Who Am I?

By The Spiritual Explorer | Published 10 July, 2015

Dear Spiritual Explorer: I was wondering whether the mantra Who Am I spoken in English is less powerful than sounding actual Hindu mantras whose vibrational sounds resonate with the creation of the universe. Larry P.,Wheeling, WV

Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi

Dear Larry: That is a very good question and one I have asked myself. I am however a big believer in intention, and I think that is what the universe responds to. When I counsel people  and they tell me what their intention is, I think they will have a greater chance for success than those who don’t put forth an intention. I particularly like the mantra Who Am I? because it was Ramana Maharshi’s signature mantra. (Read The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharashi.) Even though translated to English. I am sure if performed with sincerity, this great guru will respond to his chelas’ intent. Other mantras are designed to invoke other traditions such as Christianity or Muslim.

I am reminded of a story where this fellow chant master went to meet someone on an island who was reputed to be an enlightened hermit. He met the hermit and asked him what his mantra was. The hermit humbly replied with his mantra. The chant master expressed dismay and said, “Dear Master, you are pronouncing the words wrong, but I am happy to give you the correct pronunciation.” The Hermit was very happy to hear this. Afterwards as the chant master had departed in his boat several miles out from the island and was facing his boatman, he saw a look of disbelief on the boatman’s face. As he turned around he saw the Hermit walking on the water approaching his boat.  The Hermit bent down humbly before the chant master, and said ” Would you be kind enough to tell me again the correct pronunciation? I seem to have forgotten.”

A child’s view

I met Ram Natesh, a devotee of Ramana Maharshi last year. Ram Natesh told me that he was a child of four years old when he went to the Ramana Maharshi Temple in Tiruvannamalai, India. Ramana Maharshi was alive then and lying on his “tucket,” a wooden platform bed, giving darshan to all. Since he was but an innocent child, Ram Natesh was allowed to just run around, unheeded and unchecked, having great fun. I assume he was feeling also the great Shakti that emanated from that great saint, which probably energized the child even more.

Who am I? Through many permutations

Having attended many courses doing the practice of Who Am I? it seems that there have been ones that are more and some less spiritually influenced. At one of my first workshops, I had discovered that the participants were even more interested in identifying and bringing forth those characteristics and preferences that would enhance their lesser self. It seemed they were more interested in the maintenance of a self that promoted and expressed worldly qualities that could help them be more successful.

While disconcerting to encounter that, I have also recognized that it doesn’t really matter what motivation originally puts you on the path, because the path if stayed upon will eventually lead you to the truth. Many people have also exposed dismay over the many yoginis and yogis who are presenting a yoga that seemingly strays from the original purpose of yoga. However, I take the same stance and say, “Groupies and insincere enthusiasts will always attach themselves to the latest popular dance. ” But it’s far better than attaching to some other self-destructive groups.  No matter the original motivation, if practiced diligently, good results can happen.

The correct pronunciation and emphasis of the words Who am I? I attribute with thanks to my friend Ram Natesh who told me to say Who am I? with the emphasis on the word “I.” Putting the emphasis on the “I” most ideally directs our consciousness and intention to the “I.” When focusing on the “I”, it allows our minds to eventually dispel with the ego and melt deeply into the larger “I” which is called the Atman.

Ramana Maharshi also spoke of distancing ourselves from the roles we play in the life. If you are father, mother, sister, brother, etc., and act through those roles, you will never discover the “I” that stands behind all of those constructs. For example, when I spoke to my friend about her son’s behavior, she replied” I can’t do anything more; I ‘m just his mother.” Sometime later, as she began to practice Who Am I, remarkably she realized the limitation of how she viewed herself. She saw that because she spoke from her place of identification as mother, her words had less effect on her son. He thought he did not have to respect her words as much when coming from her emotional, attached role as mother.

There are many roles we as father, mother, sister and brother cloak us with.  Our goal is to make them as transparent as possible. The more transparent we become, the more we can respond to the mysteries and miracles that are always present, just waiting for us to tune into them.

Opening to our God essence

It is not God that hides from us; it is we that hide from God. We do this through how we choose to cover our souls and identify with our egos, because of comfort and habit As we walk through our lives, and particularly, as we get older and the temptation looms greater to hide in our aging, we sometimes lose sight that our purpose now is to uncover and not defend that which has been our cloaks, our disguises, or the many coverings that have hidden our wisdom and beauty. What I find interesting is that Guru Neem Karoli Baba wears a blanket also, but it is not to cover who he is, but to be a mere covering for his body. Unlike us, we tremble in the fear of uncovering who we are, not realizing the recognition of the true self that becomes our gift.

Saying Who Am I? Goes a long way towards returning us to basic simplicity.  My teacher has always said that God is in the simple.

Who Am I? Who Am I? Who Am I?

If you have a question about “Who am I,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.

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