The Divine Name – Who Am ‘I’, Really?

The Divine Name – Who Am ‘I’, Really?

Who am ‘I’?

Virtually everyone everywhere speaks of themself as the protagonist of their life, the character known as ‘I’. They invoke the name ‘I’ throughout each day in innumerable contexts, but to whom – or perhaps more accurately, to what – are they actually referring?

In fact, here’s an intriguing experiment: When you close your eyes and look for the ‘I’ inside your body, what do you find?

The Divine Name: Humanity’s Ultimate Answer to ‘Who Am I?’

The concept of ‘I’ in its purest form is a profound subject with deep philosophical implications.

The famous inscription associated with the Oracle of Delphi, and displayed at the Temple of Apollo, is Gnothi seauton, or “Know thyself.”

Pythagoras later embellished the theme as: “Know thyself, and you shall know the universe and the gods.”

And if, as Socrates asserts, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”, we would do well to suppose he is referring to something more essential than just one’s temporary role at work, at home, in the community, or even within an intimate relationship.

The deeper we delve into understanding ‘I’, then, it opens us to recognizing our divine nature. It sheds light on the purest essence of our being.

Finding Yourself: The Constant in All Your Changing Experiences

Ramana Maharshi, the prominent 20th-century Indian sage and spiritual teacher, advocated for self-enquiry, or ātma-vichār, as the most direct route to self-realization. He taught that ‘Self is constant and unintermittent Awareness. The object of enquiry is to find the true nature of the self as Awareness’.1

1David Godman, Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi

If ‘I’ is to authentically represent who we are, then it must be that ‘unitermittent’ aspect of our self that never leaves us, that always remains with us. The constant factor in all changing experience. It remains consistently present throughout the states of waking, dreaming and sleeping.
An answer, then, to ‘Who am ‘I’?’ is that to which all experience appears, but it is not itself an experience. It is the background, the common ground of all experience, always present yet often overlooked. ‘I’ refers to our essential, irreducible self – our being.

Unraveling the Divine Name: From Finite to Infinite Being

Despite invoking the name ‘I’ regularly, we often allow our self, our essential being, to become entangled with the content of experience – thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions. This confusion leads to a lack of understanding of who ‘I’ really is, thereby veiling the innate peace and quiet joy that are its true nature.
When you peel away all the qualities it acquires from the content of experience, you find that the ‘I’ loses its apparent limitations. You find yourself revealed not as the temporary finite being you had believed and felt yourself to be, but as unlimited being. Infinite being. God’s being.
Thus, ‘I’ is the Divine Name, the name for the divine in us that is prior to any quality derived from the content of experience.

The Ever-Presence of ‘I’: That Which Experiences

But how might we go about divesting ourself from the content of our experience?

One way is to consider ‘I’ as being like the space in a room that is almost universally overlooked in favour of the objects in the room. As a result, the space seems to be absent. In the same way, ‘I’ is almost universally overlooked in favor of the objects of experience – perceptions, sensations, thoughts, etc. – yet it is always there shining brightly amid all experience.
And like the space in the room, which cannot be seen but is always experienced, so ‘I’ can never be found as an object of experience. Yet, it is always being experienced – that is, it is always experiencing itself.

‘I’: A Portal to Peace and True Nature

Looked at from a slightly different angle, we find that the name ‘I’ serves as a portal through which we may pass on our way back from the drama of experience to the peace of our true nature. It is, as such, the highest mantra. And it shines like a beacon amid all experience, signaling the place of peace within our self.
All that is necessary is to sound the Divine Name once and allow oneself to be drawn into its reference, that is, into that to which the word ‘I’ refers – the sanctuary of the heart, the place of peace in us.

This has profound implications should we desire to carry out some form of spiritual practice.

Discerning ‘I’: The Essence of Prayer and Meditation

The essence of prayer or meditation is to resolve for oneself the question of ‘Who am ‘I’?’; it is to discern the nature of ‘I’ clearly amid the entanglement of the content of experience. It is to trace oneself back through the layers of experience until one arrives at the pure ‘I’, pure naked being. Unlimited being. Infinite being. God’s being.
Thus, ‘I’ is not just the highest mantra, it is the divine name, the name of the divine in us.


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