Who are you? Have you ever asked yourself this question? Have you ever asked yourself who you are in your essence, beneath all of the things that are changing, such as your name, career, family, body, thoughts, and emotions? Is there a part of you that is constant, always there, and doesn't change, that is your True Self?
According to the philosophy of Yoga there is such a True Self. In Patanjali's Yoga Sūtras, which is the core philosophy of yoga, this True Self is called draṣṭuḥ, The Seer.
The Seer is the one who literally sees through our eyes, hears through our ears, who witnesses our dreams, and is even aware of the blankness that happens in deep dreamless sleep. The Seer is pure awareness, and it is the "I" of our I. It is our True Self.
Each of us is that Seer, and not the things which are seen, such as our body, thoughts, and emotions.
Somewhere along the line a confusion happens, and we, the Seer, becomes identified with the seen, and, once this happens, we identify with the ever changing body, and as a result enjoy the pleasures and suffer the pains of this identification.
So how does one obtain an answer to this question of 'Who am I'?
One way is by a process called "Self-inquiry". In this process, one asks oneself the question, over and over, seeking deeper and deeper answers. One time, many years ago, I spent a long time doing self-inquiry. I asked whether I am my body, and concluded that though I see the body, can move it, and feel its pain, I am not the body. Rather, I seem to be the one who is aware of the body. When the body changes, which it had my whole life, I didn't seem to change. So, I concluded that I wasn't the body. Similarly, I asked if I am the thoughts and dreams, and again, decided I wasn't. It was the same with the emotions. All of those things are always changing and I experience them rather than are them. So, it seemed to me that I was the unchanging one who was aware of those things. That's as far as I got. I was aware of the body, thoughts, and emotions, but was not them. But still the ultimate question remained.
Fortunately, there is another method to seek the answer.
It turns out that answering this timeless question is the purpose of yoga-meditation. All of the practices of yoga are meant to stabilize the body, expand the breath, and calm the mind so that the awareness can be concentrated to a fine point and used like a microscope to find and examine the Truth of existence.
Over the years that I've been practicing yoga-meditation, my experience is that Yoga-meditation slowly strips away illusions and confusions, and little by little, gives increasingly clear glimpses of Reality. It's not an intellectual process, but rather an experiential one, like the difference between talking about dessert and actually eating a piece of pie, and the experience is yummy. I've not yet attained the final realization, and imagine there's a long way to go. Yet, I'm enjoying the journey.
If you would like to find the answer to the great question of life, death, and everything, perhaps you'll join me. There's plenty of dessert to go around.