By Kanna Pichappan
The discussion of “Who Am I?”, our young adult retreat topic, began three days before the retreat when Swami Yogatmanandaji sent us the study material: Swami Vivekananda’s lecture, “The Real Nature of Man.” The packed schedule of the retreat, featuring lectures by Swami Yogatmanandaji, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, and a stroll in the park, left minimal time for our minds to wander elsewhere and kept us focused on spiritual growth. My sincere thanks go to Swami Yogatmanandaji, the volunteers who worked tirelessly, and my fellow devotees for their wonderful company! I truly appreciate the love and care that everyone at the Vedanta Society of Providence showered on us!
A few learnings from the retreat:
- W. asked, “Am I my body”? Our body is nothing but processed food… So, is “I”=Body=processed food?
This idea was monumental for me because it prompted me to ask: Am I a combination of rice, dahl, and pancakes?
- If we have no body, it means we were never born and will never die. The purpose of our body is to serve as an instrument for God’s work. We discussed that instruments, such as cars and machinery, don’t become attached to the work they are doing. In the same way, we can do work while (1) knowing that the work does not belong to us, and (2) not becoming attached to the results of the work.
The implications of this seem tremendous! The vast majority of my worry and misery stem from association with “me and mine” (ex: my college applications, my reputation). It seems that if I can do the work but not associate the results with myself, our fear and sorrow can vanish!
- Faith is essential to realizing our true nature. To get this highest truth (the real), we must give up all else (the unreal). Anyone can have this highest knowledge… There are only two conditions: (1) we must want it, and (2) we must pay the price of giving up all that is unreal.
This is very challenging for me to implement because I don’t want to give up all of the worldly pleasures yet.
- The goal is to make the knowledge of “I am not the body/mind” functional in our lives. How? By, (1) hearing, (2) meditating, and (3) making this the goal of our lives.
While I struggle to make this my life goal, we learned a very insightful point: Goal of life = Getting which, when gotten, nothing else remains to be gotten. And what else could that be than to get rid of this fictitious world (because all of our experiences are based on the false notion that a line can be drawn between the “I” and the world) and so-called individuality that is manufactured by the ego?
While I learned a great deal from the scheduled programs, my conviction to act unselfishly was also strengthened by observing the kindness of everyone at the retreat. I feel extremely blessed to have been an attendee this year!