In my last article, “A Life Lived in Entirety – Four Aims, Four Stages and Four Classes of Human Life, Part 1” I talked about the preparation required by the mind of the reader before I proceed further. This article also is intended as a preparation for the reader before I move on to Part 2 of my previous article. I felt that there is more that I have to say about a seemingly simple act of reading my text. So while this article is a preparation to Part 2 of my previous article, it stands in it’s own right – complete – without any references to any other text written by me. So I gave it an entirely different name, instead of inserting it as a part of a series of ongoing articles. I am not sure either that this would be the only article before I get to Part 2. It seems there may be a few more !
Writing, self -identity/ies and self inquiry
The whole purpose of my writing is self inquiry. For this I have to construct and deconstruct knowledge relating to self identity/ies. A reader may stop at knowledge; or proceed further in self inquiry – with my writings – to complete deconstruction of all identities and rise of true Self Knowledge. It is the freedom, right and decision of the reader. Therefore there are people reading me from different levels of knowledge for attaining different levels of self knowledge. I have to address all these levels in my writing simultaneously. This is certainly not an easy endeavour.
I started a discussion on identities, in my article Donning My New Identity As A Philosopher – A Discussion On Evolution Of Consciousness And Personal Identities. For a student of self inquiry, the topic of identities actually touches the very core of his inquiry.
It’s not Yoga, meditation, chanting, or any action that is going to help you become free. The key to your freedom is what you hold as your identity. No matter what practice you follow, you have to come to this ultimately – to get freedom. In fact, practice stands in the way of freedom
The very word self-inquiry indicates that the object of inquiry is “self”. Who are you ultimately? If you are reading my text, as I have already said, it is to understand yourself. And I present my text in such a way that no other desire can come into play. For instance I don’t do creative writing to entertain you or titillate you. If you are reading me, you are most certainly questioning something in your life, or about your life.
In my last article when I had written this, ” …. I also wish to caution something that may be assumed about me, even though I would have never made such a claim anywhere in my writings. All prescriptions are made on the basis of an identity assumed by oneself. My identity is that of a philosopher-inquirer so I give no prescriptions. A reader must understand that I have assumed no other identity for myself. I am not a Hindu, I am not an Indian, I am not a teacher and I am even not a philosopher advocating a system of philosophy. ” The importance of these words can never be overestimated. The way a person interprets or “unpacks” my text is dependent upon the identity he has about himself. Any person has multiple identities which play out in different situations of his life, but there is one identity that binds all these multiple identities. This identity is what we commonly term as “ego”.
So, let’s just understand this simply. Let’s understand the nest of identity created by a human being.
Nest of Identities
Being – Living Being – Human Being – Related Human Being (Mother, Father, Daughter, Wife etc.) – Related Indian Human Being – Hindu Indian Human Being – Rich/Poor Hindu Indian Human Being or Powerful/Powerless Hindu Indian Human Being
Notice how we start with a basic identity and how this basic identity gets more and more complex as we keep adding more and more identities. Notice also, how the addition of each layer of identity narrows one’s worldview.
I have restricted myself to terms such as Indian and Hindu just for the sake of simplicity. A reader can insert his own nationality and religious identity in this nest. Also there are various plays in the shades of economic and social identity which can be listed. I leave them for you to read any one of them in these two broad identities. For example depending upon how one takes one’s caste or how the society takes caste, it is one of the identities rooted to power. Or educated vs non-educated is also rooted to power.
So, all the identities in this nest stand true. Each identity is held by the supreme identity we call “ego”, which I have not listed in the nest as and overarching identity for now, because that would imply a very deep philosophical analysis, something I leave for a future contemplation.
So everyone of us has this nest of identities; your “ego” of the moment is the identity which is in play during that action; or even if you are not acting, but just thinking. It is no stretch of imagination to see how the identity you don for the moment militates your interaction with others. All relationships are nothing but a play of identities relating to each other. The way I relate to my boss, my colleague, my teacher, my servant, my friend, my wife, my daughter, my country, the world/environment, every single relationship is dictated by the identity one has assumed for oneself.
It’s somewhat easy to see this in gross action. Actually I am conceding too much wisdom to humans by saying this. A truer and less flattering statement is that we are all extremely unconscious of our identities. We are just playing them out. Even this is conceding much. It’s mostly the case that our identities are playing themselves out.
