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Home >> Seeker’s Solace  >> Relevance of ancient Indian scriptures: Who am I?
 
who am I

Relevance of ancient Indian scriptures: Who am I?

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The Mundaka Upanishad, another principal Upanishad, declares, Nayam atma bala-hinena labhyo. It means, this atman cannot be achieved or attained by the weak. It is a message to be strong; to go from strength to strength. So, after chanting the mantra along with the final words, “Let truth which is set forth in the Upanishads live in me, and may I grow dedicated to the Self,” the student begins to learn the Upanishad.

Now, the first sloka of the Upanishad is in the form of a question, you see? Here is an Upanishad that begins with questions and carries throughout a questioning attitude—the most important and necessary qualification for a seeker.

Question, question, question, question; not accept, accept, accept. Not fall flat and touch your nose to the floor, but stand up and question. Sit down and listen. Now, here is a question. You could either suppose the disciple is asking the question to the teacher or the teacher is putting the question to the student. It could be either. Basically, it’s an important question that has been universally asked and rarely, if ever, answered.

When I say, ‘I think’, who is it that says, ‘I think’? Who is the identity? Who is the one who says I am? What is the mystery of that feeling of being oneself, the Self?


Although we will try as much as possible to avoid quoting the entire sloka in Sanskrit—more so for the purpose of saving time—I can’t resist chanting the beginning. It says:

Kenesitam patati presitam manah? Kena pranah prathamah praiti yuktah?

Kenesitam vacamimam vadanti? Caksuh srotram ka u devo yunakti?

Kenesitam patati presitam manah? means, by whom is the mind activated? When I say, ‘I think’, who is it that says, ‘I think’? Who is the identity? Who is the one who says I am? What is the mystery of that feeling of being oneself, the Self?

Today, neurologists all over the world are trying to establish the coordinating identity that seems to bring together and form an idea of the self, because the brain seems to be operating in different modules. This is exquisitely brought out in a new book called The Phantoms in the Brain, written by Dr Vilayanur Ramachandran, a San Diego-based neurologist. He states how there are different entities working in the brain—different modules, different parts, different entities—for which there has to be a coordinator; someone or something that brings all these together and builds up an idea of the Self.

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