I have been reading lots of books about the self lately. Books from all sides- western medical books on neurology, vedic thought, pschycology, the Bhagavad-Gita, autobiographies of self- transformations and one thing that they all bring up but cannot seem to fathom is the idea of a continuous self.
We are in a process of constant change and evolution;our cells die and are renewed, our physical stucture itsself is constantly accumulating the new and shedding the old, our brain is creating new pathways and learning new patterns, even our memories are constantly altering themselves to fit our ever-changing perception of ourselves. So where does this idea of a constant core come from?
The more eastern books tell of the idea that the self is an illusion-that we are all essentially one and the differences that arise are only reflections of our awareness of that unity and our ability to see it. More western thought believes that the self is connected to conciousness. That as conciousness arises we need some sense of a stable unity in order to give meaning to the world. Essentially the idea that there is this man that sits in our brain and holds all the reigns is completely false for in fact we are in a constant state of flux.
A very good friend of mine came to Chennai last week-partially to get out of Germany, partially to come to an Ashram here and prepare for a new period in her life, and partially to visit me. We decided to go to Pondicherry, an old colonial French town for the weekend to get out of Chennai and see a bit more of the South. Of course we decided to go at 6pm on a Friday which is absolute rush hour and end up catching a local bus and standing for 2 hours squished between sweaty armpits and overheating bodies. But somehow, chattering away with Anna amidst the squishiness and the sweatiness and griminess of a local bus the three and a half hour bus ride flew by in no time.
But I wonder-how is it possible that a friend who I spent my youth with but haven’t really spent time with for the last 5 years, still knows me so well. I feel that I have changed quite significantly in the previous few years especially but is there something that stays constant? Or is it just the ingrained pattern of communication between old friends that is brought to the surface and seems to make communication so effortless?
Perhaps there is even more to it: at the risk of sounding really cheesy I came to a different conclusion this weekend. Something that has nothing to do with the mind and all to do with the heart- the one constant in our friendship, and any of my friendships at that, is that love and appreciation is constantly cultivated. When I look at my friends I feel love, happiness and joy. The point for me when a friendship begins is when I genuinly enjoy spending time with them, where I feel a sort of reciprocal love and positive energy.
Perhaps it is not very much different with self. Assuming that the “self” really is an illusion, that this body is essentially nothing more than a projection of our conciousness unto the world around us then the only thing that really endures is the string of emotions that we connect to it. And if we connect love and positive vibrations and respect to this projection and this projection as a whole is stable then one would have to conclude that in the greater order of cosmological significance we are essentially nothing more than light and love and good vibrations.