Finding The True Self: The Science of Identity - Part 3 Function


ACHARYA DAS: Namaste. Welcome.

Today we will be concluding the three-part series on “Who am I? The quest for self-discovery.”

So in the previous two talks we addressed the question of my essence: “What am I exactly?” And of course my position: “Where I fit in the big picture.” And today the third part of the question of identity: “What is my natural function?” we will attempt to be able to present to you. And it has to do with actually finding your real purpose in life. But as a recap I’d just like to maybe read down a list very quickly if I could. And it just deals with the question of my essence, who I actually am.

  • I am not this body. I do not die when the body dies.
  • I, the person, who is living temporarily within the body, I am an eternal spiritual being, an eternal spark of God.
  • I am not an impersonal force or energy. This is an incorrect or incomplete understanding. I am eternally a person.
  • It is my eternal right to exist in a state of great wisdom and spiritual love, free from anxiousness and fear.

In relation to the question of, “Where do I fit? What is my position?”

  • Again we should understand that my body and mind are not me and they should not be my master. I should be a master of my body and my mind.
  • I should not lay claim to this world and although this world in some ways is inferior to me, I am, as a spiritual being, a superior energy, still I am forced, while residing within this realm, I am forced to obey the laws of nature.
  • All living beings, that is, the jiva atmas, they are my spiritual brothers and sisters. I am not their Lord or master and should not seek to control or exploit other living beings.
  • And amongst all living beings there is One Who is supreme. I am not, nor can I ever become the Supreme Soul. I will always be subservient to Him.

So that’s a little recap of what we have previously gone over.

So what is it that is my natural function? What is it that I am crying out to do? How do I find my true purpose in life?

Well, if we just examine one thing first. If I act in a way that is contrary or acting against what is my true position, that is, I am striving to be a dominator, or I am striving somehow to be number one, the center of attention, not only will I fail to be able to do that, and I—not just because of failing in my attempts—even if you arrive at the pinnacle, the topmost position where you are the greatest dominator and enjoyer of everything else, within your heart of hearts you will feel an incredible abyss, just this vacancy, feeling unfulfilled. It’s like, you know, it is a terrible experience for people. And in my failing to be this supremely dominating and enjoyable entity in the center of everything, what everybody is aspiring for, I will be plagued with anxieties and actual unhappiness.

So all we have to do is look around the world and see whether people actually succeed in doing this. I think there’s nothing more sad than to watch aging celebrities—says the old guy here! (laughs/laughter) Not that I’m a celebrity—but aging celebrities, you know where people used to, you knew them in their vigor. Whether it’s sports stars, movie stars, athletes, yeah? Aging musicians. I mean it was one thing to see the Rolling Stones in the 70’s, it’s another thing to see them in 2016. Things are coming unglued a little bit. And you see people, you know, older people already in their 70’s still trying to sing. They’ve lost the vigor and the brightness in their voice. Or you see some, you know, 60-year-old or 75-year-old former boxer and they’re kind of, you know, doing their thing and everybody is sort of like, “Yeah, yeah, you’re wonderful” and everything, because we feel kind of embarrassed for them.

You know this is the nature of things. People rise to prominence. I mean America’s the most powerful country in the world. The president of the United States has incredible power, and currently we think of George Bush senior, you know, and then seeing him or, you know, even Bill Clinton I guess and others, you know in their heyday when they were vigorous and vibrant and exuded this confidence but then you see the frailty that comes with the aging state. And even if you were sitting still in that seat of power, you know that it’s in decline and you’re losing it.

So, you know, the position of being the top dog, the alpha, the dominator, it just does not last and when you’re in decline it is very—one’s filled with anxiousness.

Similarly even in relationships, when people want to find a way to live harmoniously and happily together, if one person is actually always seeking to dominate and exploit the other person, even though there may be a great deal of affection, it becomes, things, you know, become very—the relationship becomes tested, and testy, and begins to fall apart you know, pretty rapidly.