If it is so subtle for gross actions, then imagine how difficult – or near impossible for some – it would be to detect their identity in play for subtle actions like thinking and reading. Just as is the case with human relationships, thinking and reading are also relationships at the most subtle level. While thinking, there is a relationship between two entities – “Thinker and Thought”. In reading, it depends. In the usual way one reads, the relationship set up is – “Reader and Writer”. A much more deeper way of reading is when you set up a relationship as “Reader and Text”. Let’s see the difference between the two. But before that, one must bear in mind that whatever I am writing for the process of reading is equally or even more powerfully true for the whole world of human relationships.
Reader – What Lens Are You Wearing ?
If you set up a relationship of “Reader and Writer” while reading a text, what comes in play is, all your images of the writer, which is very difficult to seggregate from the identity you have for yourself. Image is nothing but the identity you construct for the other for your sake. This whole construction is a very unpremeditated, spontaneous act. So subtle, it cannot almost be called an act. The first words you read from an unknown author are without any lens whatsoever. Actually even this is untrue. Even before you open the book, the title of the book has already started the process of image construction. On that basis, if the author is not known, you may decide to read further or not read at all. Sometimes, that may prove to be an error and this is what gives rise to the common saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”.
A very good metaphor to describe is the “lense” with which you read. Since the identity that is assumed in reading is almost as subtle as a “lense”, you almost do not come to know that you are donning one. You are simply busy looking outside, the view being goverened by a lense. Let’s take a look at some of these lenses.
Intent of the Reader – The first lens a reader dons is, “intent”. Why are you deciding to read an article? Is it to get entertained, or just curiosity about what the author is up to, or to get knowledge to use it to further your career/health, or to get knowledge for the sake of knowledge, or to get self knowledge, or to get self knowledge to become free. As one can see that the intent gets subtler and subtler. The range of my writings would fall somewhat in the third last topic, and entirely in the last two topics. This lens will decide whether you shall make a choice to read or not to read; unless you don’t have a psychological history with the writer. If the topic of the writer matches your intent, you proceed, otherwise not. So if you are reading this article, there is somewhere within you the desire to have knowledge in it’s highest forms – knowledge for the sake of it, self knowledge and Self Knowledge for freedom. But there are further lenses that come into play which may negate your intent to read
Psychological Relationship with the writer – If the writer is someone whom you have personally known then you have all the images of him as a person who committed certain acts or omitted certain acts at certain times. There are judgements of these acts as right, wrong or non-credibility, which lead to the image of the writer. You may have loved him at one point, hated him at another point or completely lost all trust in him.
Historicity of the Writer – Ancient or Modern. An outright scorn for any uncivilized, historic or prehistoric writer who lacked any sense of science and technology of the modern world. There is a whole sense of the modern world being a “developed” world. Developed in what way? Science and Technology? Talk to any college going student or a Public School educated student about the Upanishads or Madhyamika of Buddhists! By the way today several particle physicists (the most modern scientists) study Madhyamika Buddhism because what they have been saying for centuries is now being discovered in particle physics.
Or a reverence, a god like status, a suspended judgement of anything ancient. One is supposed to accept without questioning and have a mythical belief; like the view we hold for scriptures of religions. Socrates was poisoned for questioning the Gods of Athens. Galileo was threatened with the guillotine for questioning the Church’s belief in sun going around the earth.
Gender of the Writer – Is the writer a male or female? Several fundamentalists abhor the fact that females have or should have any form of intelligence to be able to author or write anything for society. For example no historically religious books have been written by females in any culture. Do I read a female with this lens? As a male how do I read a book on gender equality? In a reverse case I came across a female who abhors the Bhagavad Gita, because Krishna, the dispenser of the words of Gita, had multiple loves.
Nationality/Race of the Writer – Is the writer Indian or Western or Eastern or Western. Is he a “black” or a “white”. Your judgement of superiority of any one culture over the other determines whom and what you read and in what way.
Education Qualification of the Writer – All the important titles that writers don….like Dr. etc and the educational institutions they have studied in ……..Harvard, Stanford, IIT, IIM… and the list of degrees they hold.). Is the book written by a villager? For example the Upanishads were written by uneducated village folk who did not receive any proper university education.
Name, Fame and Popularity of the Writer – Is the writer well known and respected? How many people read him/her and have read his books? How many people have accepted his/her theory and built organizations around it? What is the opinion of him/her by other experts and your friends? How many experts have given favorable opinions on the front cover of his/her book? How many blog followers he/she has?
