Know thyself - probably the novice’s foremost pointer on the spiritual path. Spiritual teachers from all backgrounds have explained that we are not the body. The ‘being’ that we truly are is merely using the body as a vehicle to operate on this physical plane. We are just ignorant of it.
Nevertheless, it can be almost impossible to fathom that the body that we so love and adorn is really not us, and furthermore that it is not invincible. The ever-popular Rocky series of movies from the eighties and nineties tell the story of a boxer and the challenges he faced throughout his career. Recently a group of fans had expressed their desire for another Rocky movie to be made, to which a comedian remarked that in this next movie, Rocky would now be challenged by arthritis and rheumatism. We don’t have to look too far to see what time and the aging process does to the physical body. Sometimes the wake-up call comes when one has to experience the failure of an organ or weakness in some part of the body while witnessing life going on effortlessly for others. The proof is all around us. Clearly, we are not the body. It is just a matter of time when we realize this, and how this realization happens.
The eternal question “Who am I?” has radically changed the lives of those who have dared to ask it. Sinners have turned into seekers, and seekers transformed into saints. In the words of Rene Descartes:
I think, therefore I am.
The Descartes model is widely regarded as an axiom for a number of studies in philosophy. It explains that our existence is validated by our ability to think, thus establishing our identity.
Mystics, however, challenge the fundamental statement itself by asking the simple question: who or what is doing the thinking to begin with? The thinking faculty is purely attributed to the mind. Saints have further explained that the mind itself is a temporary entity that comprises random thoughts and emotions, allowing us to rationalize and then function with a relative sense of order in this realm. The mind, like the body, is subject to change. It cannot be our true identity. Understanding that our true being precedes our ability to think, a more accurate statement might be: I am, therefore I think.
Saints expound on the ‘I am’ concept, explaining it to be our true self - that which cannot be comprehended by the mind. The mind itself is limited to only what it can contain. Hence, it is not possible for the mind to contain the self; for the true self, the mystics tell us, is eternal - with neither beginning nor end. In fact, it is the God element in each of us.
If you lose yourself on this path, you will know in certainty:
He is you, you are He.
Fakhruddin Iraqi , as quoted in The Paradoxes of Love
Perfect Masters come amongst us as beacons on this path of spirituality and rediscovery of the self. The technique they prescribe is that of guided meditation. They further advise that we apply common logic as we would do when taking on any task - to ensure clarity in our objective.
When the mind is in control, our attention is concentrated at the eye centre and our consciousness is connected to the divine melody within. Mystics therefore explain that the key is to remain focused through meditation. In order to understand ‘oneself’, we should think very deeply about what this word means - ‘oneself’ - implying that there is only ‘one self’. No duplicity, no duality - nothing but the One.
When we have directed our attention at one point within the body, away from the outer world and gathered it to summation, we come into focus and are ready to experience the truth of our Being.
When Truth has taken hold of a heart,
She empties it of all but Herself!
When God attaches Himself to a man,
He kills in him all else but Himself.
Mansur al-Hallaj , as quoted in Love is a Fire