20 Mar IAWIA
I AM WHO I AM
An acronym (IAWIA) pronounced: I Y
A mantra: I Why! I Why?
A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. Mantras are used to focus the mind so random thoughts don’t distract us. When the mind is calm, like an undisturbed pond, we can clearly ponder images of the universe reflecting off its surface. The images, though seemingly real, are an illusion like the illusion we see when viewing ourselves in a mirror. The images are illusions in that they appear as discrete shapes and forms, yet the universe is one and the universe and nothingness is all there is.
A koan: I why (why am I)?
A koan is riddle to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to awaken us to enlightenment. Who am I? I am who I am as I can’t describe myself more tangibly because in the middle of the sentence describing myself the person I’m describing has by then passed and the person I am now is unlike the person I started describing. This is impermanence. Realizing the temporary nature of the tangible universe is the foundation of wisdom. Wisdom is the realization that there is little point thinking about the past, beyond as a learning tool; that we are here now and there are endless possibilities as to what’s next. Amalgamating different perspectives on what’s next is the essence of wisdom.
All things, including ourselves, are interdependent manifestations of energy. While the manifestations are seemingly independent, they are interdependent as is a circle with its seemingly mutually exclusive inside and outside mutually dependent as each side cannot exist without the other. This is the foundation of compassion: we realize we are connected to a common ancestor or source (energy) and our existence is dependent on the existence of everything; as such, we treat everything as we treat ourselves because we and everything are one.
A biblical riddle: When Moses asks God (“HaShem,” the name) at Mount Sinai who he is, God says: “I am who I am.”
In the Bible, God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush with its flames not devouring its branches. This is the nature of the universe, ever-changing (flames) and eternal (branches). The flames represent impermanence. The branches are composed of interdependent but seemingly individual plant cells. While appearing as fire, the flames are light and don’t burn the branches. The burning bush is reminiscent of “the fiery ever-turning sword” that guards the way to the Tree of Life. The fiery sword and the Tree of Life are the burning bush, images of God. Moving passed the fiery sword (not difficult once we realize its flames are light not fire), we come before the Tree. It feels familiar and unlike anything we’ve experienced heretofore. We are awakened. We fill with tranquility as we are now no longer an independent piece of the universe but at peace with the universe. We are present. We realize we are one of infinite, unique and interdependent cells of the Tree of Life and we are one with the Tree of Life. We are eternal.
The Tao: I am who I am (I cannot be named)
“The Way [Tao] is ever nameless. Though simple and subtle…As soon as rules were made, names were given. There are already many names. One must know when it is enough. Those who know when it is enough will not perish.” — Tao Te Ching, Chapter 32.
Names are descriptions, generalizations and identities. They are essential to the network of social order. Names are shortcut references to aspects of reality. However, names mask reality. Describing and explaining too much can make us oblivious to reality. While reality cannot be described, it can be known. Those who know reality know that it is one, with no beginning and no end, that they and reality are one and as such they never die as death is also a name.
Self-realization: I am who I am
People are described in terms of personality characteristics, stories and circumstances in their acting roles in the play of life. These descriptions are not who I am. I am who I am, beyond description. I am god and so is everyone (and everything) else. The only difference between us is that some of us realize we are god and others don’t. It’s the difference between being one with everything and viewing ourselves as finite in space and time (birth to death) and otherwise describable. It’s the difference between realizing we are actors in an entertaining play and taking our roles seriously.