What Is My Essence? (Part 2)

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In Part 1, we discussed practical, scientific, and scriptural evidence that you are not the physical body. The next question to ponder is, if you are not the physical body, then…

Are you the mind?

According to the Vedic scriptures, you are not the mind either. The mind is also a body you are wearing, but it is made out of subtle material energy so you are not able to see it under normal circumstances. The gross physical body is like outer clothes and the subtle mental body is like underclothes. In both cases, you are the person who is temporarily wearing these bodies. But unlike the physical body, the subtle body generally stays with you, continuing to cover you after you leave your physical body at death.

A simple and practical exercise to see that you are not the mind is called the Silent Witness Technique.

Begin this exercise by sitting comfortably in a chair or on a cushion on the floor, with your back supported if possible. Close your eyes. Touch your thumb and index finger together and place the backs of your hands on your knees, palms facing upward. This is position is called chin mudra and it helps to relax the body.

Become aware of how the body is breathing automatically. Do not try to force or control the breath in any way. Simply observe the body breathing in a detached way. Say to yourself, “I am watching my body breathe, I am not the body.”

Now do the same thing with your mind. Focus your attention on the river of thoughts flowing through your mind, but don’t attempt to control the thinking process by trying to think certain thoughts and not think others. Instead, just watch the thoughts in a detached way. In the same way you might sit on the bank of a river, watching leaves, sticks, and other debris floating down the river – just sit silently on the river bank of your mind and watch thoughts, emotions, images, desires, fears, etc. just float by like debris in the mind river. Watch your mind and become aware of how you are actually aloof from the thinking process. Say to yourself, “I am the silent witness. I make no effort to think, but thoughts come automatically. I am watching thoughts flow through my mind, but I am aloof from them. I am the silent witness to my mind’s activities.” In this way, you’ll be able to experience that you are separate from the mind.

Through this exercise, you can experience that you are not the material mind or any of the thoughts and desires that flow in the mind. Rather, you are the self, the one who sits beside the constantly flowing mind-river – you are next to it, but separate from it.

You, the self, are actually made of a different type of energy than the body and the mind. According to the Vedas, there are two types of energy that make up everything in existence. One type is material energy. Material energy is dead matter. The other type of energy is life or spiritual energy. Life energy is always alive. Material energy is always dead. But when the two energies come together in a living organism, the material body inhabited by the life particle temporarily takes on characteristics of life. It appears to be alive, but that is only because the life particle or atma (self, soul) is occupying it and infusing its qualities throughout the material structure of the body. As soon as the atma leaves the material body, the body resumes its natural condition, which is that of dead matter. At this time, the physical body decomposes very fast and reverts back to the simpler elements from which it was constructed. We can observe this in all life organisms – plants, animals, humans, etc. – and so we can know that the atma inhabits all these organisms for some time, then leaves.

From the above information you can understand that your essence is life energy, or spiritual energy. Life energy is always alive and so, you, too, are always alive. You exist eternally. Your material body will at some point become useless to you and when you leave it, it will revert back to its original characteristics – that of dead matter. But you will continue on – usually in your subtle material body – and take on a new body in accordance with the condition of your consciousness.

Now that we know – intellectually, at least – that our essence is life or spiritual energy, how can this help us in our quest to experience our true nature?

To be continued in Why Is It Important To Know Our Essence?