March 10 : Identity

It is quite important to remember that we are not our bodies and should not make an identity out of them. You have probably heard people say things like there is a genetic tendency for alcoholism in their family, or they are afraid they will die at a young age since their parents and grandparents died young. We might have observed our tendencies to identify with whatever our body is feeling — pain, illness, injury — and make it who we are. This view is neither realistic nor beneficial; the body is simply part of the basis to designate a self. It is just a guesthouse for the mind to stay in. What is going on in our body does not have to control what goes on in our mind. 

Genetic predispositions may influence our body and mind, but we should not take them as predeterminations of what will happen in our lives. Nor should we make too many assumptions based on our age, health status, or any of these things. This is because the more we base our identity on our bodies, the more we trap our minds in a limited view of our possibilities. We will also be more likely to base the identity of other people on their bodies, which is the root of so much prejudice and division amongst human beings. 

As Buddhist practitioners trying to develop universal love and compassion, we do not want to start categorising people and then believing they are identical to the categories we put them into. We want to be able to look into everybody’s heart and see that everyone wants happiness and to be free of suffering as much as we do. While we can recognise the conventionalities of the body and what is going on with it, we do not have to make an identity out of it. This would only limit our self-confidence and vision of what we can be. Let us not use the body to imprison ourselves or other beings by confusing them with what their body happens to be at this moment. 

“365 Gems of Wisdom” First Volume (January — March) e-book is out now!