Posted by: Lisa | November 11, 2010

Who Are You?

This is based on a traditional Buddhist teaching story:

A young man named Naresh traveled to the Himalayas and met an old sage who’d been living in a cave for decades.

The sage softly asked, “Who are you?”

The youth answered, “I am Naresh.”

“Who are you?” the sage repeated.

Naresh, thinking perhaps the old man hadn’t heard him, spoke in a louder voice, “My name is Naresh.”

“Yes, but who are you?”

 Naresh, scratching his head, replied, “My father’s name is Ram Dutta. I live in Delhi. I’m an accountant.”

“Yes, but who are you?” persisted the sage.

The young man pondered this question for a while. Was the sage just hard of hearing? Or was he, perhaps, growing old and a bit senile?

“Well, if you don’t know who you are,” said the sage with a smile, maybe it’s good you came to me.”

By now the young man was thoroughly bewildered! Still, he felt a certain peace in the holy man’s presence. . . .

Naresh returned to the Himalayan cave many times but he couldn’t really explain why he felt drawn there. Gradually, however, he began to think, “Can I really define myself in such a limited way as to say I’m an accountant? I’m not what I do. I’m a young man with many interests – including that of visiting this sage, though I do so for reasons I don’t fully understand.”

“Who are you?” the sage asked him again one day.

By now the older man seemed to the younger not only perfectly normal, but even incredibly wise.

“I dont know who I really am,” said Naresh.

“That’s better!” the sage said. “Now then, think about it again. Who are you?”

“Well – I have a name, a family, a domicile. But am I really any of those things?” Suddenly it dawned on him: I’m a soul in search of itself!

His body was still young, but he knew it would age in time.  He sensed he was the same person inside that he’d been as a little child. The body had changed, but he had not. He realized he was not the body.

He remained in silence and introspected further: His understanding had changed since he’d met the holy man, but he was still the same person – inside. His thoughts and perceptions had changed, but something in his consciousness had remained the same. “That which changes,” he realized, “cannot be what I am; I am that something within that remains unchanged, that simply observes change.”

Thus, he came to identify himself more and more with his soul.

One day Naresh said to the guru, “I know who I am, but there are no words with which to speak of it.”

 The sage, hearing those words, only smiled.

Naresh remained silent.

Later that day, the guru said, “Now that words fail you, there is much that we can communicate!”   

Wisdom begins with the deep knowledge that we are not this body or this personality. We are the immortal soul.  We are peace, love, joy, bliss. . . .

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