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I don’t know for sure who I am, but I do know…..

…who I am not.

We jostle with ourselves, seeking meaning of our life and hoping to unravel the secrets of our existence. On this journey, the ones with imagination and a bias for introspection suffer more than others. And are richer for that suffering.

A decade ago, I began to form an idea of who I really was. Not in the outer appearance or sense of identity or in the perception of others. But who am I at the core.

It came about after a series of serendipitous encounters in Africa with people, books and songs.

The answer has stayed with me since then. I have found validation of it in Sufi writings, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, message of Lord Krishan to Arjun during the famous battlefield face off and in songs of Kabir, sung by Abida Parveen (Kabir by Abida – Abida Parveen and Gulzar) and the theories of Carl Jung (The Middle Passage, from Misery to Meaning in Midlife by James Hollis)

I am not my ego.

For most of our lives, the sense of I, me, mine and myself steers our ship. It is the sole cause of our miseries. It is what impels us to perennially judge and compare, refuses to let in the awareness that we are seamlessly connected to the rest of the universe, relentlessly seeks drama. It tells us that we are not complete till others acknowledge it. It tells us that everyone else is either above or below us, that we cannot accept another without judgment. These are some of the many machinations of the ego……

I look at ego as the malevolent and mischievous tenant that provokes me, the owner of the soul, to stay embroiled in conflict. It fills my head with incessant chatter that robs me of the joys of solitude.

And for most of my life, I have sleepwalked, dragged around by it, unmindful that I have always been the owner that is being held hostage by the tenant residing in me. My ego.

Has this knowledge helped me surmount ego? Yes and no. All I have been able to achieve is a few steps. But this has produced an acute awareness and given me infinitely more moments of peace than before.

And the antidote to the ego is just that – awareness of its existence and refusal to be drawn into perpetual seeking of acknowledgment and approval.

Today, I am including a song, Aik Alif, in this post. This Sufi song captures the essence of what I have written above. Sung by Pakistani singers Noori and Saeen Zahoor, it is one of my all-time favourites. And for the enjoyment of those who may not be familiar with the language, I am including the lyrics and the translation.

Parh parh ilm te faazil hoya (You read to become all knowledgable)

Te kaday apnay aap nu parhya ee na (But you never read yourself)

Bhaj bhaj warna ay mandir maseeti (You run to enter your mosques and temples)

Te kaday mann apnay wich warya ee na (But you never entered your own heart)

Larna ay roz shaitaan de naal (Everyday you fight Satan)

Te kadi nafs apnay naal larya ee na (But you never fight your own Ego)

Bulleh Shah asmaani ud-deya pharonda ay (Bulleh Shah you try grabbing that which is in the sky)

Te jera ghar betha unoon pharya ee na (But you never get hold of what sits inside yourself)

Bas kareen o yaar (Stop it all my friend)

Ilm-oun bas kareen o yaar (stop seeking all this knowledge my friend)

Ik Alif teray darkaar (Only an Alif is what you need)

Bas kareen o yaar (stop it all my friend)

Ilm-oun bas kareen o yaar… (Stop seeking all this knowledge my friend)

Allah Sayyaan Allah Sayyaan (God is Greatness, God is All)

Nee main jaanaa Jogi de naal (I shall follow the Jogi {ascetic/Sufi})

Jo naa jaane, Haqq ki taaqat (those who deny the strength of Truth)

Rab naa devey us ko Himmat (God does not give them courage)

Hum Mann ke darya mein doobey (We have drowned in the river of Self)

Kaisi nayya? Kya manjhdhaar… (the boat and the flowing waters do not matter)

Bas kareen o yaar (stop it all my friend)

Ilm-oun bas kareen o yaar (stop seeking all this knowledge my friend)

Allah Sayyaan Allah Sayyaan (God is Greatness, God is All)

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