Identity matters

There is this popular slogan that you become who you believe you are. Motivational speakers are often found asking people to believe in themselves. I will take a small diversion from here to a slightly spiritual side.

Mindfulness training enables us to carefully monitor our thoughts, feelings, sensations, emotions and experienced events. It involves observing without attachment, judgment or identification.

By becoming aware of our mental lives, we understand clearly who we are not. Mindful moments are those that create the opportunity to be authentically ourselves.

In the philosophy of Viśiṣṭādvaita, it is considered that our true nature consists of two components: (1) essential consciousness (svarūpa-jñāna) and (2) attributive consciousness (dharma-bhūta-jñāna). Essential consciousness is the basic awareness that remains aware in mindful states. Attributive consciousness is an attribute of essential consciousness which is modified by the mind (kind of like the rays of the sun being an attribute of the sun). The mind modifies attributive consciousness in accordance with karma. Phew! Too many concepts!! Let us take a break and try to understand.

Karma is simply the conditioning of the mind and body. If you keep flexing a muscle, it gets stronger. This applies to the mind too. If you flex the ‘muscles’ of anger, frustration, lust, etc. in the brain, these forces get stronger too. When they get stronger, they cloud who we really are and make us live in an over-simplified world. I am sad today. She is so wrong. Everyone, including ourselves, is reduced to a very simple identity in our mental judgment.

Karma causes trouble when we react from anger or even from unexamined positive emotions. Parents are usually at the receiving end of the karmic reactions when they despair from either over-pampering their children or becoming too distant and harsh. Such problems arise in other relationships as well. As much as we can train our mind-body to ride a cycle, we can train this system to react angrily, be constantly irritated and become noisily judgmental as well.

The core of the problem exists not in the karmic dispositions themselves – everyone who exists is disposed in some way and experiences different mental states. The problem lies in the identification of who we truly are with this ghost. The reason why this identification occurs is due to the fact that the modified attributive-consciousness is an attribute of the essential consciousness and inseparably associated with it. The color of attributive-consciousness blinds one to the essential consciousness.

The above architecture of consciousness can help one understand & observe from the essential self that the attributive consciousness is being modified by mental experience. It can allow one to anchor oneself in the core of awareness. This situation enables one to avoid misidentifying with everything that is going on in the mind, and obtaining a tinted view of the world.

Mindfulness is not a quick fix solution to all problems. It demands a continuous state of openness, understanding and being in awareness. It is the anti-thesis of responding in harmfully conditioned ways. It is a process of perceiving better and responding with understanding. It is also a mirror to our true identity, and also of others.

This identity matters: not who we believe or tell ourselves we are, but who we really are. It just takes a little courage to give it a try.


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