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Mystic Mantra: The song and dance of the self

The writer is a wellness physician, independent researcher and author.
Published : Aug 7, 2019, 1:32 am IST
Updated : Aug 7, 2019, 1:32 am IST

All of us idolise the self, as it were. Yet, the paradox is most of us take it as a given, also for granted.

The self is a captivating, yet intangible polaroid. It is the all-encompassing opus as large as life. It represents our language, figure of speech, syntax, and its rules. It is pervasive, also omnipresent, within us.
 The self is a captivating, yet intangible polaroid. It is the all-encompassing opus as large as life. It represents our language, figure of speech, syntax, and its rules. It is pervasive, also omnipresent, within us.

The self is a captivating, yet intangible polaroid. It is the all-encompassing opus as large as life. It represents our language, figure of speech, syntax, and its rules. It is pervasive, also omnipresent, within us. All of us idolise the self, as it were. Yet, the paradox is most of us take it as a given, also for granted. We think of the self as a form without form, yet something that we connect to at the drop of a thought — irrespective of whether it is housed within or outside of our body. We also think of it as being a perpetual part of our wakeful state, or sleep, or while meditating — or, anything we do, or not do. We often think of it as a solitary principle, or maybe more than one, that represents our persona.

There are a glut of questions just as much there are answers vis-a-vis the concept of the self. Yet, the best part is the self is first and foremost every individual’s fundamental essence, also essentiality — one that distinguishes us from others. In ancient Indian philosophy, the self “epitomised” diverse notations — jiva, or life, atman, or breath, jivatman, or life-breath, purusa — the quintessence that resides in our body — and, ksetrajna, one who is conscious of such a physicality. Each expression connoted the summit of analysis — the whole point being keyed to discerning the fundamental character of the self. With the passage of time, our “bespoke” self was considered as somewhat everlasting allied to a body that also expended “good” and “bad” karma accrued through time and several lives — viz transmigration, in which the soul passed from one body to another.

In Western thought the self is divided into — (1) the self-concept, which alters significantly in early life and consequently “institutes” itself, following which it is employed to evaluate the world. This is akin to the radar that approximates everything not related to the self. (2) Self-esteem — of how you feel about your “self.” (3) Social individuality, which encases a fulsome portrait of the self that you “showcase,” or represent, to the world. There is also a fourth constituent — one that attaches itself to self-esteem and social identity. You’d call it self-worth too — a component that imparts in us all a sense of vocational or professional ability, aside from artistic talent.

While Aristotle evidenced that all of us are a composite of our body and soul, where the soul cannot be unglued from our psyche, his seminal idea of the self was based on a multi-hued synthesis related to standard events of life — growth, nourishment, reproduction, understanding, imagination, longing and thinking. The inference — a person who’s consciously evolved is seldom disturbed by life’s vicissitudes, or hardships.

Tags: aristotle, indian philosophy