Who We Really Are
We live in a realm of duality characterized by polar opposites. As a result, we all experience ups and downs in our lives according to our karmas. Happiness and sorrow, health and disease, wealth and poverty, are just a few of the ways these karmas manifest. We also experience duality within ourselves: generosity and selfishness, love and hate, tolerance and anger. As a result, we are continually struggling against the light and dark aspects of our personality. Generally, we feel proud of our positive qualities, but the negative ones are often hidden away in secrecy. We all have secrets; some of the good ones we’ve delighted in sharing with a trusted friend or loved one, and others we may have kept to ourselves out of shame and the fear of being judged. For those of us raised in a religious tradition that offered a sacramental confession (for example, Catholicism), we were given a safe haven to share those personal secrets that brought us shame. In so doing, we obtained absolution and were relieved of our guilt, at least temporarily.
Research seems to indicate a high correlation between keeping our shameful past to ourselves and substance abuse, depression, and violent behaviour. But, as one expert put it in a TED talk, “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”
The empathy that we need to recover from the toxic shame of our past can only come from someone who can see our true essence and who does not judge us for the actions we have performed in going through our karmas. Such a one is the Master.
When we first come to the path, many of us are in such a state of disrepair that even while following the vows and attending to our meditation, we can feel as if we are struggling aimlessly and alone, trying to make sense of a creation that – from our limited perspective – often makes no sense at all. This confusion is mostly the result of not knowing our real selves. However, little by little, the Master reveals to us that we are not our weaknesses or our shame. We are, in reality, souls – pure drops from the ocean of the Divine, sparks of the Creator himself. It is our meditation that will restore to us the awareness of who we truly are. These flawed minds, bodies, and personalities are simply coverings that hide our Divine essence. As we continue to practice our meditation, we will gradually be able to let go of all we are not and discover who we actually are. Being blessed with a human birth allows us to find out who we really are.
In from self to Shabd, we read about how we are stuck in identification with our personality. The author states:
While the true Master is identified with Shabd, the disciple is identified with his body and personality, and therein lies the only difference between the spiritual Master and the disciple.
The author continues:
Like most of us, the disciple is aware only of duality. We view ourselves in the context of our relationships, the company we keep, the roles we perform, the skills or possessions we have, our social status, gender, and so forth. These are just some of the ingredients that we have assembled to make up the identity of our human experience.… The identity we perceive as our ‘real self’ is the ultimate illusion we have to transcend in order to make conscious contact with the melody of Shabd.
We make progress toward transcending that illusion every time we sit in meditation or repeat our simran throughout the day. Little by little, the Master chips away at our illusory sense of who we are and prepares us to become conscious of all that we truly are.
In Living Meditation, the author explains:
We don’t lose the sense of who we are by merging with the ocean of consciousness. On the contrary, we become who we really are, which is pure consciousness, perfect happiness, limitless love. What is this personality that we are so afraid to lose? What sense does it make that we remain satisfied with this dark world, separated from our true essence when our possibilities are infinite? Let us become the ocean. Let us make the effort to avoid being bottled up again. Let us strive to merge back into Shabd. That is who we really are.
To reach and merge back into the Shabd through following the Master’s instructions is our primary responsibility in this life. All else is secondary. If we can appreciate this fact, we will place our meditation practice first and foremost in our lives with full faith that the Master will take care of all the rest. When we harbor secrets or regrets of the past or worry about what the future holds in store for us, we squander the attention that should, instead, be focused on our simran. It is the simran that will ultimately put us in touch with the Shabd, and the Shabd is the only power that will allow us to rise above the distractions stemming from thinking about the past or the future.
In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, Maharaj Charan Singh advises:
We’ll be able to get rid of our worries with a practical approach. So attend to meditation. When your mind is attached to the Shabd and Nam within, then you don’t think about the past or worry about the future. It is all the mind, whether it is coming down to the senses and worrying about worldly problems or attached to the Shabd and going up. So when you positively put your mind in touch with the light and sound within, automatically you cease worrying. You get that bliss and peace and happiness within yourself.
And you are training yourself. Meditation trains you to accept what is in your destiny, if not cheerfully, then at least with a smile. That is the purpose of meditation. Unnecessarily brooding over the past and worrying about the future is not going to solve any problem at all. So we must live in the present.… We should plan for a day and then live it thoroughly and happily, and attend to our meditation. That is the only way one can get out of these worldly worries and worldly problems.
Ultimately, we will be freed from all the illusions that have broken our hearts and discover the greatest secret of all – that we are, and always have been, under the unfailing guidance and protection of a true living Master and that he will see us back to our eternal home.