August 17, 2007
The Pope Asks, “Who am I?”
In the Zen school there is a commonly used koan, "Who am I?" or "What am I?"
Similarly, "What is your original face before you were born?" or What is your original face before your parents were born?" Or, "Before the question ‘Who am I?’ arises, what are you?"
These are questions you use in meditation to penetrate through fixed false thoughts of delusion. Without going into the details, you need to know that Zen Buddhists use this contemplation method to tie up thoughts and then abandon them. So do Tibetan Buddhists. Hindus and Sufis also use this practice technique.
That’s a lot of different schools, which attests to its great effectiveness in helping you penetrate through to the ultimate substrate of being (i.e God).
Here’s the biggie: Pope Jean Paul II also said Christians should ponder this question (source: Hakuin on Kensho, Albert Low, p. 73). So we also have a Catholic Pope telling Christians to use this cultivation technique.
The sage Nisargadatta instructed: "Give up all questions except one: ‘Who am I?’ After all, the only fact that you are sure of it is that you are. The ‘I am’ is certain. The ‘I am this’ is not. Struggle to find out what you are in reality." [Source: I am That, trans. Maurice Frydman, Durham: NC, Acorn Press, 1973, p. 70].
Ramana Maharshi, another enlightened sage, said,
The mind will subside only by means of the inquiry, "Who am I?" The thought "Who am I?", destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally be destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre. If other thoughts rise one should, without attempting to complete them, inquire, "To whom did they rise?" What does it matter however many thoughts rise? At the very moment that each thought rises, if one vigilantly inquires "To whom did this rise?", it will be known "to me." If one then inquires "Who am I?", the mind will turn back to its source (the Self) and the thought which had risen will also subside. By repeatedly practicing this, the power to abide in its source increases. [Source: Be As you Are, ed. David Godman, London, Arkana, 1985, p. 59].
Just another meditation method you can use.