“The essence of all wisdom is to know the answers to ‘who am I?’
and ‘what will become of me?’ on the Day of Judgment.”
“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.”
~ Lao Tzu
“Know thyself – The unexamined life is not worth living.”
“Give up all questions except one: “Who am I?” After all, the only fact you are sure of is that you are. The “I am” is certain. The “I am this” is not.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
“Ask and it shall be given; Seek and ye shall find.”
~ Matthew 7:7
“You will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
~ John 8:32
“Who am I?
The quest is in the question.
The question is the answer.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“An ‘identity crisis’ can be life’s greatest opportunity,
because it raises life’s most crucial question – “Who am I?”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“That which permeates all, which nothing transcends and which, like the universal space around us, fills everything completely from within and without, that Supreme non-dual Brahman — that thou art.”
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
~ Dr. Seuss
“What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
“So the question Who am I? is not an idle one. How you answer the question will determine how you live the rest of your life. It will determine the quality of your life.”
~ Neale Donald Walsch
Asking The Ultimate Question: “Who Am I?”
Have you ever deeply wondered about your true self-identity or urgently asked yourself, “Who Am I”?
Most of us, never inquire about our true self-identity, but we assume ourselves to be mere mortal physical life-forms with unique histories, separate from everyone and everything else.
Not until age forty two, did I ever ask myself or wonder “Who Am I”? Until then, I assumed that I was only my physical body, its thoughts and its story; that I was a middle-aged secular Jewish litigation lawyer, married, with two kids, born in Chicago and living in San Francisco.
But on New Year’s Eve 1974-5, these assumptions were severely shaken. At a ‘pot luck’ dinner party, after unwittingly eating a large piece of cake laced with marijuana, I had a dramatically unforgettable out of body experience.
From a bedroom ceiling, I saw my body lying face down on a pillow, and saw each of my thoughts originating outside the body as a vividly colored kaleidoscopic form.
These perceptions seemed very real – not dreamlike or hallucinatory. And they irresistibly raised for me an unprecedented urgent new question: “Who or what am I?”
I reasoned that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my body was face-down on the bed, I couldn’t be the body; and that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my thoughts were appearing below me, I couldn’t be the thoughts. And if not my body and not my thoughts, “Who or what am I?”
Thereafter, irresistibly and persistently I began pursuing this previously unexamined enquiry, with intense longing for an answer. This process proved an enormous blessing which changed my life forever. It convinced me that “Who Am I?” can be the most important question that anyone can ever ask; that by deeply reflecting on our true self-identity and persistently inquiring: “Who Am I?” we can ultimately experience a profound, life-enhancing psychological transformation process.
[See “At Mid-life, a Rebirth to a New Life ~ Ron’s Memoirs”]
Throughout history saints and sages of every tradition and culture – East and West – have counseled us to “Know thyself.” In the West, this fundamental injunction was attributed to the Greek oracle consulted by Socrates and carved into the Temple of Apollo as: “Gnothi Seauton”.
Eastern saints and mystics for millennia have taught that there is an ultimate goal of life – an ‘enlightened’ state of spiritual awareness bringing permanent happiness and freedom from all worldly bondage. Swami Yogananda Paramahansa, who brought Eastern wisdom to the West in the 20th century, called this spiritual goal “self-realization”.
Who is this “Self” that we are counseled to know or realize? How can we follow the advice of the saints and sages to “Know thyself”, and so experience “self-realization”?
One of the principal methods to “Know thyself” suggested by mystics and sages is to inquire: “Who am I?” For example, ancient Indian sage Shankara said that spiritual “Knowledge cannot spring up by any other means than the inquiry: Who am I?”.
In Hinduism, such self-inquiry is chiefly associated with Advaita-Vedanta, the oldest extant school of Indian Philosophy. Advaita means non-dualism and its teachings are essentially the same as those of Mahayana Buddhism. Both are aimed at experiencing non-dual Reality.
