Re: Confused about Self
'I' is not just a feeling: it is the expression of the very consciousness in the individual soul--jIvAtman, which is essentially identical to the universal consciousness of Brahman.
• Although you are a different 'person' now than what you were when you were three, when you think about both these states of existence in life, how do you think of the child that you were? Typically, the thinking is 'when I was a child of three years...' So, what has changed is not the expression of consciousness, but only its association (with your body, mind and senses) at that time and now.
• Notice that this association of the consciousness is now--as it was then--with the body, mind and senses which are material, and time which is an illusion due to changes in states of existence (of the animate and inanimate world around us).
• What has actually changed are the body, mind and senses and the world around (as indicated by the passage of time). The pure consciousness of Self in us, which is expressed as the certainty of 'I' has never changed.
• Why think of the time of your childhood? Everyday we pass through the three states of wakefulness, dreamy sleep and deep sleep. In the first two states we associate our 'I' with the body, senses, mind and the world created by our stored past impressions. In deep sleep even the feeling of 'I' dissolves, and yet that unchanging Self remains identical through all these three states.
• As we get deep into into sAdhana--spiritual efforts, we will be more and more certain about the changeless 'I' (first intellectually and then experientially), and learn to separate it from its associations. We would understand that any change in state requires a changeless background (like the movie screen) and that this background is the Self in us whose consciousness is universally expressed by the individual feeling of 'I'--individual selves.
• In other words, this 'I' is our connection with the universal consciousness, which is why sages like RamaNa MaharShi wanted us to explore the answer to this simple but persisting question 'Who am I'? The nature of 'I' is revealed, when and where its association with 'my' and 'mine' ceases.
When did the primordial 'I' arose? It arose when Brahman who was alone wanted to know more of itself and became a multitude of manifest individual selves.
रत्नाकरधौतपदां हिमालयकिरीटिनीम् ।
ब्रह्मराजर्षिररत्नाढ्यां वन्दे भारतमातरम् ॥
To her whose feet are washed by the ocean, who wears the Himalayas as her crown, and is adorned with the gems of rishis and kings, to Mother India, do I bow down in respect.