Know Yourself

We live our lives looking outward.

And through life we come to know more and more about the world around around us. And somewhere along the way, many of us lose touch with our own selves. When we look within we are confronted by our thoughts, feelings, desires, anxieties, prejudices, fears and much more. It seems increasingly difficult to discern our true selves from the storm of notions that divide us from our own essence. Much of the purpose of philosophy and the meaning of wisdom is found in knowing ourselves. Only then can we begin to really know happiness and satisfaction.

Modern philosophy distinguishes two types of self-knowledge.
One is knowledge about one’s own particular mental and emotional states.
The other is knowledge of a persistent self, that is, a self that persists whatever the mental or emotional states may be.

Do we think self-knowledge is important?
Why bother to know yourself? What is the effect of not knowing yourself?
Is wisdom possible without knowing oneself?

People search for an identity.
A teenager may want to be like a celebrity.
We may identify with our job, our relationships, even a football team.
But is all this who we really are?
Do any of those identifications last forever?

This pursuit of authentic self-knowledge is as old as mankind. Lao Tzu over 2500 years ago said:
“Knowing others is intelligence. Knowing yourself is true wisdom.”

More recently a great woman sage of India, Ānandamayī Mā, who lived between 1896 and 1982 said:
“My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body… As a little girl ‘I was the same’. I grew into womanhood but still ‘I was the same’ . . . in front of
you now ‘I am the same’. Ever afterwards . . . ‘I shall be the same.”

She also stressed the importance of being single-minded in pursuit of self-knowledge:
“Acquire a firm will and utmost patience. Precious gems are profoundly buried in the earth and can only be extracted at the expense of great labour.”

The philosophical journey is not then so much a process of self-transformation in which we work to make improvements so much as it one of self-discovery to come to know and amplify and life what is already truly there.

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