The question of “who am I?” really underlies all of humanity’s struggles. It is always the search for an identity that leads us from where we are now to some other place. The grass looks greener at the other side of the fence not because it is greener, but because we feel there will be more of us when it comes into our possession.
Whatever belongs to us becomes a part of us. It becomes us (me, or you). Once we have it, we no longer pay much attention to it. Now we set our sights on other things that are still outside of our reach. Some people want to conquer the entire world and become an emperor. Some people want to conquer a particular field in science and want to become the experts in their fields.
The search for more and more of who we belief ourselves to be drives us from flower to flower, from one green field to another. From one pursuit to another.
Often times we get exhausted in this search for an identity since there always seems to be more that we could be. Another horizon to go beyond. Another mountain to climb. Another challenge to conquer.
After we get tired of this search in external things we may look for satisfaction in the spiritual world, in the religious world, in metaphysical pursuits. Here we find comfort, partly because things do not change very much in this area. The scriptures we find here are mostly ancient with well established wisdoms and beliefs.
We get excited and experience relief, because we have stumbled upon eternal truths and wisdoms. Now our minds finally find rest and peace. We proclaim that “this book or that teaching is the absolute truth” that cannot be tampered with. In a sense, we have come to a place where we have found an identity that now has its roots in the eternal.
Yes, it is true that the ancient religious teachings were inspired by people of deep wisdom and insights, but it is also true that those teachings were put to followers of another time and another place. Many of the prescriptions for these followers cannot be taken literally in today’s world. We need to find the spirit in them, the essence of the teachings. We need to understand the deeper meaning of these teachings. In effect, we should try to put ourselves in the place of the teachers and project what they would teach in today’s world.
Doing this, we would quickly learn to discard some of the old beliefs, assumptions and prescriptions, because they just don’t apply to today’s modern situation. We can’t go back to “the good old days” when everything seems to be in perfect order and harmony.
When the original religions formed, there was much confusion until a particular teaching crystallized and became the norm for some people. In retrospective all this looks very preordained and predetermined by god, but in reality it was, like everything else in life, a game of chance, a game of the circumstances of the moment.