Whispers from the Other Shore: A Spiritual Search-East and West (Quest Books)

Who Am I

Ravi Ravindra

The struggle to know who I am, in truth and spirit, is the spiritual quest. The movement in myself from the mask to the face, from the personality to the person, from the performing actor to the King of the inner chamber, is the spiritual journey. To live, work, and suffer on this shore in faithfulness to the whispers from the other shore is spiritual life. To keep the flame of spiritual yearning alive is to be radically open to the present, and to refuse to settle for comforting religious dogma, philosophic certainties, and social sanctions.

Who am I? Am I Judas, am I Jesus? Out of fear, out of desire, I betray myself. I am who I am not. I cover my face with many masks, and even become the masks. I am too busy performing who I think I am to know who I really am. I am afraid: I may be nothing other than what I appear to be; there may be no face behind the mask. I decorate and protect my mask, preferring a fanciful something over a real nothing.

I cling to the herd for comfort. Together we weave varied garments to cover our nakedness. We guard the secret of our nothingness with anxious agility lest we should be discovered. Occasionally, I hear a voice uttered in some dark recess of myself. Sometimes it is the soft sobbing of a lonely child. At other times, the anguished cry of a witnessing conscience. At yet other times, it is the thundering command of a king.

Who are you? I ask. I AM. What am I asking when I ask Who am I? What sort of answer would be acceptable? Do I want a chart of my genealogical and social relations? A list of my racial and biological characteristics? A catalogue of my psychological features - my likes and dislikes, desires and fears? These are all the things that shape my personality. But whose personality is it? Who wears this mask?

In response to a little knock at the door of my consciousness, I ask Who is it? No naming - son of God, Self, Atman, Krishna - is sufficient. What I seek is to see the face of the one who calls. Who am I? does not ask for an enumeration of scientific facts: it expresses a certain restlessness, groping, and exploration. It is the beginning of a movement towards light, towards seeing things clearly, as a whole. It is the refusal to remain in the dark - fragmented and on the surface of myself. It is a state of searching for meaning, comprehensiveness, and depth. It is the desire to wake up.

Typed out by Ruth Rivera

See also: Wisdom of the Yoga Sutras, Ravi Ravindra