Who is the self in “my self”?
When “I” say “my” self, what does that mean? “My” refers to something ‘I” own or is mine and refers to something other than me. Everyone understands what I mean when I say my car, my shoe, my dog, my child. These are all separate from me. Who is the self in “my self”? Who is me who owns the self?
To understand this apparent riddle, I must realize the spiritual understanding of “self”. Self or atma refers to the eternal, non-dual person whose spiritual form and personality are spiritual energy. My and self are the same on the transcendental or spiritual platform. Matter does not make up any part of my spiritual body, senses, or mind. The material body I currently occupy is not me.
The eternal self has an eternal occupation, eternal relationships, eternal home, and eternal activities of eternal varieties.
The material world is the world of duality because all living beings are the combination of the eternal self and a body made of material energy. The only reason a material body exhibits life is due to the presence of the eternal self, sitting within this machine made of matter.
When I sit in my car, no part of my body is a part of the car. I am the driver of the car, in contact with it but separate. My hands are made of dead matter like the steering wheel. They appear alive because I, the eternal life particle or spiritual person am within the body and provide the current of life throughout the material body. Without me in the body, the body is dead just like a car without a battery.
Ten years ago, I saw a Bruce Willis movie called “Surrogates”. I thought it was good because it was a good parody of the eternal living being controlling the material body. In this movie, Bruce is a future FBI agent who, via a mind link, remotely controls a very lifelike android with human functions which is an exact replica of him. He sits at headquarters hooked up to sensors and cables and experiences that he is the android and feels all senses as if it was his own body.
In the same way, I enter a material body and control it, accepting that it is me. I do not realize I am sitting in this machine made of matter and that I am separate and different than it. All the experiences of the body, the pain and pleasure, the relationships, hot and cold, tastes, etc. seem real to me because I am identifying with the body so strongly.
In the movie, Bruce knew that he was separate and not the android. When I understand I am not the body but the transcendental, eternal living being within it, I become self-realized and see the actions of the body and mind as separate from me.
When I say “, myself”, in material terms, I am referring to my material body, mind, intelligence, senses, desires, and attachments as being me with nothing beyond that.
This conviction that I am this body is the illusion called false ego. Covered by false ego, I forget my real eternal identity and “my self” becomes identification with my material body.
At this point, I have lost all spiritual self-control. I no longer recollect who I am. I am only concerned with my desires, my attachments, my family, my city, state, or country, anything connected to my life.
When “I” eat some food, my mouth is receiving the food, my tongue is tasting it and sending the information to my mind which identifies the taste as sweet, salty, bitter, spicey, etc.
I decide to go to the beach, so I change my clothes, grab what I need, walk out the door to the car, get in and start driving towards the beach. I used my mind to decide where to go. My mind coordinated my eyes, hands, arms, feet, legs, and the rest of my body to perform the actions up to and including driving the car.
Let us look at the two above examples. Did I, the eternal living being within the body eat the food? No. My body did. Did I taste the food? No. My tongue and mind accomplished that. Did I open the door? No, my material arm and hand did. Did I, as the spiritual being, perform any of these actions? No, my mind and body performed the actions. I witnessed everything and directed the actions and falsely thought that I was the body doing these things.
A simple meditation to understand the relationship between the material body and the living being within is to watch the actions of the body and see that they are not me: my hand picked up the keys, not I picked up the keys, my mind is thinking this, not I am thinking this, my body is 40 years old, not I am 40 years old, that body is dead because the person left it, not that person died.
When I understand that I am not the body, then I can learn how to act on that realization.