The ultimate answer to the question “Who Am I?” cannot come from intellect. We can know or realize our “self” only by intuitive experience of “Who Am I?”. However, in the Hindu and Buddhist non-duality paths, powers of discrimination are used to transcend intellect and to reveal the Self via self-realization.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Ask and it shall be given; Seek and ye shall find.” Thus, if we persistently ask “Who Am I?”, the answer shall be given. And in seeking our true Self, we shall find our true Self – as Eternal Peace beyond understanding, and as timeless Joy beyond suffering.
And so it shall be!
Ron’s explanation and dedication of “Asking the Ultimate Question”.
For millennia, seers, saints and sages have counseled us to “Know thyself”; and, to ask persistently the supremely crucial question – “Who am I?”.
But few Westerners have been inspired to pursue this perennially advised investigation.
Until mid-life, like most other Westerners, I unthinkingly self-identified only with my physical body, its thoughts and aggregate experiences. Then, following an extraordinary out of body experience, I irresistibly began wondering “Who am I?”. Finally, at age forty two, (unaware of any apt spiritual teachings) I was given the answer to that question, and realized my true self-identity as pure awareness, rather than as my physical body, its thoughts and aggregate experiences. Whereupon I experienced a profound and unforgettable mid-life spiritual awakening and rebirth.
Thereafter, I began having numerous unprecedented mystical or psychic subtle energy experiences, and became infused with so much vital energy that for several months I hardly needed to sleep. Only then did I begin learning about teachings of Eastern mysticism, including non-duality.
Afterwards, I synchronistically met my beloved teacher, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, a venerable Hindu Guru then 100 years old, from whom I received shaktipat initiation. Guruji lived until age 116, and has remained my teacher since his mahasamadhi transition in 1994. After shaktipat initiation, I learned from Guruji and others that the evolutionary purpose of spiritual ‘practice’ is to reveal experientially that there is no separate ‘practitioner’; not that the practitioner is in some way a separate, special person with special powers.
But I also learned that – unlike Guruji and other rare Buddha-llke beings – on realizing my true self-identity as pure awareness, I had not yet become ‘instantly enlightened’. Rather, that this realization had triggered an evolutionary process of awakened kundalini life-force energies which were manifesting via spontaneous physical, mental, or emotional experiences [ called kriyas] and thereby purifying the body and nervous system, thus allowing increasing experience of subtler states of consciousness.
Ultimately, I realized that this evolutionary kundalini purification process was gradually undoing or eliminating eons of accumulated subtle karmic impressions or seeds [samskaras or vasanas] causing unconscious habitual behaviors and emotional patterns, and precluding or inhibiting spontaneously skillful behaviors.
Soon after this revelatory discovery I declared myself to be an ‘uncertain Undo’ [rather than ‘born-again Hindu’] and began writing whimsical sutras like:
“On the path of undo we’ll never be through
’til we’re an undone ONE.”
Today, over forty years since realizing my true self-identity as pure awareness (rather than as my physical body, its thoughts and aggregate experiences), I’m still not fully ‘undone’, and ego attrition continues. But as I continue to more and more self-identify as spirit rather than as physical body there seems to be ever more Ram than Ron in my life.
Thereby after many years of questioning, I’ve found faith beyond belief, beyond dogmas or theology. And I’m happier and more grateful for this precious lifetime than ever before. (See https://sillysutras.com/ive-found-a-faith-based-life/)
Thus, from inner and outer experience, more than ever before I regard “Who Am I?” as a supremely crucial question to be persistently investigated for those with spiritual aspirations. So today I have posted the above important quotations and brief essay.
If ever you have wondered or aspired about spiritual evolution, I encourage your deep consideration of today’s posting.
May it help us live happier lives by consciously participating in an irresistible evolutionary process which is leading us to expression of one Life – one LOVE – amidst the infinite diversity of ever changing ephemeral energy forms.
And so may it be!
“Do you want deliverance from the bonds of the world?
Then weeping profusely, you will have to cry out from the bottom of your heart: Deliver me, Great Mother of the World, deliver me!….
When by the flood of your tears the inner and outer have fused into one, you will find her whom you sought with such anguish, nearer than the nearest, the very breath of life, the very core of every heart…”
~ Anandamayi Ma
“When the child refuses to be comforted by anything except the mother’s presence, she comes.
