Saints of all religions, from every region, in all period of our history have declared that you are not the body (or even mind) but Spirit. However our experience tells us otherwise and we believe that when the body dies we too cease to exist. Why do we identify with the body? We feel this way for two reasons. Firstly, the body carries the senses and you experience only that which is within their reach. Secondly, there is a buildup of memories and experiences since birth that gives us a sense of continuity and of being this person.

Unlike every other organ of the body the brain is not developed at birth. It is just a mass of brain cells, a hundred billion of them each capable of linking to tens of thousand other cells. Their connections and circuitry is made subsequently in infancy by way and as a result of early experience and inputs received from the senses of the outside world. For instance, the brain receives sensation from the skin and forms a body-map that is then henceforth unconsciously referred back to. In this manner the brains gets wired for vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste; and then language. Language is crucial – without words there is no thinking.

The mind is constantly receiving from the senses and recording and putting words to that which has its attention. The other thing the mind is doing is to constantly refer back to this data-bank and make comparisons and connections which cause thoughts to arise. This referring back moreover gives a sense of unity and continuity. Another outcome of this buildup and referring back is the creation in your mind of the illusion of this person (with memories and desires)…. the thinker with which you read and form every thought. Before long you get the impression that there is somebody who is thinking your thoughts, somebody who is feeling your feelings.

Here is the body – I am this body – there is that or this – it is such and such – it is this wise or otherwise – this is good and I must have it – this is not so and let it leave me – my age is such and such – these are my relatives and these my friends – this is our house – creed and caste and duties – gods and men and creatures – this is my country – this is the tradition, and so on. Except all of this; this idea of this person; is only an accumulation from birth of sensory data and of thoughts and their interactions. You were there previous to this buildup. You’ve created this person (of mind-stuff) and lost sight of the Self.

Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree, intimate friends, the ego and the Self dwell in the same body. The former eats the sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life while the latter looks on in detachment. As long as we think we are the ego, we feel attached and fall into sorrow. But realize that you are the Self and you will be freed from sorrow. – Mundaka Upanishad