A young man named Naresh met a saint. The saint asked him who he was, and the youth answered, “I am Naresh.”
“Who are you?” asked the saint again.
Naresh, thinking perhaps the saint hadn’t heard him, said, “My name is Naresh.’
“Yes, but who are you?”
Naresh, puzzled, replied, “My father’s name is Ram Dutta. I live in Delhi. I’m an accountant.”
“Yes, but who are you?” persisted the saint. The young man puzzled over this question. Was the saint hard of hearing? Was he, perhaps, growing old and a bit senile?
“Well, if you don’t know,” said the saint with a smile, “maybe it’s good you came to me.”
By now the young man was thoroughly bewildered! Still, he felt a certain peace in the saint’s presence, and returned to him many times — he didn’t really know why.
Gradually, however, he came to think, “Can I really define myself in such a limited way as to say that I’m an accountant?” He began to think, “I’m not what I do. I’m a young man with many interests, including that of visiting this saint — though I do so for reasons I don’t fully understand.”
“Who are you?” the saint asked him again one day. By now the older man seemed to the younger not only perfectly normal, but even wise.
“I don’t know who I really am,” said Naresh.
“That’s better!” exclaimed the saint. “Now then, think about it again. Who are you?”
Well, thought the young man. I have a name, a family, a domicile. But am I really any of those things? Suddenly it dawned on him: “I’m a soul in search of itself!”
His body was still young, but he knew it would age in time. Even now he was the same person inside that he’d been as a little child. The body had changed, but he hadn’t. Therefore, he realized, he was not the body.
He introspected further. His understanding had changed since he’d met the saint, but he was still the same person, inside. His personality had changed, but something in his consciousness had remained the same. Slowly he came to realize that he, himself, was a point of inner perception from which he merely observed these changes, but didn’t define himself in terms of any of them.
That which changes, he realized, cannot be what I am. I am that something within that remains unchanged—that simply observes every change. Thus, he came to identify himself more and more with his soul.
One day he said to the guru, “I know who I am, but I there are no words with which to speak of it.” The saint, hearing those words, only smiled. Later on, the saint said, “Now that words fail you, there is much that we can communicate!”
Wisdom begins with the knowledge that we are not this body or personality. We are the immortal soul.
(13:2) Know Me also, O Bharata (Arjuna), as the silent Knower …in all bodies….