This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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One Self or many selves

Suneet Varma — University of Delhi, Delhi.

Indian perspectives on self and identity depict the human personality as composed of layers of awareness, from the gross outer bodily/physical awareness to the subtle innermost core of the being grounded in the Divine — the True Self which is Sachidananda itself. Our sense of who or what we are is derived from the layer of awareness/level of consciousness that we identify with – if we are body-centered then we are more concerned with survival and pleasure, and if we are more mental then we tend to be egoistic concerned with dominating and controlling. From a higher center of awareness, we discover in love our connection with others and beyond that the joy of surrender to something greater of which we are a part, and with which we blissfully merge, as the lover with the Beloved. From the Indian vantage point, the bodily, outer aspects of our personality serve as an instrument for the inner essence of the being, the soul, grounded in the Divine. The purpose of existence, then, is to be understood in terms of the journey of the soul toward higher levels of awareness, which truly is an adventure in consciousness. To complete the picture, this evolutionary journey assumes significance both at the individual as well as the collective level, over one and many lifetimes.

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