How is It Important to Know One’s Real Self?
It’s of utmost importance to know oneself, because only by knowing one’s real self can one escape the inherent miseries of living in the material world. The suffering of the material body only ever relates to the body and mind. As long as we identify with the body and mind, we will experience that suffering. When we understand our real identity, namely as the eternal soul within, we shall experience real happiness.
Real happiness does not come from the body and mind, since real happiness is a constant. The happiness of the body and mind is always fleeting and insubstantial since it is always and without exception being replaced by misery.
Some people are fine with that. They even say that you can’t have happiness without suffering. They understand happiness only as the counterpart of suffering. They are locked in a dualistic understanding of the world. The soul, however, is the only constant factor of our lives. Everything else changes. By understanding the soul, one can connect to the happiness of the soul. Actually, the soul is a particle of eternity, knowledge and bliss, so by knowing oneself one becomes blissful.
Everyone is seeking a common factor they can share with others of a similar mindset and in this way experience a sense of identity. The inherent problem in the modern world is that our identities are being defined by the body and mind. We live in a culture where our identity is established by the flesh we belong to, but since that changes at every moment our identity changes along with it, and therefore people do not actually know who they really are.
They cannot fix their identity. They don’t have an anchor in life – a foundation that does not change. Someone might say, I have my name, that doesn’t change, so I’ll just hang on to that. Or a 55 year old woman may relate to herself as a 19 year old, deluding herself that she is still attractive. These “identities” are products of illusion borne from identifying with the material body, not the spirit soul.
Everyone needs a constant in their lives, a value or a standard that does not change. The modern notion that knowledge develops and evolves as we gather more and more information (which ironically keeps proving the current ideas wrong), is a symptom of a lack of foundational (spiritual) knowledge.
Truth does not change. It’s either true, or it isn’t. Take reincarnation for instance. It is not a matter of whether or not we believe in it. Either reincarnation is a fact or it isn’t a fact. It doesn’t become “true” only when one accepts it as fact. It is always a fact. Or like the scientific “discovery” of planets. The planets existed before the scientists came along. They existed before, without anyone’s knowledge – they were simply unseen by our limited sense perception.
So it is not knowledge that evolved; it was there all the time. If is true now, it was also true before, and it will also remain true in the future. Only such truth is knowledge worth pursuing. Relative knowledge may have its use for making technology and consumer gadgets, but it is useless when it comes to solving the existential problems of life.
There is only one platform that all living entities can unite around, and that is the Supreme factor. While we all operate from different platforms, conflicts of interest and egos will continue. If, however, we can believe that we are all parts of the same whole – Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead – then we can also believe and understand that we are all brothers and sisters coming from the same father, the same origin – Krishna.
No matter how much one country thinks it is more sophisticated and advanced than others, while the bullying and squabbling for area and resources continues, it is simply a tribal mentality. Some countries in the 21st are behaving from a fundamentally tribal mentality as much as tribes in the remote jungles of Africa or Asia.
Ego-driven competition between individuals or groups – be it in Swahili land or Wall Street, will never bring all beings together in harmony. And as Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, how can there be happiness without peace?
There is a lot of talk about finding oneself, and getting together in peace and harmony, and saving this land, or saving that species. In fact, a whole industry has sprung up, giving the disenchanted a forum to spill their hearts out on Oprah and Jerry Springer shows, but no one seems able yet to have come up with a solution to the problem of how to counteract the miseries of the material world. Not even Oprah.
The weekly magazines are full of colorful reports on the successful people, the celebrities, who enjoy their senses to the max. These successful people, however, suffer from the same problems as everyone else – broken relationships, drugs, suicide, alcohol, family troubles, unwanted pregnancies, etc.
Worrying about paying the rent is just that: a worry. If you worry about your unpaid $10,000/month rent, rather than your unpaid $300/month rent, all you’ve succeeded in doing is upgrading the misery and worry. The material qualities of life such as wealth and prestige can be improved, expanded, and polished, but the basic experience of suffering and enjoyment is the same for everyone regardless of their material status in life.
A rich stockbroker in a high-rise apartment in Manhattan eating his bloody steak with silver cutlery is enjoying his meal the same as the Bengali farmer eating puffed rice from a leaf plate with his fingers. The eating process is exactly the same. When both these people sleep, neither notices whether he lying on a box spring mattress in Beverly Hills or on a straw mat in a mud hut.
The only solution to the problems of understanding our identity, and acting on a common platform, is to accept divinely inspired knowledge descending from Krishna, and which furthermore has been recorded and transcribed in the Vedas, the most comprehensive body of knowledge known to mankind. The essence of that great body of knowledge has been delivered and made accessible to the people of this modern, fallen age by Srila Prabhupada, who comes in the ancient disciplic succession from Krishna Himself.
I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikshvaku. —Bg 4.1
This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost. —Bg 4.2
That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science.—Bg 4.3