Hatha yoga practitioners may be familiar with the hamsa mantra, which accompanies the sound of breath: “Who am I?” the mantra asks. The answer to this query is obviously not your name and date of birth. In fact, the hamsa question is meant to address the deepest “you:” the one whose essence is absolute and eternal.
Only that which shines, in ancient Hindu philosophies, is true; in turn, only that which is eternal shines. In this perspective, the transient nature of your current identity is but an illusion to be overcome, and self-inquiry is the tool of this quest. If you are genuinely keen on finding the eternal light hidden in you, consider following Ramana Maharshi’s suggestion:
No matter where you are, pay attention to what you are doing at that time: are you working? Are you walking or driving the car? Are you resting or reading the news? Once you realize what it is that is keeping you busy, ask yourself “who is doing this?” Your mind will oblige and the answer will come right away: “I am doing this.” Next comes the most important part of the practice: ask yourself in true earnest “who am I?”
This is not a trivial question. Each time you ask it, put all of your passion into it—because you know that only your longing for the truth will set you free. Do this at any time of the day or the night. Little by little, you will start noticing that your inquiry is answered by a moment of deep silence.
Ask “who am I?” and an unknown space will open up within you. Dwelling in that hiatus, the whole universe will beckon you. Do take the plunge confidently, for it is your luminous essence that you are going to meet.
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