Who are we? This is perhaps the most timeless and universal questions of existential import that humanity has wrestled with for the entirety of our species’ history. From certain perspectives, we have made remarkable progress in answering this question. Scientific fields of study like Biology and Chemistry have arrived at precise descriptions of what we are made up of materially, from the atomic and molecular level of our chemical composition to the larger structural levels of organs and bodily systems. The rich traditions of humanities and social science disciplines like history and literature have documented who we are phenomenologically and socially through empirical observations and increasing linguistic specificity with which to describe our complex thoughts, feelings, impulses, desires, and behaviors. Still, these insights mostly address the question of “what are we” rather than the deeper questions we really want to know: who are we beyond the artifices of human society and the ego selves we all necessarily develop as a result? Is there a deeper authentic self that exists in all of us independent of the many different cultural branches of our species? In today’s world, when fear and hatred of “the other” remain as present as ever and modern weaponry holds immensely more destructive potential than ever before, these questions are extremely important, as the future of our species depends on our ability to recognize the common humanity in all of our neighbors.
"Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart, and that depends upon how much he has polished it. Whoever has polished it more sees more — more unseen forms become manifest to him."
“So this gnosis is self-knowledge; you could call it insight. It's a question of knowing who you really are, not at the ordinary level of your name and your social class or your position, but knowing yourself at a deep level. The secret of gnosis is that when you know yourself at that level you will also come to know God, because you will discover that the divine is within you.”
"And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul. And to Allah is the [final] destination." (35:18)
"Your intelligence is so deeply entangled with the social identification that you have taken on, your brains are not working in line with the life within you; it is working against your own life. That is the source of misery."
“When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed release, for that is the greater prison. When this release takes place, then one cannot be outwardly imprisoned.”
“The goal of yoga science is to calm the mind, that without distortion it may hear the infallible counsel of the Inner Voice.”
"Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply that our nature cherishes them above all else. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another."
"True loss is for him whose days have been spent in utter ignorance of his self."
“Some amount of ego or self is very important. But we also need the ability to observe our own mind, thoughts, and feelings. This is the second important thing. That’s something that both meditation and psychotherapy encourage, in different ways. Therapy is built on a therapeutic split in the ego that promotes a kind of watchfulness of our inner lives. Meditation does that by training the mind to observe itself. Finally, both therapy and meditation can help us get past the ego’s need to control everything.”
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." (1 Peter 3:3-4)
"[Philosophy] raises the individual from an inauthentic condition of life, darkened by unconsciousness and harassed by worry, to an authentic state of life, in which he attains self-consciousness, an exact vision of the world, inner peace, and freedom. In the view of all philosophical schools, mankind's principal cause of suffering, disorder, and unconsciousness were the passions: that is, unregulated desires and exaggerated fears. People are prevented from truly living, it was taught, because they are dominated by worries. Philosophy thus appears, in the first place, as a therapeutic of the passions.”
"The student of Torah is like the amnesia victim who tries to reconstruct from fragments the beautiful world he once experienced. By learning Torah, man returns to his own self."
"O Arjuna! The Supreme Self, having no beginning, (no ending,) and no attributes, even though it dwells in a body (as a realized master), neither acts nor is touched by any action." (13:31)
"The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart."
“The more we search for ourselves; the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow-men, the more profoundly we will become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life.”
“Can you forget others and concentrate upon your inner self? Can you escape lures? Can you be sincere? Can you be a little baby? […] The baby acts without knowing why and moves without knowing where.”
"We are imprisoned in our small selves, thinking only of some comfortable conditions for this small self, while we destroy our large self. If we want to change the situation, we must begin by being our true selves. To be our true selves means we have to be the forest, the river, and the ozone layer."
"The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
"The way of learning is none other than finding the lost mind."
“Everything in the world knows how to seek for knowledge that they do not have, but do not know how to find what they already know […] There is no humble insect, not even any plant, that has not lost its innate nature. This is the consequence for the world of seeking after knowledge.”