There is a question that was often set for children, rather like a joke.

Normally the grandfather asked, “what has four legs, two legs and three legs?

After a while, when the child couldn`t find the answer, the reply was given with a knowing smile, “It is a human animal”.

Then it was explained that the human starts as a crawling child, converts into an adult and then as an aging person walks with a walking stick.

But in those three stages childhood, adulthood and old age each person will ask different questions.

In childhood the question is, “what do I want to be?”

In adulthood at about forty, “what am I?”

As an aging person, “what was I?

The child will want to be what his mind captures. In earlier times it was, a hero or heroine of some sort ..firemen, pilot, doctor, nurse… Now actually it is to become rich and famous … rock star … footballer ..or the like.

Aided by well meaning parents, teachers , within the limits of the social system into which a child is randomly born he will become something quite different. With energy and good fortune and with favorable circumstances he will become, a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or someone lauded (and sometimes loathed) by peers.

With energy and unfavorable circumstances he will be lower on the social totem pole, through no fault of his own. Many will find themseves chained to the home life as mother and wife. He or she might even find themselves, perhaps as a result of their own karma sitting in a cell block somewhere. Still others will still be surrounded by misery and poverty somewhere in the world.

Many higher in the hierarchy will persuade themselves that they are happy, but when that forty plus line comes around the question what am I becomes a disturbing question,  “what have I become?” Forty plus years have gone by and after all lawyer, banker or thief ask what the hell have I really done. Then realizing that almost half his or her life has gone by the disturbing thought line continues, “the rest is going to be more of the same”.

Stop the world I want to get off!

Some float on esoteric clouds of religions masked as the transcendental or as philosophy. Some find patches for their anxious Identity. But nothing seems to work.

Then when old age starts to bend the body from its upright stance and the bones creak and the muscles begin to ache the final question, “what was I?” has a very tragic answer… “Nothing at all!”

He or she will know that no matter what they have done when good old Lady Death has taken away consciousness no one else will really care and in a generation or two no one will rememeber.

Oh, one can hope that a good deed or so will be remembered and even  one’s name will be written in bronze somewhere. But the person will be remembered not at all.

I am reminded of a happening in the book “Fahrenheit something or other” in which the task of firemen of those times was not to put out fires, but burn books. There was one who was a rebel and actually began to read.

In one moment he thought about his father and knew that he was a noble man (perhaps it was a grandfather). He was a noble man because he could remember some of the things he had done. But he realized that he knew nothing about the man himself. Who was he really?  How did he feel?  What did he enjoy? Yes, who was he really?

Plato is known, but who was he really? Julius Ceasar is known, but who was he really?  Jesus the Nazarene is know, but who was he really? Gotama the Buddha was known but who was he really?

So the question is asked, “who are you really”?

Does it matter?  Ashes to ashes dust to dust?

Dharma tells us that there is no individual existence.  Is that comforting?

Intellectually not much, but when one experiences that truth by direct experience then one understands life and at least then understands the existence of the life force and what it means.

Then your samsaric individual Identity loses importance and you become “one with the dusty world”.  You neither exist nor do you not exist as the Diamond Sutra tells us. Yet you are still far away unless you touch that illusory experience of oneness with all apparent things .


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