Philosophical System of the Writer – Does the writer question, accept or reject the dominant political, social, econmic, religious or moral trends of the society of his/her time? Does the author reject capitalism? Is he/she a materialist, atheist or theist? Is the author a nationalist or pro government or anti-government? For example the books of Karl Marx are banned in United States.
Religious Status of the Writer – Is he/she a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Atheist or Non-Atheist. Which branch of philosophy he belongs to and then which sub branch of that philosophy and then which sub sub branch of that philosophy. For example is the writer Hindu? If so, which Hindu school – Vedanta, Samkhya, Tantra, Yoga…etc. If Vedanta, is he/she a Dualist, Qualified Non-Dualist or a Non-Dualist. If he is a Non-Dualist, which school of Non-dualism – Bhamati, Vivarna, Ishta Siddhi…….etc.
Mystical Status of the Writer – Has he/she written about his/her mystical experiences? Has he/she performed some miracles? How many disciples have reported mystical experiences in his/her presence? Is she/he able to hold a snake in his/her hand? (You will see this illustration quite commonly in the books of Indian mystical authors). Does he/she speak of other worlds, astral travel etc. ? Does he speak of godly visions?
Spiritual Status of the Author – Has he/she realized or not? You try to keep finding this out throughout the text or by comparing his/her realization with another one’s? Has he/she described some state of samadhi or spiritual ecstacy or bliss? What is his/her title – Guru, Ma, Acharya, Swami, Mahatma, Muni, Pundit, Yogin etc. or adds Ananda after his/her name? Is he/she an officiating priest of an esteemed temple or a rich temple with branches all over the world. Does he/she have an ashram with a sprawling campus? Does he/she wear a saffron robe?
Reading my text for self inquiry
So if you have come to this point in the article, you would have realized that reading a text is not easy ! It is inexplicably intertwined with the identity you hold for yourself and the image you construct of the writer. I am not stopping you from holding any identity or judging me. I am just raising your awareness so that you examine what identity is playing while reading my text. I am asking you to examine the lens you are wearing.
I have also helped you by telling about my own identity in the previous article: I am a philosopher-inquirer having knowledge of my self which is deeper than others. I don’t hold snakes in my hands, I have had no experience of samadhi or any other mystical experience other than having a kundalini which has been pretty much working silently for the past twenty five years. But I don’t have anything much to report about it as yet; that can serve as wisdom for others. I don’t have any titles attached before me like Guru, swami etc. I don’t have a sprawling ashram, I don’t wear a saffron robe, or lead any religious order. I don’t know how to perform any miracles and I don’t intend doing any of these things. I am not even working for samadhi because it just an indirect means, not direct means to Self.
What I have been doing for the past twenty years is self inquiry, freeing myself from the nest of identities through the process of insight and negation. I have understood that it’s only identities that take away freedom. I have removed many and there are some very difficult ones left to remove. These identities are more appropriately called delusions. Just to give you an idea of it, the delusion I have to clear is that I am a human being, and then I have to clear the delusion that I am a living being and then I have to clear the delusion that I am a being at all. The ultimate “I” is only “I” with nothing after it, not even “I Am”. It is the source of all creation and that is the “I”
And when you read a text from a person who has the more general identity in the nest of identities, you stand the greatest chance to get self knowledge. So let’s come back to reading and play of identities 🙂
While reading me I am not asking you to suspend judgement “infra-rationally”. Which means I am not asking you to put your intellect to a lull in a state of faith and belief. I am asking you to become “supra-rational”. Which means I am asking you to become aware of your identities in play as you read.
The identity is what you are. You are invested in it and you are not just simply going to put it off becasue I say so. Your whole life, the way you live currently depends upon it.
So then, how can you read me so that you are not governed by your identity, which will set up a defence mechanism in you; but to merely examine your identity while reading my text……just like a mirror !
Well, this is the project of the the writer of philosophical inquiry. It is the skillful means he/she employs in writing so that the reader can see his/her lens while it operates. And this is where my text becomes a mirror for the reader if he/she comes to it with a mind alert to the play of identities. There is no authority here. The reader is not believing me or submitting to me. It is this freedom that shall lead the reader to freedom.
There is freedom also, for the reader to leave at any moment. Or, if he/she has doubts he/she can start a process of dialogue with me. Since I am not available for speaking at present, the dialogue can only happen through writing. Believe me, if one develops the way of reading I have talked in this article, the reader does not have to speak or go to anyone. In my whole life, I have never gone and spoken to any teacher. I just read; and had a few, very few written dialogues.