'The unexamined life is not worth living' - Socrates
Continued from Part II
We are all our ancestors and they are all us. Our physical bodies are merely the current guardians, the vessels that carry an essence which is undying.
So what does all this mean? Every day we get up, eat, work, relax and go to bed. How does all this talk of stars and ancestors change anything?
There are three areas where the implications for this kind of understanding are profound - Ego, Death and Happiness.
Once we loosen our identification with a separate ‘I’ contained within this physical body the idea of protecting our ego becomes unsustainable.
We (as in the ego we normally identify with) weren't responsible for the supernova explosion that created the atoms that make up our physical body. We weren't responsible for the thousands of generations that came before us that crafted our DNA.
How strange then to invest time and effort into strengthening our ego. How strange to crave praise and visible signs of success. How strange to want others to look up to us and to be fearful of losing face.
Of course, all these reactions are part of being human. However, with awareness of our true self they start to soften and we start to see their futility. Our true self is so much more than any praise or status we may court through attachment to the ego.
We are a child of the universe, to what greater status could we ever aspire.
As humans, we have a big problem with death. We fear it happening to us and we struggle coming to terms with it when it happens to our loved ones.
Of course, death brings intense sadness and grieving. However, it needn't bring hopelessness when we really understand who we are as human beings. When someone dies, that is not really the end, just as their birth was not really the beginning.
Each life is an expression of the intelligence and essence of the universe. That essence is undying but it changes form continually. One form, then another, birth, then death, birth, then death. Endless change.
Without change, life wouldn't exist. Every moment of living is change, right down to the cellular level chemical reactions are taking place to keep us alive. Life is nothing but constant change.
It is a sobering thought to look around and to think that in 100 years every person that we can see, including ourselves, will no longer be alive. That is depressing if we think we are just the physical body.
However, when we see we are all just messengers of an underlying, timeless intelligence, that we are just one expression of that intelligence, one of a multitude of forms, then we can really see the beauty in life.
When we understand who we really are we no longer have to worry about protecting our fragile ego, we realise we are already so much more than we can ever comprehend. What’s more, we realise everyone else is too.
There is a wonderful practice in India and Nepal whereby people greet each other with a slight bow and the word Namaste. The greeting means ‘I bow to the divine in you’.
When we bow to the divine in others, either literally or mentally, we are also recognising the divine in ourselves. There is no space for hate or criticism of ourselves or others. This can only happen when we realise our true nature.
Finally, we understand the oneness of all human beings. We are all from the same source, we are all our ancestors, we are all that came before and we are all that will come in the future.
Ultimately we are all made of stars. In the face of that realisation, what other reaction could we have to our fellow humans than compassion?
So the next time you see the mantra ‘Believe in yourself’, you may like to consider whether that is perhaps a very poor substitute for 'Understanding your Self'.
Image by Tom Hall