So when we examine these types of things it can be very helpful to giving insight into our natural function and other things. You know there’s a whole school of yoga, it’s known as sankhya, sankhya yoga, where they really examine things very carefully, to be able to distinguish the difference between that which is impermanent and that which is permanent, that which is temporary, that which eternal, that which is material and that which is spiritual. And they would observe things, you know, in our own personal lives and people around us and people that we become familiar with. They make these observations, very careful observations, because it can be a tremendous learning experience and give spiritual insight. So, you know, in examining these things it begins to give us a few hints, that if we are going to try and act against what is our nature, as I said, we will not know harmony.

So when we look at the living being, you know, you will see there are certain things that drive all people. For instance there is a desire for happiness. And the reason that we desire happiness, it’s not just because we so-called want to be happy but it comes from the living being, the soul itself, to exist in a state, eternally in a state of unbounded joyfulness: ananda it is called. And that is why that exists within us.

But perhaps one of the greatest driving forces of all people is love, the desire to both love and to be loved. What is the definition of love? Anybody have an idea? Or it’s going to be everybody suddenly goes blank? And you realise, it’s something you talk about and everything, but when we are asked to suddenly define it, it’s like, “Okay, how would I define it?” you know. And then people start coming up with all kinds of ideas, but—

If we go to a dictionary and we look at a definition, one of the common definitions is: “An intense feeling of deep affection.”

Another definition is, “A feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.”

These are nice definitions. They’re getting very close to the reality of things.

And a third one is, “A strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship.” And one of the reasons I particularly like using that example is that the reality is that love is very intimately connected with the idea of relationship, where things are fitting in relation to each other. So we’ll get into that maybe in a little bit.

But you know we see it played out on many different levels and in many different ways. For instance it just—I saw this—I can’t remember where I saw it. Some woman had just given birth—and I delivered or assisted with two and delivered one of my own children and it’s just like quite a mind blowing thing to watch and to participate in the delivery of a child. And there is something happens that when that baby pops out and you hand it to the mother, instantly, instantly, the mother is just like overwhelmed. And in this video I saw—I can’t remember what it was connected with but this woman was cradling her baby and crying and she was saying, “I love you. I love you so much.”

And that kind of just instantly really caused me—it kind of blew my mind, because the reality is while the baby was developing inside the womb of the mother, the reality is there’s no real interchange. The mother may be talking to, or speaking to, or anticipating the birth of the child but actually they haven’t really met and there hasn’t been an interchange, yet just instantly in that second, the baby shows up and instantly the mother’s gone.

You know you get cases where women have made up their mind they were going to have their child adopted out, or cases where there was a surrogate mother who carried a child for someone else and then the instant that the child was born they just want to keep that child. The idea of being separated from it, just like, it’s like tearing your heart out.

These are—these examples I’m using are for the purpose of trying to have us reflect on how natural it is for a person to want to love. And it doesn’t take very much to set it off. And it’s not like it is caused. It is not caused by anything. It exists because it is part of our eternal nature. The eternal nature of the living being is to exist in a state of profound extremely joyful, overwhelming and ecstatic love. This is the highest spiritual condition. If we examine, you know, love—well let me just stick with this one for a little bit.

I was raised as a Christian, as a Catholic, and I remember, you know, being taught this, but it always amazed me that when you ask many people, for instance, that are followers of Lord Jesus Christ or aspire to follow him, “What is the principal teaching of Jesus Christ?” In my personal experience less than 50% of the people get it right. And I’ll read--this is from the King James version of the Bible, Luke 10:27 and Jesus Christ was asked “What is your first and foremost commandment?” And he said,

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength and all thy mind.”
Luke 10:27

If we are to reflect on this and ask, “What does this mean?” we’re not talking about the flippant use of love, “Oh, I love your new hairdo.”
“I love the new car.”
“I love the new iPhone.”

I don’t know. You know, people say they love all kinds of things, but that’s kind of like, you know, that’s not really love, that we’ve had the, you know, the intense feeling of deep affection, you know, or strong constant affection for a person that is the definition of love.

So if we are considering such an overwhelming state of affection, profound and deep affection where a person is completely lost in this condition, it’s kind of like, what does that mean? For that commandment of Jesus Christ who, “Love the Lord thy God.”

