really we have two bodies: the physical body and the mental body. Like two layers of clothing: the outer layer and the under layer.
But who are we? Once again, going to the Vedas, we learn that we are in a different category of energy. Our bodies are material energy. But we learn that we are spiritual energy. We further learn we are a tiny little spark of spiritual energy.
We learn that material energy is temporary. That’s easy to see. We know all too well our bodies are very temporary; so much so we don’t even want to talk about it, “Hey, let’s don’t talk about that!” But even the more permanent things like this building… Come back in 1000 years, “Where was that lecture, again?” Very temporary. But we learn that spiritual energy is eternal. Eternal means no beginning and no end. So we are eternal.
And we also learn that material energy is non-living. Again, easy to see. For instance, this table – there’s no life. But we learn that spirit is life itself. There is no such thing as live matter, there is no such thing as dead spirit. So we are the life force in the body. As long as we’re present in the body, the body’s called alive. Actually this is not true. The body’s dead. We are alive. And that becomes very obvious at the time of death. At the time of death the body reveals its true nature: can’t even sit in a chair, falls on the floor. We are the life force in the body.
So our true identity is spirit soul. Spirit meaning that we are spiritual in essence, soul meaning the individual spiritual spark that we eternally are. We never become someone else. We never cease to exist. For some people this is very depressing news, “What? I’ll always be me? I thought it would be over soon!” It’s never over. But when we learn the truth in life, this is very wonderful news. So, again, we are spirit soul.
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 and the Supreme Soul is the Paramatma.
You may say, “OK. But what’s all this got to do with meditation?” Actually, it has everything to do with meditation. You see, we know our material body has certain needs. And, of course, one primary need is food. So we all spend a lot of time and a lot of energy acquiring food. And we also need shelter. So we spend a lot of time and a lot of energy getting shelter. We need clothing. That takes more time, more energy. We don’t have to have it but we like to have it: recreation. And that takes more time and more energy. And this is just on the physical level.
But remember we got another body to take care of it. The subtle mental body. And this requires mental food. So that’s why we have our books, magazines, news papers, videos, computer games, internet, card games; so many things to entertain the mind. And all of this takes more time and more energy.
Now if we’re honest and we look at our life as it is today, we all too often find: this is my life. All I do, I spend all of my time and all of my energy taking care of my two bodies.
But we just learned that’s not who we are. Remember? We are spirit soul. Yes, as a spirit soul we need spiritual food. So that is why no matter how perfectly I arrange my material situation, there’s still something missing.
It’s like having a bird cage with a little bird inside. All day long we polish the cage. Oh, we got a beautiful cage. But we never feed the little bird. Little bird is hungry. Little bird is never satisfied. The little bird never sings. So we are like that little bird.
Yes, as a spirit soul we need spiritual food. And the mantras that we’re going to learn tonight are that food. They can actually nourish us spiritually. If you can grasp this concept, then it becomes obvious why we need this food on a regular basis. So the techniques of meditation we’re going to learn make it very easy to get this food on a regular basis.