This Facebook post reveals a lot. Click on the link and watch the video clip, which is part of a podcast.
In this podcast, Shri Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani Nuclear Physicist and a well-known researcher and educator, talks about DNA. In the Pakistani context, he mentions that those who call themselves Syeds and trace their ancestry to Arabs would be shocked if they took a DNA test, as it would show that their lineage is not Arab but Hindu ( Indian).
This brings me to the subject of this blog.
I got my DNA test done some years ago from 23andme.com 23andme maintains a dynamic database of those who get their DNA test done using their kit. When I last looked up my account on their website, I found that 95.5 percent of my DNA composition is the same as that of those from northern India and Pakistan in their database. Additionally, 2.3 percent of my DNA composition is the same as that of those from Bengal and northeastern India. The composition of the remaining 2.1 percent of my DNA is the same as that of those from southern India and Sri Lanka, and 0.1 percent of my DNA composition is the same as those from broadly central and south Asia.
So, would it be a reasonable statement to make that labels of nationality, religion, caste, social group, etc. are manmade?
Yes or no? I am not sure. What about you?
Self-awareness is critical to spiritual pursuit. In the Indian tradition, it begins with striving to find the answer to the question, “Who am I?” Atma Shatkam by Adi Shankaracharya answers this by listing out “Who I am not,” thereby highlighting the basics of Advaita philosophy. The Sanskrit verses of Atma Shatkam, also known as Nirvan Shatkam, with the meaning explained in English, are available at this link.
The more I think about it I feel that I have not one but several identities and these identities are man made. I will be called an Indian as I was born in India. I was a bread earner for my family when I was working but now retired. I am a son of my parents and am a brother to my sisters. Husband to my wife. Some would say these are social “roles” that the individual has to play over his or her lifetime.
So, who am I ?
I am still searching for an answer to the question “Who am I??”
I found an interesting answer to the question “Are humans just a bag of chemicals and are all our thoughts, emotions and actions just a bunch of chemical reactions?” on Quora. To read the answer please click on this link.
I remember a Sanskrit sholka first heard or read in the writings of Pujya Dada Ji Pandurang Shashtri Athawale.
It describes the moment when a human embarks on his final journey. Set in the context of old times it goes something like this;
“Wealth will remain hidden below the ground; Cattle wealth in the barn; Wife at the gate of the home; friends will come up to the creation ground; the body will remain on the burning pyre; the Jiva ( I?) bound by his karma will go all alone”
Note; there are some slightly different versions of this shloka too but I have used the one I heard/read from Dada Ji.
धनानि भूमौ,पशवश्च गोष्ठे।
भार्या गृहिद्वारे, सखाया श्मशाने ।
देही चितायाम, कर्मानुबंधे गच्छति जीव एको ।
I started with a who question. Who am I?
I have now I added a where question. Where would I go when I die?
One can add when and how questions also. There is no end. Was there a beginning?
Bhagvad Gita shloka (chapter 2 verse 27 ) perhaps provides an answer for serious reflection.
जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युर्ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च । तस्मादपरिहार्येऽर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हसि ।
Meaning “For to that which is born, death is certain, and to that which is dead, birth is certain. Therefore you should not grieve over the unavoidable.”
But in all this where am “I”.
Let me end with a quote from “EVERYTHING IS F@CKED” by Mark Manson
“We are inconsequential cosmic dust, bumping and milling about on a tiny blue speck. We imagine our own importance. We invent our purpose – we are nothing. Enjoy your fucking coffee.”