The problem is most people don’t have a very clear understanding at all, about what is this Supreme Spirit? What is this Supreme Soul? What is God? What is this highest truth? And because to him—to individuals they may be somewhat distant and relate to Him either in an impersonal way, or He’s a person that’s going to judge me and I’m in deep trouble if I displease Him. You know, it’s like the judge. You’ve got to be on best behaviour for the judge. You don’t feel like you spontaneously have outpourings of love, like the mother who just had a little baby in her arms and now is just crying and is just so happy. And it is unfortunately because of a lack of actual knowledge, understanding and appreciation for what is being asked.

I will give you another very wonderful Vedic verse. It’s from a spiritual work called the Caitanya Caritamrta and in this verse it describes that, “Pure love”— and we’re not talking about whimsical thing, we’re talking about this deepest state of love.

“Pure love for the Lord is eternally established in the hearts of all living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, this love naturally awakens.”
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-lila 22.107

In this world our experience is that when we endeavour to fulfil this desire of our heart to love others and to be loved by others we invariably come up short. While there may be a great deal of sentiment and strong feeling in the beginning, for the vast majority of people over time it begins to wane. It’s good if it mellows into a very caring friendship but for a lot of people it doesn’t even work that way. I mean you look in the western world the success rate of marriages. Why do people get married? Why do they do it?

People are really into writing their own vows. They’re meant to be expressing both affection and commitment to another person, where, with compassion and care, intimacy and affectionate feelings people are going to reside together for their life. At least that’s the hope and that’s the aspiration. Yet probably something in the area just north of 50% of all marriages terminate. I mean people don’t get married with the idea of separating. They get married with the idea of actually staying together in a committed and loving relationship.

But something has happened socially to people, you know, over the last 40 years, 50 years, where the idea of duty, the idea of commitment has really diminished, and the idea of instant gratification, where how I am feeling right now, what I am experiencing right now becomes all important and because of that when people naturally, and I’m saying this, naturally, tend to—the experience of the initial rush of what people describe as love, it will diminish naturally, and there is a reason for it. The person that you aspire to love cannot actually meet your need to both love and to be loved. There is no other living being, and when I say living being I’m talking about amongst all the jiva atmas, all the living beings, there is no other being that can actually fulfill the desire of your heart.

So do not expect that you’ll be able to remain forever in a state of unlimited love for another person in this world. You are lucky if you can exist in a state of companionship and care and actual affection for each other. But the reason that there will be a tendency to become disappointed, it’s not like the love actually wanes, you actually begin to wake up to the other person’s imperfections. And the fact that they don’t love you unconditionally, that there’s, you know, there are limitations to everything here. And it is your waking up to it that causes you to see things in a more realistic way and people to begin to feel like they’re sort of growing, perhaps, a little apart, even if they remain very respectful and caring. And it’s because of what was discussed here with these two verses we read. That natural propensity to love can only be completely satisfied and fulfilled unlimitedly in relation to the Supreme Soul; that Soul, above all other souls, the source of beauty, the source of kindness, the source of unlimited mercy and affection. This is the only place where we will feel that need, which exists, you know, within us, fulfilled.

You know, I recently just looked at a movie I wanted to check out. It’s always kind of interesting observing how people write these different stories.

So there was a, one of the stars and it was the son of Clint Eastwood, Scott Eastwood. It was a film that was made in 2015. It’s not, you know, it’s only a year ago. It was called “The Longest Ride”. He’s been a bull rider and the girl that he met who was really into art and wanted to be a curator of art and everything and museums or galleries or whatever. And they had this encounter, this guy had ran off the road and they rescued him and they went back to his car and recovered some stuff. And the girl looked in all the stuff and there were just this huge stack of love letters. And she began reading some of them. And this guy had become quite gruff and quite closed to everybody. He was hurting very much from the separation of someone that he had greatly loved.

So, during the movie, they retell the whole story of what happened with this guy. He met this girl and she really wanted to have a big family. And he went off to the Second World War and as part of some of the injuries that he got he couldn’t have children. And so he avoided her and didn’t want to, you know, attempt to marry her knowing she’ll be disappointed. And, you know, this whole--this whole thing and she came to know about it and, you know, they felt tremendous affection for each other and they married anyway.

