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“Who are you?”

by Michael Ketterhagen

“…Being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.”

“It isn’t,” said the Caterpillar.

“Well, perhaps you haven’t found it so yet,” said Alice; “but when you have to turn into a chrysalis—you will someday you know—then after that into a butterfly, I should think you’ll feel it a little queer, won’t you?”

“Not a bit,” said the Caterpillar.

“Well, perhaps your feelings may be different,” said Alice; “all I know is, it would feel very queer to me.”

“You!” said the Caterpillar contemptuously. “Who are you?”

--Caterpillar’s conversation with Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“We are always changing, and that is the only constant,” writes Ted Andrews in his book, Animal Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small.

If that is the case—always changing—then who are we really? Every seven years all the cells in our body have turned into new and different cells. We rise in the morning and before noon we have new skin cells, new blood cells, new brain cells. And the old ones have died and been eliminated from the body.

We have a new body constantly rising from the old body that is dying. Alice, like most people, is focused on the physical and hasn’t yet understood the transience of the physical or mental worlds. Yet, we are still the same person, still the same learning and deep unconscious thoughts (samskaras), still the same memories.

Our brain constantly subtracts and adds brain cells throughout the day. Is that why we forget some things? Not according to yoga. Modern day science is beginning to realize that our thoughts, memories, and learning are in the mind and the brain just happens to be part of the physical container of those thoughts, memories, and learning. Our mind extends beyond our physical body as well, into the space roughly 9-10 inches outside of the corporeal limit of our body, says Yoga.

According to the Himalayan Yoga Sri Vidya Tradition, we never change at our core. Even our more subtle self, our emotions change constantly. Our thoughts change constantly as well, while we go through the day or as we experience different situations during the day. Our whole conscious being changes, constantly!

So, then who are we? If change is the only constant, how do we know who we are when change is the only thing happening in our awareness? How do we maintain a sense of identity in this world ‘midst this constant upheaval of all we seem to know?

I have wondered about my true identity during my experience with cancer. My body is changing every day with the chemotherapy. My mind is now learning so many facts about cancer, especially the Multiple Myeloma style of cancer. Yet, I still have a sense that there is an unchanging me in this entire process.

All the major world religions believe that the real us, the core of us, that part of us that Swami Rama calls “divine, infinite and perfect,” atman in Sanskrit, never dies. We are always part of the Universe. When our body no longer is useful in this physical world, when our mind no longer functions properly and consciously, when we no longer have any emotions, we still live.

Every religious tradition, even the non-theistic Buddhist Tradition, says that we go someplace else. They say we go to heaven or hell or (if you are a Catholic Christian) purgatory, or we come back through what is called “transmigration” of the soul. In our contemporary language, we get reincarnated.

So, what is the “it” that goes to those places or comes back?

According to the Himalayan Tradition, it is our Divine, Infinite, and Perfect Self. Yoga says that we can truly know this, if not through our direct experience, then logically after we accept in faith what religions and yoga say is true… We go someplace else after this physical/emotional/mental world. We are Divine, Infinite and Perfect. We are DIPs.

The Himalayan Sri Vidya Tradition says that we can truly experience the core self through yogic practices and meditation.

Let’s look at that in the next blog!


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