This body, this personality, is perishable — but I am not! However much we acknowledge to ourselves that this encasement of flesh will some day be no more our familiar dwelling, it still doesn't sink very far into our consciousness that "we" cannot pass into nothingness. Yet there is that part of me which shall survive dissolution, and it is my vital and urgent business to establish myself in that permanent portion of my nature. If I do not, the moment of separation from my temporary abode will find me unprepared to continue my journey.
Let us not go to extremes by ignoring, or attempting to escape from, the responsibilities that belong to us as we are now. We cannot do that anyway, but many have tried to and have become hopelessly confused. Let us rather examine our position as it exists and attempt to approach the citadel of our real self.
We can all say: "I was born on such-and-such a day some years ago." We do not remember that experience, but we have all had it or we wouldn't be here now. We think this event brought us into being!
We can all say: "I belong to such-and-such a family; I have parents and so many brothers and sisters," as the case may be. In this is established our identity within a certain group of persons similar to ourselves.
We also know that our experiences since birth have had their setting in a certain country and in a particular civilization. Without exception each of us has more or less capably enacted the role that was required by the circumstances of birth, family, and environment.
So far we have been on familiar ground, so familiar indeed that we rarely take note of the facts involved. What about the chemical and organic consistency of the bodies we live in? However different we look to each other, human bodies have the same proportion of water, minerals, and organs, and the same method of operation. Marvelously constructed and infinite in variety, we use our bodies and yet rarely appreciate their value until something goes wrong in the mechanism to jar us out of our free and careless use of them.
When you stop to think of all this, does it strike you, as it does me, that we have been fearfully vain and blind not to have recognized before how vastly alike we humans are? Where, in truth, is our separateness, one from another? Where but in our thinking, our absorption in ourselves? How many of us have any real understanding of the nature of the dweller within this temporary, changing, and perishable flesh? Who dares approach and face the lord of the citadel? Is he not approachable, since he must be intimately a part of you and of me?
Can he elude our inquiry?
(From Sunrise magazine, August/September 1989; copyright © 1989 Theosophical University Press)