Who Am I – the eternal inquiry

Who Am I – the eternal inquiry


This morning I woke up with this inquiry … who am I? Who I really am?

Guess, it was some residual process of reading Osho last night pronouncing emphatically that the key responsibility of every intelligent being was to find out who he or she really is.

The quest was not new to me. It has occurred to me many times in many years in the past and each time I have set out on the exploration seeking an answer I have got lost in responses that told me who I was not. Today, it reminded me of my experience as an enabler of making this invitation to participants in working labs. Especially in leadership labs – I will invite participants to make themselves known to others. The most common response would be to come and introduce oneself. As if to say, ‘I have done my bit. Now it is for you guys to figure out who I am.’ After each exploration, each attempt to make oneself known to others in the group, I will check with the participants, to what extent do they now know this person. I will ask them to rate their knowing on a 10-point scale. The scores inevitably were not very encouraging. Despite their best intent to make them known, participants could not really make it happen.


Most often, leaving aside those who would do a templated introduction, participants will come up and share many things about themselves. Besides their name, designation and role in the company, which usually constituted the opening statements, they would talk about their educational qualification, their work experience and their professional goals and so on and so forth. Some would venture out to talk of their family, hobbies and interests and personal dreams. Each time it will fetch a slightly higher score than the previous ones, those coming later guessing where things were going wrong. Yet, most invariably, it will be a pitch about who I am – a concept of who I think I am, a story of me who I believe to be who I really am. Yet, no one would end up making himself / herself known, completely.

Barring a few exceptional searching souls. Not only would they have heard the invitation right in not having to do an introduction, they would have genuinely got into asking this question of themselves – ‘Hey, who is it that I really am? Is it my name, my qualification, my designations, my experience, my hobbies etc.? Or are they some temporary denominators of what I have become?’ In the genuineness of their quest, authenticity of exploration and sincere struggle to get to know themselves, they, in the here and now would speak very little. In the spontaneity of expression, including long pauses for reflection, they would carry the audience with them and end up getting a high score from the group on having made themselves known.

What did they do right?

As you will agree there is no right or wrong response to this invitation. However each individual response reveals a lot about the walls of conditioning the real self is hiding behind – filters of conditioned interpretation through which the invitation is passed before being heard and reacted to and the conditioned locations one is habituated to see oneself in and from where one chooses to react. The high scorers, looking inside in their genuine endeavor to find an answer, would have encountered and become aware of these conditioning – who they were not – and in bringing some of these conditioning to the light of awareness, would have dissolved them to create windows through which would have peeked the real self. Not in well-crafted words or histrionics of presentation but in the candid presence of the individual, in that very moment. I remember, in one such session in a working-lab for foundational leadership, the group got into such deep exploration within themselves that even at the end of the day they did not want to leave the space.

The journey, the quest of finding out ‘who I really am’, is a fond quest of many a spiritually active person. They go about searching, encountering and eliminating who they are not. Considering the infinite number of facets each one of us carry, this journey may not get over in a lifetime.

Who am I?

The question is important, not the answer. The journey is important, not the destination. The process is important, not the outcome. Inculcating a habit of asking this question to one’s own self will keep you from falling asleep in the midst of the continuous din of the mind. You will stay awake and alert to possibilities of self-encounter. Having made many explorative journeys to the depth of existence you will, to many who experience you, be known, with awe and admiration, as someone who is relatively more enlightened and knowing.

And if per chance, in course of this journey, in some blessed moment of truth, you experience self-encounter, an experience of absolute self-knowledge, there won’t be anyone left to share who you really are. The knower would have dissolved in the knowing.

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