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Who am ‘I’, and What is What?

“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.”

~ Rumi
“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
“By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’, the thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Who am I?
The quest is in the question.

The question is the answer.

~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings


Sri Ramana Maharshi


Introduction to Who am ‘I’ and What is What?

Dear Friends,

The quizzical verses written and recited below were first inspired by ancient nondualism teachings demonstrated and spoken through twentieth century sage Sri Ramana Maharshi, who endorsed self-enquiry by constantly asking “Who am I?” as the most efficient way to Self-realization.

Explanations will follow the poetry.

Please enjoy!

Ron Rattner

WHO AM ‘I’ and WHAT IS WHAT?

What lives?   What dies?

What laughs?  What cries?

What sleeps?  What wakes?

What gives?  What takes?

What thinks?  What knows?

What comes?  What goes?

What’s grief?  What’s bliss?

What’s that?!  What’s this?!

The quest is in the question; and

THE QUESTION IS THE ANSWER!

The question is the answer?



Ron’s audio recitation of Who am ‘I’ and What is What?

Listen to


Ron’s explanation and dedication of Who am ‘I’ and What is What?

Dear Friends,

As stated in the introduction, “Who am ‘I’ and What is What?” was first inspired by ancient nondualism wisdom teachings demonstrated and spoken through twentieth century sage Sri Ramana Maharshi, who endorsed self-enquiry by constantly asking “Who am I?” as the most efficient way to Self-realization.

I synchronistically discovered nondualism wisdom teachings only after my life was blessed and transformed by instinctively and irresistibly asking “Who am I?”.

Here is the story about how I unwittingly experienced the momentous importance of asking “Who am I?”:

Ron’s “Who am I?” Memoir

Over forty years ago, after unwittingly ingesting a marihuana-laced cake at at ‘pot-luck’ New Year’s party, I had an unforgettable out of body experience (OOB) in which from a bedroom ceiling I perceived my body and thoughts as detached below me. Thereupon, I constantly and irresistibly started wondering, if not my body and thoughts, “Who am I?”

Fifteen months later, the “Who am I?” question was amazingly answered, when I suddenly realized my true Self-identity as pure awareness, rather than as my body/mind and its story, as previously believed. 

Whereupon, I experienced an unforgettable mid-life spiritual awakening and rebirth, which completely and irreversibly changed my prior ideas of Self-identity and Reality, and began a previously unimagined and continuing new life phase of ever increasing peace of mind, happiness, gratitude, and faith in the mystery of Divinity: a continuing process of increasingly incorporating into my daily life the realization of Self-identity as universal awareness, rather than as a body/mind and its thoughts.

As a secular Jewish lawyer, I had been ignorant of any spiritual or esoteric teachings which might explain my extraordinary awakening experience. But afterwards I was soon synchronistically led to profound nondualism teachings of twentieth century sage Sri Ramana Maharshi, who endorsed constantly concentrating on the key question “Who am I?” as the most efficient and direct way of discovering the unreality of the ego-mind
I-thought, and attaining Self-realization.

Identifying and Transcending “Ego”

In explaining the benefit of this self-inquiry (vichara) process Sri Ramana identified “ego” as the source of all human unhappiness, and taught that by transcending “ego” we are freed from all unhappiness and suffering. He defined ego as mistaken self-identification, and equated it with mind and memory. And he identified the ‘I’ thought as root of the ego-mind and, hence, source of all suffering. For example, he said:

“All bad qualities centre round the ego. .. There are neither good nor bad qualities in the Self. The Self is free from all qualities. Qualities pertain to the mind only.”

“The mind is only a bundle of thoughts [with] their root in the I-thought. Whoever investigates the True “I” enjoys the stillness of bliss.”

“All unhappiness is due to the ego. With it comes all your trouble. If you would deny the ego and scorch it by ignoring it you would be free.”

And he taught that

“By the inquiry ‘Who am I?’, the thought ‘who am I?’ will destroy all other thoughts, and like the stick used for stirring the burning pyre, it will itself in the end get destroyed. Then, there will arise Self-realization.”

Sri Ramana recognized that the “Who am I?” question could never be answered rationally, but only through the inconceivable and ineffable experience of Self-realization. He explained that:

“The question ‘Who am I?’ is not really meant to get an answer; the question ‘Who am I?’ is meant to dissolve the questioner.”

Ultimately, I realized the supreme wisdom of Sri Ramana’s ancient non-dualistic method for efficiently dissolving ego, while I’ve remained mostly engrossed in the emotion of devotion, as a frequent crier for God, while ever mindful that I’m only calling and crying to universal Self; that

“[Our] own will is all that answers prayer, only it appears under the guise of different religious conceptions to each mind. We may call it Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, but it is only the Self, the ‘I’.”

~ Swami Vivekananda – Jnana Yoga


Moreover, I’ve also realized that since “ego” is the apparent sole source of all human suffering, all enduring spiritual paths, scriptures and teachings are aimed at ending ego; that for millennia spiritual teachings have identified “ego” as the fundamental impediment to spiritual evolution and realization; as “the biggest enemy of humans.” (Rig Veda ); and the “number-one enemy of compassion.” (Dalai Lama). The Dalai Lama has said that all Buddhist teachings aim “to wipe out the persistence of ego.” And Eckhart Tolle believes that transcending ego is the only spiritual teaching. He says:

“In essence there is and always has been only one spiritual teaching, although it comes in many forms.”

~ Eckhart Tolle – The Power of Now

And after decades of observation and experience, I still see “Who Am I?” as a key path to be considered by those with spiritual aspirations;  that persistently asking “who am I”, with constant curiosity, patience and acceptance of inevitable uncertainty can significantly enhance and advance spiritual evolution.

Accordingly, many SillySutras quotations, essays and poems are dedicated to furthering our happiness by recognizing and transcending “ego” through various paths, including the nondualism path of self-inquiry, addressed in today’s “Who am ‘I’ and What is What?” posting.

Invocation

May the quotations, quizzical verses and memoirs stories in today’s Who am ‘I’ and What is What? posting, significantly advance and enhance our spiritual evolution by encouraging our constant discernment of, and dis-identification from, infinite ego illusions.

Thereby may we live ever happier lives leading to ultimate Self-Realization that

“The end of all wisdom is love, love, love.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi


And so shall it be!

Ron Rattner.

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