If you want to know God, you must be like the naughty baby who cries till the mother comes.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
‘Where does the strength of an aspirant lie? It is in his tears.
As a mother gives her consent to fulfill the desire of her importunately weeping child, so God vouchsafes to His weeping son whatever he is crying for”
~ Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa
My pivotal rebirth experience, sparked by divorce at age forty three, opened an emotional flood-gate which had been closed since childhood and unleashed for the first time in my adult life an intense and unprecedented torrent of tears. Thus, a ‘broken heart’ had opened my heart to a new life phase. And never again since that long-locked floodgate was opened have profuse tears failed to flow regularly.
Initially, with a newly a opened heart, I wondered why I was crying so much. Sadness at the divorce was not an adequate explanation for what was happening. But the puzzlement began resolving with my Yosemite epiphany.
At Yosemite, I beheld the unimaginably intense and otherworldly luminosity of “ten thousand suns” only after I had wept with extraordinarily spontaneous intensity, longing to be taken by God.
My tears then were not tears of sadness, but tears of intense longing to merge with that Light – and so to end the illusion of separation from it. I had beheld Divinity in that magnificent panorama of God’s cathedral, and with all my Heart intensely yearned to be merged with That.
This unforgettable experience gradually brought to consciousness a realization that my frequent crying was motivated not merely by worldly distress, but by an immensely deep and soulful longing for God.
But realizing why I was crying, raised a new mystery:
“How could it be that a secular lawyer who hadn’t cried or fervently prayed during his entire adult life, was now intensely crying for God?”
The Universe gradually provided answers to that question, through a series of extraordinary synchronistic events and experiences following the Yosemite experience.
After my 1978 shaktipat initiation by Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas (Guruji) into the Hindu tradition of kundalini maha yoga, I learned that “Kundalini is the cosmic power in individual bodies”; that when awakened it frequently manifests through spontaneous physical, mental, or emotional phenomena called kriyas; that kriyas automatically open subtle body energy channels (nadis), thereby purifying the nervous system and allowing evolutionary experience of ever subtler states of consciousness.
Also, I learned that in kundalini maha yoga my spontaneous torrents of tears – as well as many of my mystical experiences – were considered purification kriyas. And soon I further learned from repeated experiences that – beyond purification or catharsis – crying kriyas could also be manifestations of extreme joy or bliss, and even ecstasy.
Thus, Guruji has observed:
“Whenever one experiences great joy or bliss, this also manifests physically as crying or laughing. There are two kinds of kriyas, one is for purification and the other for the manifestation of joy.”
And I have been extraordinarily lucky enough to repeatedly experience both types of crying kriyas.
For many years I cried so often and so profusely that I came to realize – after initial puzzlement – that I was experiencing a great transformative blessing recognized not only in the Hindu tradition of kundalini yoga but also in various other devotional and mystical spiritual traditions, such as the Sufi tradition of Rumi and Hafiz, and the Catholic tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola, known as “the gift of tears”.
Though never a frequent flyer, I became – and for many years have remained – a very frequent (and sometimes protracted) crier. Tears have helped purify my psyche, body and nervous system permitting ‘peek experiences’ of higher states of consciousness, as well as many experiences of extreme ecstasy.
And until now I have regularly experienced numerous other non-crying kriyas – spontaneous and unpremeditated activities, feelings and sensations which have helped further my spiritual evolution and through which I have manifested extreme joy and gratitude for this blessed life.
For example, when not crying, I often had what I now call ‘alternative LSD’ experiences of spontaneous (and sometimes ecstatic) Laughing, Singing, and Dancing.
But of all my spiritual and synchronistic experiences, I continue to believe that the most fortunate was my 1978 synchronistic meeting with Guruji, whose benevolence has helped me ever since, even since he left his body in 1994.
In 1980, just before returning to India, Guruji resided in my San Francisco apartment. During that period, I once spontaneously exclaimed to him: “Guruji, the day I met you was the luckiest day of my life!” He responded, dispassionately and epigrammatically, “That’s true.”
And I still gratefully agree with that exclamation, and with his response.