Monday, June 8, 2015

Who are you?

         As the Twentieth century Sage, Ramana Maharshi remarked: 'The intricate maze of philosophy of different schools is said to clarify matters and reveal Truth.  But in fact they create confusion where no confusion need exist.  To understand anything, there must be Self. The Self is obvious.  Why not remain as the Self?  What need to explain the non-self?  I was indeed fortunate that I never took to philosophy.  Had I taken to it, I would probably be nowhere--always in confusion. My former tendencies directly took me to the inquiry, 'Who am I?'  It was indeed fortunate.’
         Standing before this Sage I am acutely reminded of my deplorable state of spiritual acumen. Yet, may I proffer this riposte: he mentions that he ‘never took to philosophy. Had I taken to it, I would probably be nowhere…’  True enough. Yet for all of that, I would contend  that it’s no less true that in his charming audacity to offer, constantly, to all visitors, the self-provoking question: ‘Who am I?’,  that invitation, clearly, is of the highest philosophical significance.
         His inducement may be cast in an equivalent familiar Western version that echoes from the Delphi Oracle: Know thyself!  In either instance, I submit, these   inquires invite further pursuit. Yet both would be strikingly incomplete without reference to the world at large. We are not isolated beings foraging  on a lonely planet. Would you not, sir, appreciate that the Self can’t know itself without developing  relationships? Without intelligently interfacing with Nature and Culture, we would remain bleak strangers to ourselves.
         To continue further along these lines. These two cited aphorisms belong to a tradition  of beckoning inquiries that we ask ourselves as we grow and live and test our being  in this world. Moreover, without that intercourse, my ‘I’ would remain vacant.  Do we not soon  discover that by our natural affinity to know,  act, and reflect, the objective universe offers the ‘I’  a learning haven to remove ignorance.
         It needs to be fondly remembered that you, sir, came from an unusual, restricted  background, having been born in a poor village in India, unfamiliar with formal education, and being  isolated from normal, societal experiences from early age on. No one is questioning your personal, exquisite route to self-inquiry but only that its value fully expands  as its pursuers take on the challenge of modern living.
         In addition, if I may paraphrase your central probe, ‘Who am I?’, one finds there the personal quest for the nature of humanness, an irresistible way of asking what is human nature all about? And there we have it, for your quest puts us, as does ‘know thyself’, inexorably at home seeking philosophy---the love and pursuit of wisdom.
         In closing, it is unfortunate that you never had the encouragement to scrutinize the Greco-Roman Masters along with the Medieval Schoolmen in Europe. Their ‘clarification’ may have guided you out of your ‘maze’.
The Wanderer