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Who Am I?

There’s no how. Just let go.

John A. Grimes with his wife and son. Courtesy The Hindu.

By John A. Grimes

Reprinted from Ganapati.
Ganapati by John A. Grimes

ONCE MANY YEARS AGO, I had a “chance” meeting with an Indian saint. He asked, in broken English, “Been India?” Since I had been in India for a number of years, the best, most easily demonstrable answer was to wobble my head in the characteristic side to side manner known to most Indians. The moment he saw that “wobble”, he got a big grin on his face, entered the room, and closed the door behind him. He asked me, “Who you?”

Having lived in India and being used to this type of English and being young and polite I began to answer him, “I am John Grimes,” but just as I reached the G of Grimes, he said “Bas, family name, who you?” (Bas is Hindi for “stop, enough.”)

Again, since I have lived in India and studied Indian thought, I very confidently and boldly began to reply, “I am the immortal Atman,” but just as I reached the A of Atman, again he stopped me with another “Bas, book name, who you?” With the first “stop”, he wiped out my physical body. With the second “stop”, he wiped out my entire mental universe.

What was left? With two small words, he had succeded in conveying to me that I was neither my physical body nor my mental knowledge. How to answer him? So I said, “I do not know.”

Quick as a wink, he responded, “Find out.”

I replied, “How?”

He responded, “Not how, find out.”

Again I asked, “How?”

He was holding a handkerchief in his hand and he opened his fingers and let the handkerchief drop to the ground and as it fell he said, “Let go.”

Again I asked, “How [to let go]?”

He responded, “Not how, let go.” And then he turned and left the room. Almost twenty years passed before I learned that this monk supposedly did not speak English. How interesting! A person who did not speak English magnificiently managed to teach the Vedantic truth that one is neither one’s body not one’s thoughts, all in two words. As if that was not enough, he then proceeded to teach me how to “find out who I really am” with another two words (“let go”).

We all know how to let go, we do it every night when we go to sleep. We never asked our mother, “Mom, how do I go to sleep?” We just “let go” and sleep came. However, we become confused, disturbed, when someone asks us to “let go” of all of our preconceived notions as to who we are. Like this, we look for a technique in order to meditate or to find an answer to the question, Who am I?

Text copyright © 1995 State University of New York. This article is reprinted from Ganapati: Song of the Self by John A. Grimes.

Photo of John Grimes, his wife, and son copyright The Hindu 2010.

John A. Grimes is the author of several books including A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy. He has taught in universities in India, Canada, and the United States. He lives in India.

Related pages on this site


Related Books

Nan Yar — Who Am I?

By Sri Ramana Maharshi

It should be noted that the text of this book can be downloaded free.

This is an art-book version of Who Am I?, Ramana’s main handbook of Self-enquiry. It combines the text with “digitally remastered” photos of Ramana. Editions are available in English, Spanish, Russian, and German.

This might make a nice gift for somebody who loves Ramana.

We haven’t seen this book so we can’t offer an opinion about it, but it gets good reviews on Amazon. Sagar, an Amazon reviewer, wrote:

“Finally a book which combines this amazing teaching from Sri Ramana with some of the best photographs. For me the photos are the best part, as they allow the presence of Sri Ramana to really come through. What’s also nice is that they put only 1 question and answer on each page next to the photo, which again allows a deep absorption of the teaching. I really don’t have a criticism of the book, although it’s a bit delicate, as it is a softcover book. I would have preferred a hardback, but still the book is a real treasure!”

See it on Amazon.

This page was published on June 18, 2017 and last revised on June 18, 2017.


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