But as the years went on, the woman had such difficulty maintaining this desire to be in this marriage because she so much wanted to have children. And it got to the point where she couldn’t handle it anymore. Even though they’d been living together very peacefully and great harmony and everything, she was torn by this tremendous desire to, of course, to experience another type of love. It’s really what’s it about. And so she tells him finally that she’s going to leave. And he is absolutely devastated. And she’s packing her stuff and then she comes down the stairs. And he speaks to her in the most soft way and he says that he actually loves her so much that he simply wants her to be happy. And if that means that she has to go somewhere else to find what it is that she’s looking for and if she will actually be happy with that, then he can tolerate the separation. And, you know, and then she walks out the door. And then he’s just devastated and broken. Then minutes later she comes back again (laughter) because what he had said to her was just totally mind blowing.

And of course, a lot of people think this is all gooshy-goo and everything and people wanted to ride it. But actually it’s very insightful and it’s very, it’s reflective of something. People are really looking for that type of love that is so selfless that you are prepared to make whatever personal sacrifice for the sake of the person that you love. This is considered a really super high ideal. And it is actually a reflection of what spiritual love actually is. It is not yet perfect love, but it is a reflection of what spiritual love is.

So we see that in this condition of love, we are seeing--let me, you know, in life you’ve got a scale; on one end is selflessness, on the other end is total selfishness. And selflessness is, now, we are talking about the spiritual realm, whereas, selfishness is the material realm and what material life is all about.

We’re now going to just talk about another thing that, you know, is part of our deepest nature. And that is—and it’s very much tied into this desire for love.

As I mentioned earlier, if we fight our natural position which is a subordinate position and instead desire to be the dominant enjoyer of things, even if we can be in that condition, you cannot find perfect happiness there. In my life I’ve had the pretty amazing experiences, you know, from walking the highways and by-ways and visiting holy places of pilgrimage in India as a monk, to working with one of the biggest jewelers in the world and decorating palaces and bringing hundreds of millions of dollars of jewelry to show royalty and things. And so you get to see this perspective and you get access to a world that most people don’t have any access to. And you will see that the things that we are talking about don’t change with the amount of money or power that you have; the desire for love, the desire for happiness.

And now I’m going to talk about something; the actual part of our innate spiritual essence, our own natural function is to want to serve, to be pleasing. You know, when we talk about love, we talk about relationship. And when people feel affection for someone or something else, they naturally want to serve. You’ll see it, you know, played out in an imperfect way in this world when people have pets. They dress them up, they talk to them. I mean they treat a pet not as an object. They treat a pet as a person and most people want to feel that the pet also loves me. And I express my love by doing nice things, serving; correct or not?

And the difference between that experience and the experience of being the dominator - one in receipt of the adulation, the worship, the service of others - even in that position, I cannot find the same taste of happiness that I can in serving. And so, we see in this world, people that learn to give of themselves to join some charitable cause to help others--I mean, I know parents that bring their children out to soup kitchens and shelters and, you know, volunteer some time to help, you know, people that have much less in life. And everybody comes away from that experience with a really warm feeling within their heart. Whereas, if you play the dominator and you exploit or use others or force them to do your will through threat intimidation or whatever, you will never have that kind of feeling and experience. And that is because it is part of your actual eternal, spiritual nature.

So these two aspects of our natural function; our natural function is to both love and to serve. And if we are acting contrary to that, we will never find harmony, we will never find fulfillment.

I get quite distressed with a common phenomena that’s blasting through the world all over. This idea that--of self-love. I mean, I was at a yoga retreat on Kauai recently. And one really nice lady, she asked me--she said that she finds it in her life--we’ve been talking a little about, a little bit about these things but this was not the focus of the conversation. But she said she found it very easy to serve others and to be kind to others and do things for them, to manifest love for others in this way. But she said the thing that she has most difficulty with is loving herself. (chuckles) I apologized to her for chuckling. I really had to control myself. Not because I’m making any judgement. I was actually so happy for her that she was having this experience that it was so hard to do. And I said you don’t know how fortunate you are because when you start looking at that scale of selflessness all the way to selfishness; and selfishness being the material condition and total selflessness being the ultimate spiritual condition. It’s one of the manifestations. If you are having difficulty getting into the self-love thing, you are very fortunate.

