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Identity Is the Problem - Who Are You, Really?

By: Michael Ketterhagen

“Asmita is the sense of ‘I-am-ness’.  

In Sankhya Yoga, the terms 

asmita and 


 [the function of the mind responsible for self-identification] 

are used interchangeably.”

-Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

If we want to experience joy and happiness, Yoga says, we need to release ourselves from our false sense, “our trivial sense” of who we are. Our culture is obsessed with this trivial sense of “I-am-ness,” and it all has to do with our universal practice of self-identification.  

We identify (or appropriate for ourselves) almost everything in our lives. That causes us pain and suffering and experience separation and isolation. When we identify with our nationality, we have the tendency to extol the wonderful qualities in our heritage and demean or disparage the different culture’s patterns of life. When we identify with our race, we tend to forget that there is only the human race, and we think of other versions of humanity as not just different, but somewhat inferior to our own. If we don’t think of the “other” as inferior, just thinking of people of a different color or ethnic group as “other” creates a separation mentality for ourselves. This causes pain.

When we identify with a certain gender, often because of our insecurity about ourselves, we are prone to question why the “other” gender is the way it is. I sometimes do this, unconsciously, when Mary and I think so differently about how we relate to people. I often focus on the principle or action involved in the encounter, while Mary is very concerned about the relational aspect of the encounter. Mary would want me to greet the server first before asking a question about a certain item on the menu. I just want to get information first so that I can make a proper food selection for myself.

Our difficulty with each other is due to our identification with our sexual energies—either masculine or feminine, or our maleness or femaleness.

Of course, we all know that often times violence occurs when one identifies with a certain politician and not another.  

Yoga says, in our essence, we are not male or female, Democrat or Republican, white or black, Mexican or Puerto Rican, American patriot or African-American, Zionist or Palestinian. We are spiritual beings who have bodies and minds in a physical world.

At our essence, we are divine, infinite, and perfect beings, says Yoga. All other spiritual traditions, even the Western religious traditions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—believe that we are “made in the image and likeness of God. (Gen 1:27)” We are chips off the old Spirit.

So, in order to experience joy and happiness in this life, we need to reflect on how our identifications are limiting that experience of union with the Divine Source of our life. We need to realize the spiritual nature of all humans.

Happy Ascension of Lord Jesus, the Christ, to Catholic Christians!

I bow to the divinity within you!

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