The Hindu and Jainist answers to questions about Self and God are very appealing to me. In my personal spiritual journey, I’ve wrestled with the idea of whether adherence to an established religion is necessary. I’ve been searching to find the one that most closely aligns with the thoughts and feelings that I’ve developed through my experiences and studies. A lot of the Hindu ideas are ones that I have been flirting with for a few years now, without having ever studied much Hinduism. I just hadn’t heard/read them articulated in that way. I too believe that the popular idea of our individual and collective identities is warped.
Since I was a child, I have often felt a sense of detachment from my own body and maybe even my own natural consciousness, wondering “why am I here,” “who am I,” or even “what am I?” I’ve never been satisfied with the answers that I received from my mostly Christian elders. Like the Upanishads, I believe that humans are in a broad state of ignorance of self and reality, which is perpetuated by our desire to describe life in absolutes through theories created by our limited knowledge and aptitude.
The idea that there is a supreme being that exists inside of every existing being is one that I find extremely acceptable. Speaking very transitively, if I create something, and that thing creates something (and so on), each of those things reflect my work, existence, and identity. Everything that I create is a piece of me, or vice versa. One of the schools of thought that I identify with always talks about knowledge of self and that being the path to physical, emotional, and mental freedom. Since many of us don’t have true knowledge of what’s within, we have a lot of inner turmoil that spills into our relationships with everything outside of us. The idea of Atman takes that even further. Atman is our true self that is unchanging and independent of the body, mind, soul, and feelings. That is something that I am interested in exploring further. It may be the reason that I haven’t been able to answer some of those internal questions that I spoke about earlier.
It seems like our ideas of being range from very concrete to extremely fluid. I can BE upset or happy, but those are temporary. I can BE an American, but that is based on a geo-political boundary that hasn’t always existed and that can change in the future. But I will always BE ME, and what that entails is what needs exploration and can be addressed with the idea of “Atman is Brahman.” Even without speaking about the presence of a deity, the sense that everything in existence is connected is an easy pill to swallow.
Reading some of these Hindu answers just makes me want to delve in more! So far, I see a lot of truth in what I have read and heard. It makes a lot of sense and blends into ideas that I’ve already explored and accepted as high-probability answers to my own questions of existence.
Perhaps oddest thing about how we perceive our own identity is that we often do so through the eyes of others. With that, as other people’s opinions change, so too does our identity. To me that makes our identities as fickle as our emotions, which CAN’T be the true essence of our individual existence.