Who Am I?

Who Am I?

This comes out of an on-line discussion on the Falling Away of Self interview. Someone asks if Rick was referring to the individual soul. Rick responds “It seems to persist from life to life, some say forever. Is that the self?”

My response, edited slightly for this context:
That depends. What do we subjectively relate to as “who I am”?

I find the Vedic perspective useful. They describe layers to it. The ego-self (Ahamkara) or sense of being a separate self. It is identification with this that leads to the sense of a personal, separate me. It is this identification that is let go with Self Realization. (pre-Unity no-self or awakening in the interview)

[some also talk about asmita, where the ego sense is personalized, made selfish. It’s also associated with our conditioning. This does fall away.]

Jiva is that point value described in various ways. Jane mentions the “drop of personal soul essence” and it is often related with the heart. It is what leaves the body at death so is best associated with what westerners call soul. Some relate to that as who they are. [They have a sense of being that transcends death.]

Atman is the cosmic Self. It arises from awareness becoming aware of itself. Creation arises from that. A shift in being to this value is called Self Realization. But consciousness has 2 modes. It is aware of itself globally: the cosmic part that is universal. All things arise from and reside in this. But it is also aware of itself at every point within itself. Some points are dormant and some enlivened and expressing. One of those can be called a jiva. This understanding can arise in the Unity stage.

Brahman is the great. It is the source of the qualities that become consciousness but is not involved in that. Being beyond consciousness, it is an abstraction that is challenging to describe, known only by itself alone. And yet, it is the platform for totality and an understanding of the nature of reality beyond conception. And that too can be lived, although we would no longer call it a “self”. Brahman is the post-Unity no-self that was the main topic of the interview.

I would add that it also becomes the platform for pure Divinity to unfold on.

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  1. Uli

    My two cents:
    It strikes my attention, reading the testimonies of David Spangler and Harri Aalto (also A. H. Almaas), whose awakening began very early in life,and therefore their arch of maturation is longer that both include the individual personality as important, not doing verbal contortions to try to go around it….

    “I cannot emphasize enough that it is our daily life that is sublime. We are here on earth because this is where the full range of Self-consciousness is available. Material creation could be said to be the final key. This is where every aspect of universal existence finds its completeness and unity as individual existence.”

    – Harri Aalto, The Landscape of Enlightenment with words and windows to our world

    1. Hi Uli
      Add in that they were householders and I’d agree. Recognizing all the parts that are here and functioning is part of a maturation process.

      But to be clear, it’s not all verbal contortions.

      For example, in Susanne’s case recently discussed case, the shift is still quite new. As such, it’s common for what has changed to be dominant. Old self-conceptions cannot be found.

      But yes, there are others who are long awake and insist on continuing to teach that way. It appears that they’re stuck or are teaching a little too rigidly.

  2. K


    Part of my present state is that I try and make sense of this world and all its expressions. I am almost trying to see how I and other people fit into the scheme of nature. What is interesting is that for the longest I never thought about how other people fit in nature (and are part of nature or prakriti). But now I am more focused on other people as expressions of nature as I practice my path. For the most part, I see our differences as just expressions of nature. For example, there may be a beautiful model or a talented basketball player. I see that just as Prakriti trying out variations of a theme so to speak and experiencing the world through these different people. I have never felt inferior – at least not recently – considering these models and talented sportsman or others. Just that they were just different aspects – just like a tree considers different trees without getting jealous (I don’t if trees consider other trees but you know what I mean). But today, I read about John Glen’s passing and then went on to read about the Mercury 7. Suddenly, I was overcome by a sense of my smallness – since I really do not have that kind of physical courage and mental toughness of those types of people. This is one of the first times I have felt inadequate on the spiritual path. So, my question, what is the relationship between the spiritual path and these larger than life accomplishments? As an awakened one – how do you feel about such people who really to me seem to be from a different league. Thank you

    1. Hi K
      Thanks for sharing. It is interesting to see how each path unfolds. And it’s a good approach.

      Just be sure you also “keep in mind” the dynamics here.
      – the experiential sense of it, experiencing the shift and noticing it.
      – the mind telling a story about the experience.

      The second is completely natural but we have a tendency to give it too much weight. That then gets in the way of further growth when we resist what doesn’t match the story.

      Trees are very aware of each other but relate more in terms of community than most people do. You might enjoy the Hidden Life of Trees article on my other blog (linked lower right of the sidebar).

      It is interesting to notice what surprising events can trigger us. Keep in mind that Glenn trained into it. He also almost didn’t make the cut and got pushed out afterwards. And he had a lot of trouble translating his fame into work later.

      Fame is sometimes cashing in good karma and sometimes need of the time. It’s rarely a pleasant experience, though ego may see it as desirable. I worked in TV and film when I was younger and met quite a few of the famous. What most people really want is love but they’re seeking it “out there”. The most solid form of love is the divine.

      I’d add that we’re all given gifts, occasionally rather exceptional ones. Some are further given the opportunity to express them in a more grand way, as above. (not always) But it’s just those laws of nature. Nothing exceptional about a person.

      In the same way theres nothing exceptional here. No “awakened one”. I’m just some guy with some combo of laws that show up in a certain way. The awakening process happens beyond all that, then expresses through it to the degree it can.

  3. K

    Thank you. It is interesting that you state “nothing exceptional here” because I was thinking how casual your interactions are with everyone on this blog. Especially from an Indian context. I listen to spiritual discourses in Telugu and Tamil and hear a lot of stories from religious literature. One of the stories was about Bhaskararaya (link below). At any rate the story itself is not relevant but the person who was giving the discourse said that Bhaskararaya’s students were asking him some question and addressed him as “Hey Brahman” because of his spiritual state. It is kind of amusing to me that everyone here just says “Hey David”. Perhaps this reflects the egalitarianism of the times. My impression is that not many teachers other than Buddha and Christ in ages past said that the awakening process is not just for the few and rare. But many are saying so now. Regarding your comment on unfolding of one’s path – it is not my choice and nothing I could have conceived or imagined. It is almost like “Man Proposes – God Disposes” kind of thing. I don’t know what that saying fully means but I think there is a truth there. We could use the word Universe instead of God.

    1. Hi K
      It is in part a reflection of the times, when awakening becomes more ordinary. But it is also a reflection of the experience. It is not a personal accomplishment. It arises from the non-person non-doing. It is here almost in spite of the laws of nature here.

      I have seen how taking a special role has gotten people caught in delusions. I have also seen people wake up when they realized it was real, in the ordinary person nearby. So I just be myself. That’s the best for everyone.

      For a long time, it has required rather exceptional blessings and discipline for a chance at awakening. It’s very different now. And the process continues to accelerate.

      We could say universe but that rather underestimates the profundity of life and the scale of things. From the cosmic, the universe is the second to last layer to unfold. And the cosmic is the briefest of thoughts in the divine. 🙂

  4. Gina

    “Who Am I?” Indeed. I once watched as the Gunas disappeared. Pufft! went Tamas; pufft! went Rajas. Even Sattva went pufft!. And I was left in this Empty Aloneness with only the Question: Who am I?

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