Our Identity Is Nam
The Masters tell us that our identity is Nam. With this simple comment, they give us profound relief and, at the same time, challenge one of our deepest beliefs. We are relieved because our identity usually ties us to this topsy-turvy world with its attendant thrills and spills, deep anguish and passing pleasures. We are challenged because they are saying we aren’t who we think we are.
Usually when we introduce ourselves, we give our personal name. That identifies our body and our family. If we are writing to a stranger, we might add that we are a man or a woman, are of a certain age and have certain facial features. Going into more detail, we might add our nationality, ethnicity and what work we do. We could say, “I’m a father or mother; someone’s son or daughter; a college graduate; a cab driver; an immigrant; a neighbor.”
We want to pursue our physical, family and social goals and attach positive qualities to our name. Why not? Isn’t everyone else doing that? We want our name to shine. We want our family, friends and community to look at us, and say our name and add, “He or she is somebody special.”
Even if we achieve rare fame or glory, our worldly identities excel only for a moment. When that moment is over, our identity becomes ordinary again. Someone else is having the fame and glory. The Masters tell us not to treat this identity as real. No actor believes his character’s name is his own real name.
The Masters say we are ignoring our true identity, Nam, which is “the Name of God … and a name for the creative power of God” (Treasury of Mystic Terms). First and deepest of all, they say, we are expressions of the divine current of life. But we would never say to someone else, “I am Nam” or “I am the Lord’s Name.” That would be meaningless to anyone but a mystic. Such a statement is so deeply personal and profound, it can only be acknowledged within ourselves.
In comparison, all our other identities are superficial and transient. Our age and social and financial status are always changing. Even our physical description changes with age. At marriage or upon immigration, some of us change our first or last name. When we consider what our worldly name actually refers to, it gets confusing right away. But Nam never changes and is never confusing.
God is one and has no real division. How can that be? How can God be one and we be that one also, and yet at the same time, we feel we are different and separate from God? Kabir provides a clue when he says: “Is there anyone who can tell me of the Lord’s Name (Nam)? … Only he receives joy and peace who sings of having seen and experienced it.”
If our separation from God is an illusion, and we are one with him, what is our name? To truly know the answer to that question, we need to experience Nam. To have that experience, we meditate. So, in one way, meditation is a search for our real identity.
Nam is permanent and indescribably beautiful, so to invest ourselves completely in worldly identities is foolish. We must become aware of who we really are. If we understand deeply that our true identity is spiritual, we do not get so shaken if someone mocks our body, our job or our community. We don’t get upset if someone maligns our name. We know those identities pertain only to our time in this strange world, and they do not really matter.
Sincere and devoted daily meditation attunes us to the vibration of Nam; and, as we focus our attention in simran and bhajan, we come to experience personally why the Masters remind us that our true identity is Nam.