The Primordial Question

Self-Enquiry Series 

“Who Am I?”

When we use the word “My” – my body, my brain, my thoughts – who are we referring to? 

We have thoughts and physical bodies, but they are not who we are. This primordial question “Who am I?” goes beyond the physical and beyond any personal question. “Who am I?” is an existential quest that leads us to the truly infinite and core parts of our being. 

This question has been asked by humankind since the dawn of time. Our current species, named ‘Homo Sapiens’, translates to ‘thinking man.’ 

Thought has been the companion of humans for at least the last 200,000 years, and as we study the process of thought, we can see that the Western man has become absorbed by this concept of understanding oneself (Know Thyself).

When we look at other ancient systems of philosophy, we come to a very different perspective in terms of the mind and thought. In most Eastern philosophies, the mind or the ego is a subject of the psyche that one wishes to transcend. Hence, the ¨Homo luminous´ or ‘Enlightened Human’ is a being who has fully transcended and fully realised him/herself, beyond his/her thoughts, ego, and personality.

It has been said by many of the great sages that our universe and all of existence is made up of consciousness; ‘One Consciousness’, one unifying principle and force that binds all life and all matter together. And that the human being is a perfect expression of that consciousness. 

Self-Enquiry – Awareness of “I Am”

Self-enquiry (Sanskrit vichara) has been a spiritual practice of self-realisation for thousands of years. In fact, one of the oldest texts that come from Hindu teachings is known as Advaita Vedanta. This is ancient discipline has also been referred to as the silent journey. It is a practice of constant attention to the inner awareness of “I” or “I am”, advocated by Ramana Maharshi, as the most efficient and direct way of discovering the unreality of the “I”-thought.

Ramana taught that in the questioning of ‘Who Am I’, the “I” will disappear, and only self-awareness will remain. This practice allows for an “effortless awareness of being”, and by staying with it, this “I” will gradually destroy the thought processes (vasanas) “which cause the ‘I’-thought to rise,”. Finally, the ‘I’-thought never rises again, which is Self-realisation or liberation. This process of enquiry also includes a discernment, acknowledging all of the parts that “I am not.” 

When we look at the stories of the enlightened Buddha, the creator of Buddhism, and the great Lao Tzu – the founder of Taoism in Chinese philosophy – we can see that there has been a series of these fully-realised human beings throughout history. 

These beings who have become part of the whole, part of the Absolute Truth; were been able to transcend the mind and reflect the ultimate truth of their existence and being, a truth that can only be perceived when thought is not present. 

This can be an experience of presence itself, being aware in the present moment to witness and feel the entirety of the Universe and interconnectedness of all things. This is where the “I” dissolves into the great ocean of One Great Being of Consciousness.

The wise would say that we must see ourselves from the highest truth and infinite potential of our existence. Meaning that we have to go beyond our personal beliefs and circumstances to discover who we truly are; consciousness, whole and free.


​​Article by Louie Valotti – Co Founder of Genesis & Facilitator 

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