Number 1: trying to love yourself. Most people don’t even know where this idea came from. It suddenly erupted on the scene and started being passed around. I know where it came from. Being passed around. Discussed. Everybody starts embracing it. And then for some reason, for some reason just because everybody is saying you should love yourself, talking about self-love, so people think, “Oh, okay.” They think that this is real; that this is something that you should be doing or that you can do. Just because everybody is saying it and accepting it doesn’t mean it’s either true or that it is right. It is neither true nor is it right.

You know if we look at the—Earlier, we had the definitions of love where, you know, they spoke about relationship and the feeling of deep affection for others. Where does that fit in if it’s just me? You know this is like—It is arisen from a distortion of ancient Vedic truth that is being presented where people have not gone yet beyond the idea that I am spirit. Stuck there. Nothing beyond that. And the Supreme Spirit is also spirit, it’s the same spiritual substance therefore it’s all one. So therefore I am also God. If I am God, then of course everybody should love me. And I should love myself. (laughs/laughter) But even God doesn’t go there. (laughs) This is really a serious distortion and I’m sorry; I don’t mean to make fun and I apologize if I am causing some pain. But it is not me that is causing pain to someone that is not feeling very favourable towards this idea. The pain comes from how accepting untruth as truth. That’s where the pain comes from.

You know what narcissism is? You know it’s from this Greek word. You look up the meaning of it. You know, narcissism is about self-love - to be totally infatuated with yourself. I mean, you know, the problem is that what was once considered a very perverted idea, and a person that was narcissistic was considered to be unfortunate. And, you know, everybody stayed away from them. Now it has become so interwoven with, you know, through pop psychology and the New Age movement and everything. That people really are taking it on board like some holy principle. But I assure you that it is not. That it is a deviation from what is actually spiritual.

You know, we should not be tying ideas of self-worth, acceptability, and everything simply to the body or just being inwardly focused. The fact that we are a spiritual being, that I am not this body, I am spiritual, I am an eternal spiritual being - a glorious, brilliant living being, spiritual being - this is where I should find my value. This is where my value lies. The fact that I am eternally loved. There is nothing that I can do in this life or in any other life to make it so that I am not lovable. That I am not to be loved by the Supreme Soul, the Supreme Lord. Even if I am degraded, fallen, very sinful. Even if I am antagonistic to Him. His love for me goes on without any condition and eternally.

So just to wrap up this 3-part series. And I’ll just read from a list. Makes it a little easier for me. I don’t want to miss any of the points.

In relation to my spiritual essence:

  • I am not this body nor the mind.
  • Nor do I die when the body dies.
  • I, the person, am living temporarily within this body but I am an eternal spiritual being, the eternal spiritual spark of God.

In relation to where do I fit, what is my position?

  • My material body and mind are not “me” and they should not be my masters. I should be the master of them.
  • I should not lay claim to this world. And although I am superior to the material energy, I am forced to obey the laws of material nature.
  • All living beings - the jiva atmas - are my brothers and sisters. I am not their lord nor master and should not seek to control or exploit them.
  • And amongst all living beings there is One Who is Supreme. I am not nor can I ever become the Supreme soul. I am always subservient to Him.

And my natural function is to exist in a state of limitless love and to be engaged in rendering loving service.

This is who I am in totality.

When a person has come to realize all of this then they will be perfect in their enlightenment. And the way in which they live in this world, if they are embodied still and residing within this world, the way in which they live will reflect this enlightenment. It will reflect this spiritual wisdom.

Thank you very much for participating in this series. And I would like to invite you to chant kirtan with us for a few moments and reflect on what we have heard. And become absorbed in this wonderful transcendental sound.

Thank you very much and just before we leave, I would just read, one more time, this wonderful verse from the Caitanya Caritamrta:

Pure love for the Lord is eternally established in the hearts of all living entities. It is not something to be gained from another source. When the heart is purified by hearing and chanting, this love naturally awakens.
CC Madhya-lila 22.107

Thank you very much and hope to see you next week. Haribol.